Saturday, June 18, 2011

Are you a procrastinator?

I definitely am! I am so envious of the many writer's blogs I visit where the authors are so diligent and so prolific - I am in awe of them :)

But I know I will never be like them (sadly), so I have my own techniques for dealing with procrastination. I was asked to write a blog post for Romance Writers of Australia's 50ks in 30 days event, which is taking place at the moment. I am an under performing participant, as I very very optimistically thought I could write 40K despite being on my honeymoon throughout June. Ha! But, I am writing, and will certainly write much more than I would have otherwise. (also, this way I am not heading for early divorce :) ).

I will be lazy and repost my blog below, or you can view the original here: RWA's 50ks in 30 days

The Procrastinator’s Guide to 50ks in 30 Days

I am a terrible procrastinator. The worst, quite possibly. But I have written a 50K book in 30 days – and that book will be my debut novel for Harlequin Mills & Boon in September. And if I – a writer who will find absolutely anything to do, other than actually write – can do that, than other procrastinators can too. I promise!

I’ve attempted 50k30days before, and failed dismally. It even took me four years to finish my first manuscript! So what changed this time? How was I magically cured of this dreadful procrastination curse?

Well, sadly – I’m still a procrastinator. Procrastination, I’m pretty sure, is here to stay. But now I have tools to deal with it. I cannot promise that what worked for me will work for you, and I can promise that nothing I’m about to say is particularly ground breaking. But it worked for me, so well that the word count I’m capable of achieving when I follow these steps still shocks me.

So here it its…

Leah Ashton’s Anti-Procrastination Toolkit

1. Erase the guilt
So you’re a procrastinator. Everyone around you is more productive and diligent than you (or so it seems!). Cue hours of self-flagellation. Or – acknowledge that you are what you are, and find techniques that allow
you to up your word count regardless. Feeling guilty won’t put words onto paper – so what’s the point?

2. Give yourself a real deadline
I would love to be one of those people who can’t bear a day without writing, but…well… I’m not. So, I need a deadline to get my butt in the seat. And it needs to be a real one, not just “I will write 10K by the end of
the month”, it needs to be a deadline with consequences if I fail. Prior to publication, my deadlines were planned around writing competitions. So if I didn’t hit my deadline, I couldn’t enter.
So, give yourself a deadline, with a real consequence. Find a writing competition with an entry date in early July. Sign up for a pitch at the conference. Anything – but make sure there is a consequence other than, “oh well.”

3. Have a plan (or even a plot)
I used to think I was a seat-of-my-pantser, resulting in the euphoric dashing off of an effortless chapter one, and chapter two and… then……nothing. I know this will be controversial with confirmed pantsers, but I strongly recommend at least a sketch of your plot. Just a vague plan of where you’re going and the main turning points along the journey. Why?
Well, nothing triggers a serious procrastination session for me than a blank page and absolutely no idea where I’m going. Reduce the risk of finding yourself with terrifying nothingness ahead of you and plan. Your plan is your safety net – and besides, you can always ignore it!

4. Remove yourself from temptation
What do you do when you procrastinate? Do you read? Watch TV? Surf the Internet? Whatever it is, get yourself away from it. Be dramatic if you have to – go write at a cafĂ©, have someone physically remove your TV from your house, give your modem to your husband and tell him he is not under any circumstances to give it back. You get the idea?
Obviously this is for confirmed procrastinators like me – if will power is enough for you, then that is awesome, but if not, do whatever you have to do. The Internet is my vice, and I’ve been known to lock my Internet dongle in my car, or alternatively I use a really nifty program called Freedom (available for Mac and PC), which cost $10 and will block the Internet for up to 8 hours – and the only way to get it back is to re-boot your computer. If it’s just some sites that suck the time out of your day, look into browser add-ons like Google Chrome’s StayFocusd or Firefox’s LeechBlock. Both will either block a site totally, or give you a maximum time limit per day.

5. Write with your friends
The discovery of sprints (where you write for 30 minutes or an hour with a friend, and then report back with your word count) was a breakthrough for me. I am a slow writer, so I never had super impressive word counts, but knowing I had to report in with my word count was super motivating.
Make sure you check into the Sprint Sessions in the RWA Chatroom throughout 50Ks in 30 Days, or follow along on Twitter. And if you can’t write with your friends? Well…

6. Sit down, and start typing
It’s hardly surprising, but the reality is if you sit down every day, without any distractions, and simply write a word, followed by another word, and then another – your word count will go up. Sometimes the idea of writing X number of words can be so overwhelming that starting seems impossible. But when you do start, and regardless if the words flow or are squeezed out painfully – as long as you’ll keep writing, you’ll hit your
word count. And once you start doing it day after day – well, before you know it – you would have written a book. Or 50Ks in 30 days!

There you have it – my procrastinator’s guide to 50Ks in 30 days. Please let me know if you reach into my toolkit – I’d love to know if it helps you, too. And as I’m also looking for new weapons to slay the procrastination beast – what tips have I missed that help you?


  1. I hadn't heard about the programs that can block the internet or certain sites for you. I think that's fabulous.

    You also get points for working on your honeymoon at all.

  2. Yes, Lacey, those programs are a life saver! Make such a difference.

    Yeah, how dumb was I thinking I'd have "all this spare time to write" on my honeymoon :) Need to keep writing when I can though, my deadline isn't *that* far away!

  3. Great post! I have two laptops. The older laptop, where I write my manuscripts, has no Internet capability whatsoever. I also keep that laptop on my nightstand so that I have to look at it before I go to bed every night and first thing when I get up in the morning :)

  4. So much of what you've said sounds similar to me. I'm a bit of a plodder so the word count doesn't clock up quickly, but I have taken part in NaNoWriMo the last three years and surprised myself by achieving that 50k in the 30 days. It can be done. Deadlines and being competitive (but friendly competition) is a great motivator. I've done a couple of #1k1h sessions with fellow Tweeters and it's also good for moving the story along. Outlines are my biggest problem. I start with a couple of characters and a situation and like you, chapter 1 and 2, great, then you have to put brain into gear and think about what's happening next, and often it goes pear-shaped. My CPs and I were discussing outlines this morning and I very much have a head in the sand syndrome when it comes to planning - something I perhaps ought to change.

  5. I love the #1k1hr on Twitter. I've got friends and a mini deadline. It is also the best thing for when I'm stuck. And that is when I procrastinate the most.

    The other key for me is #1. Lose the guilt. It doesn't add words. It doesn't make the words I write better. It just takes all the fun out of the ones I do have.

  6. Haha! Your toolkit is JUST what I need as am a procrastinator extraordinaire!

    It was great to meet you in NY. Hope your honeymoon continues to be lovely. BTW, please could you pass on my apologies to your gorgeous hubby for cornering him at the Harlequin party, waffling on about nothing and undoubtedly boring him senseless. I blame the kir royales!

    x Lucy

  7. Oh goodness, somehow in my absence from my blog I missed all these comments. Sorry!!

    Tina - Oh, I need one of those! A computer where the Internet is impossible - perfect! And I also like located it somewhere it can't be ignored. I just have piles of books next to my bed - another procrastination vice :)

    Alexandra - As I write my second book I'm learning how much I still have to learn about story structure. So I definitely need an outline to end up with a half decent story that actually has things like character arc and turning points :)

    Julia - I wish I could write 1000 words in an hour :) I will look out for you on twitter, as i'd love to at least try! And yes, the guilt one is hard, and one I have definitely not overcome. Will keep trying :)

    Lucy - I am so glad I'm not alone! Was feeling most intimidated being surrounded by so many successful authors in NY, kept thinking - I bet none of *them* procrastinate like me :) It was wonderful to meet you too! I sincerely doubt Mr Leah would have been bored, he loves to chat - and loved the Harlequin party!