Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Writers And Procrastination

Someone (the attribution is unclear) said that writing is easy--you just sit down and open a vein. Raymond Chandler put it this way: "I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, inspiration strikes at 9 AM each day." James Scott Bell sets a daily word count, and starts his morning by writing three hundred fifty words. Habits of writers differ, but most of us have one thing in common. Given the opportunity, we'll put off writing.

When my middle son, Brian, was doing sound for our church's youth choir, he coined what he termed Lovell's Law (named for the choir director, who is--incidentally--a great guy): "Never put off 'till tomorrow what you can completely ignore 'till the last minute." Some of my former colleagues on the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center faculty used to wait until the last minute to prepare book chapters and lectures. They functioned best under the pressure of deadlines.

I have an office. Admittedly, it's a small one, but it's a nice place where I can sit down at the computer and write. I've even purchased writing software that makes it easier to shuffle scenes around and clarify my ideas. And I have a pretty nice idea for my next book. But still I find myself putting off sitting down to write.

I've thought a bit about why writers procrastinate. Many of them have other things to do. Sometimes it's another job, because most writers don't earn enough to depend on it as their sole source of income. Sometimes it's family responsibilities. And there are times, admittedly, when we just don't want to work. But there's yet another factor, one I'll admit plays a role: fear.

I'm fortunate to have nine novels and two novellas in print. So-called "traditional" publishers have awarded me contracts. My two self-published novellas are doing well. My novels of medical suspense have garnered great reviews, some have won contests and appeared on best-seller lists. But, like most authors, I want my next one to be even better.

The fear that creeps up on me on a regular basis is that the next one won't be as good as my previous novels. I won't get good reviews. The book won't sell. Besides that, I may not even have a contract for publication, and I don't know if I'm ready to self-publish a full-length novel. Am I through as a writer? So I put off writing.

There you have it. Am I a procrastinator? Or is this a normal emotion? Do you think this emotion is confined to writers? Let me know in the comments. And one commenter (who remembers to leave their email address) will receive a signed copy of my novel, Miracle Drug. So let me hear from you.

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16 comments:

  1. I don't think its limited to writers. I am the worst procrastinator when it comes to doing chores round the house. Pp92596 at outlook dot com

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  2. I think most people procrastinate....guess I do when it is time to do house dusting!
    Would love to read your book...have not missed one yet!
    jacsmi75@gmail.com

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  3. I think a lot of people procrastinate. I am a procrastinator when comes to cleaning my house. I do enjoy to read especially books from Christian authors like yourself. I have a copy of Miracle Drug and would like receive a book after Medical Judgment as I have pre-ordered your newest release in May on the 17th. gffuller66@comcast.net

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  4. I am also tend to procrastinate when it comes to housework, especially if I can procrastinate with a good book. abilene_nana@yahoo.com

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  5. I procrastinate on things that sound hard. I would think that fear might play a role in that but I also have found that I work better under pressure sometimes. Jkdubbs1 at gmail dot com

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  6. I procrastinate on things that sound hard. I would think that fear might play a role in that but I also have found that I work better under pressure sometimes. Jkdubbs1 at gmail dot com

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  7. Writing is so...so...well, I can't find the word. Maybe it's because each word has to be judged on its merits and we have to face them all. Ugly babies, yet even when we think they are finally beautiful, we expect we may be delusional! We have, after all, seen some really stinky stuff out there. I think it takes a sort of bravery to face the entire process! At least you're in good company, sir!

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  8. I am not a writer but I am a reader/reviewer and sometimes procrastination is my friend, other times not..... I find if I have to read and review in a very short period, the reading may happen quickly, but the review seems to find procrastinating a better way. However, usually the review comes out much better after the thinking period. :)
    Thanks for the giveaway and the thoughts. bettimace at gmail dot com

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  9. Thanks to everyone who's left a comment so far. Don't forget to leave an email address so we can contact the winner. Or maybe you intended to and just put it off. : ) Seriously, I appreciate your comments.

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  10. I am not a writer, but must confess to being a procrastinator, especially if it's housecleaning - then a book sounds like a much better option.
    betsylu2@msn.com

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  11. I think we all procrastinate to some degree. Especially if it something that requires effort. Discipline is unpleasant but necessary. Have a wonderful weekend!
    psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

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  12. Putting things off... I am super good at it! I always few better when I tackle the job but sometimes that job can be put on the back bunner. I just say, "Tomorrow!" Mauback55 at gmail dot com

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  13. Putting things off... I am super good at it! I always few better when I tackle the job but sometimes that job can be put on the back bunner. I just say, "Tomorrow!" Mauback55 at gmail dot com

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  14. The hurried error I go the behinder I get. I tend to procrastinate but do some better under pressure.
    I look forward to reading anything you write.

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  15. The hurried error I go the behinder I get. I tend to procrastinate but do some better under pressure.
    I look forward to reading anything you write.

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  16. Thanks to everyone who commented. The winner of a copy of Miracle Drug is Betti Mace. I hope you'll come back--there'll be a giveaway every Wednesday at this site.

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