On procrastination

“Writing is 90% procrastination. It is a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.” ~ Paul Rudnick

“Writing is 90% procrastination. It is a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.” ~ Paul Rudnick

Awhile back I stumbled onto a quick fix that works quite well. You’ve likely heard of it, but have you applied it?

The secret?

Lower your standards and keep going.

If writing is about ego gratification you may be squirming at the prospect. Who wants to write sh*t for the sake of pen to paper?

I do, because I’ve learned that writing as practice and process is the foundation of quality writing.

So start scribbling shite on your pages, dear friends. Eventually you’ll polish some of those turds and find yourself with something pretty great.

Or you could do laundry, listen to music, reorganize the cupboards, read news, and all the while imagine what a great writer you’ll be… someday… when you finally start writing.

A writer writes. An egotist fantasises about the life of writing.

Which will you be?

Related post on procrastination

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The art of the email

I met someone the other week who writes f*cking brilliant emails. Consistently. I’m awed by such people. The delicate balance between coercive and charming often eludes me, and I come across as either too pushy or too passive (my attempt at softening). How do you approach the art of the email? As I try to finesse my style, I’m absorbing a diversity of approaches.

My typical email experience includes emotionally charged bashing at the keyboard for a bramble of a first draft, followed by a vigorous slashing of emotionally charged terms, and a generous splashing of positivity (without seeming insanely optimistic). Then there’s the beastly issue of the emoticon. To 🙂 or 😉 is the question. And f*ck me if I ever know the answer. In some contexts they seem damn near necessary to point out playful tone or to emphasize that I am indeed smiling despite forceful prose. But then there’s the voice telling me that they’re bloody cringeworthy and better left to adolescent sexting on kik.

emailDon’t even get me started on subject lines. I’ve probably lost days of my life writing and rewriting subject lines to compel the reader to open my message without coming across as alarmist, curt, or excessively wordy — apparently more than 50 characters and you’ve written yourself off!

Searching the interwebs for advice on crafting effective emails is variably useful. “Thanks, I do own a dictionary and have one at hand, and yes, I’ve spelled the person’s name correctly.” I’ve mastered the basics and am looking for the deeper secrets to ensure my readers feel valued whilst I come across as breezy (if you knew it had taken me 10 minutes to write and obsess over these three sentences, I would lose my cool factor).

Until I’ve mastered the art of the email…

when something’s really important, I just pick up the damn phone.

Why do writers … procrastinate?

writingA fabulous article by Megan McArdle drills down into the psychological warfare writers endure before putting pen to paper. The fear of writing something poorly is one of the biggest reasons we delay, until the fear of producing nothing at all wins out and we finally settle into work.

Steven Furtick says, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” Guilty as charged.

When I’m struggling with a clunky piece, I’m comparing it with the polished quality of my published works, and with the genius of other completed works. So to help get over my impostor syndrome I’ve been learning to love the dirty process, independent of the quality or accolades that may follow. When I write for the love of the struggle, the fear of whether a piece will be any good becomes secondary.

Of course this struggle with insecurity isn’t unique to writers. I’m curious, how do you deal with procrastination?