As a card-carrying member of the Order of Procrastinators Extraordinaire, I can find more ways to delay doing anything than anyone I know. God created deadlines for people like me. I’m not sure I’d get anything done without them.
One reason I am a champion procrastinator is I am easily distracted. It’s only when you get serious about putting words on a screen that you realize how many possibilities are available to the perseverant procrastinator. To cut down on distractions, I made a list of what is, and is not, writing.
1) Sitting at the computer and typing words that flow from my head is, obviously, writing.
2) Turning on the computer intending to write but playing games instead is not writing even if I try to con myself by insisting I am considering important plot points while attempting to reach level 2,341 of Candy Crush. (If you know how to win level 2,340 with three stars, please e-mail the secret to email@example.com.)
3) Placing a pen or pencil on paper and pouring out words is writing, although hand muscles geared to typing cramp after too much of it. Writing by hand only occurs when:
a) I am bored in a crowded meeting but need to look like I’m paying attention and/or taking notes (I outlined a complete novel during one hellishly dull 8-hour legal seminar); or
b) I make the mistake of traveling somewhere without any of the electronic gizmos I normally use and I’m desperate.
4) Dictating my story into my digital voice recorder when I’m driving, while not winning me the "safe driver of the year", is writing.
5) Thinking about my story is, alas, not writing. If it were, I’d have a completed work rivaling the length of the 1989 Second Edition of the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. (According to its website, the OED’s Second Edition was 20 volumes; between its publication in 1989 and the turn of the century, Oxford University Press published three volumes of additions. In keeping with the times, the OED now is exclusively online.)
6) Signing up for an online writing class is not writing.
7) Completing the first writing assignment in an online class and then ferrying the rest of the lessons and information into an e-mail folder for that future mythical era where I have time to catch up is not writing.
8) Completing an online course is writing and time well spent.
9) Buying books on writing is not writing. This includes books with topics such as how to complete a novel in 30 days, time management, steps to a writing life, writing exercises and creativity, especially when said books stay on the shelf unopened. (My husband says I have more time management books than anyone he knows. He just wishes I’d read one.)
10) Editing is writing, but I have to keep a close rein on my inner critic, who is a snarky, surly lass always popping up with the worst comments at the worst time.
11) Reading other mysteries is not writing, although essential to my development as a writer. I am mesmerized by a good book. Growing up, my sister would come home from school and start talking to me. It took at least 15 minutes before I realized anyone was in the room with me. My very patient family has learned to say my name three times progressively louder and pull on my arm at least once if they need my attention while I’m reading. In case of fire, I expect them to save themselves and leave me to my fate. At least I’d die happy.
12) Googling can be writing, but it is dangerous. Research is a slippery slope. I can flip over to Google in order to check the spelling of a word, then realize an hour later I progressed from spelling, to current events, to trips I’d like to take but can’t afford, to looking up the current hours at Disneyworld along with current ride wait times just to pretend I’m there.
What distractions do you face when you write? Are you a recovering procrastinator? If so, how did you kick the habit?