Monday, April 30, 2012

Between Now and Never

I believe that between now and never lies a wide stretch of possible outcomes, both good and bad. So why do so many writing experts tell us not to procrastinate?

This is not about putting off work that has deadlines. That type of procrastination just makes you crazy and could lead to starvation. Most of us exist in a world of constant demands on our time and attention. But the inevitable push me, pull me nature of survival offers more incentive than free time to put off work.

Instead, let's view this as an exercise in balance. Just like the ability to both show and tell with finesse, knowing when to put aside a book or article to let it "stew" is an art form in itself.  It ranks right up there with knowing when and how to let the writing go. These are my signs that an article, book or treatise has benefited from a short time away -- a fresh breath of procrastination:

  1. You can stand reading through the work twice without changing more than one sentence or deciding to start over.
  2. It's a relief to start on the marketing and public relations. (Just don't let these promotional efforts stop you from launching another project.)
  3. No guilt is attached to taking time away to do the dishes or sweep floors.
  4. Completing the work ranks as a success, rather than a gut-wrenching fear that you have missed something.
I separate the "chronic" procrastination that can paralyze artists of all ilks from these time outs for perspective. I believe a majority of writers have moments of doubt about being good enough to send out a book, article or poem, even after years of success. Just know that you are in good company if you put off to tomorrow what seems overwhelming today. 

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