Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Keeps You Moving Forward?

I have a procrastination problem. When I was in school, I found that I did my best work when I only had small windows of time to study. If putting it off wasn't an option, I just had to do it. Back then, I assumed that I would snap out of my last-minute tendencies when I became an adult.  Here I am, a real, live grown-up and I am still throwing things together before I run out of time.

So what do I do? Like anything else, I had to learn how to work with what I've got. I thrive on the adrenaline of meeting a difficult deadline, so I blossomed in a job where I only ever had quick deadlines. For my life outside of work, I learned to make my own deadlines.

Unfortunately for me, writing can always wait until later. There is always something else that has to be done. Unlike writing during NaNoWriMo, there is no one waiting at a finish line; no one pushing me to keep going. (Truthfully, I think my main driving force for NaNoWriMo was that someone told me I wouldn't be able to finish.)

I have set my deadlines. I am going to keep moving forward. I am going to keep writing. I am going to finish. Maybe when I do, I'll be a real, real, live grown-up.

What keeps you motivated when there are so many other things that have to be done?


  1. I have a suggestion, Laura: do exactly the opposite of Nanowrimo.

    Ever feel hungry but get to the restaurant, order a meal and have it come to your table in a heaping pile on your plate and suddenly lose your appetite. "God, how'll I ever eat all this?"

    The late best selling novelist Graham Greene had an ideas that he used religiously.

    I read that Graham Greene, playwright and novelist with over 30 titles to his name, wrote precisely 500 words daily. Not a word more, even if he was on a role. Then he’d look over the words, add a little polish, but keep going the next day for another 500 words.
    Greene was a bestselling full time novelist; we are working people with kids and families. How should we use the Graham Greene system for our busy lives?

    250 words each day. No more, no less. Staying with his “rule” kept it pure and simple. If one could cheat up to 500 one day, then none because of something going on the next day, it loses its focus. It becomes easier to say we missed it one day, so I’ll make it up this weekend, and it never happens. Like working out at the gym, the body that misses the work out cannot really make it up later. Or the farmer that misses planting season can’t really sow the crops later. It has to follow the rule.

    250 words a day is one page of typed text—double spaced! It’s next to nothing. This post is 207 words to right here—this point—and I did it in five minutes.

    But, aha, we all need to keep in mind (me, too; this write-up is for me) that a competed manuscript is about 365-400 pages. At 250 measly words a day, every day (even if we have to write on the toilet, on a plane, while waiting at the school , etc.) is a novel in one year.

    The same system can be used for editing (e.g. edit with a fine comb 250 words daily--maybe even 500). The key is the snack sized morsels.

    Cheers, my friend. Steve (P.S. Total count of this post, 286 words!)

  2. Epiphany so huge I even turned off U2 “Streets Have No Name” on the way to work. You and I, Laura, don’t need more time to write, or a writing coach, or another book on writing. We need a hot fire under our pants to write 250 words a day for a year! On the back of napkins, letter envelopes, iPads, cell phones, whatever—250 words a day!
    You and I are the key. We know each other just enough from the writing at Schaumburg library (you do remember me, no?), but not too much to chum around and lose focus, that we should both do this, for one year. Email me at cooldoctor1 at yahoo dot com and this weekend (free Sunday evening?) we’ll Skype and set our own rules , and start date (soon, why wait?) and we will hold one another totally accountable. For one year.

  3. That's good advice, but ultimately wordage is less important than routine. Anthony Trollope positioned himself at his 'standup' desk and wrote Xthousand words a day before he began his fulltime job at the Her Majesty's Post Office. But he did it every day. But Steve has it right, the routine, however it's done, is the crucial factor....and what guarantees unease in me is when that routine is broken. Superstition comes into it - staring at that blank screen after a 'lay-off'

    Good luck

  4. The routine is the hardest part for me! So much of my schedule is, well, unscheduled! I think if I trim my scope a bit, I can manage to fit it in. I try to plan large blocks of time to write, but I am going to have to settle for small sprints when I come by the time! But, like you said, it is making it part of the routine that makes the difference.


  5. Your sprinting is working superbly so far, Ms. Riley. For us both!