Monday, September 6, 2010

Procrastination & rationalization

I was away the bulk of August (thank you, Leah, for taking my blog day last month!), so I felt this great pressure to write a particularly insightful blog post this month. Unfortunately, there are two obvious problems with this plan—1) I don’t think I have a grand insightful topic and 2) it’s a holiday, so I’m not sure any of you are online anyhow.

Hmmm . . . I have a dilemma.

My solution is that wonderful solution that has served me well for many years: procrastination. I will tell you that I’ll have insight next month, and maybe by then I will (or, more realistically, we will have forgotten that I intended to locate insight by then).

I don’t know about you all, but for me, deadlines are a critical motivator. The downside to that is that without them I flounder a bit. In college, I was one of those people in the labs writing essays until the wee hours. When I taught college, I was the teacher sailing into the room at the last minute with my skirts tangled and pen holding a haphazard bun in place. As a mother, I had to set alarms for “drop dead time” to leave to pick up the children from school (which usually means being early because the alternative is being that mommy). As a writer, it’s meant that I set myself deadlines that are earlier than the contracted deadline—but just in case, fight for the later deadline in contract as a contingency plan.

The key is working with my tendency to procrastinate so it's not a limitation. Deadlines inspire me. Knowing that it's due now (what "it" is) gives me the same kick that I get from a strong pot of tea or one of those fattening mocha drinks. The beauty of it is that my deadline-NOW adrenaline rush is like calorie-free caffeine. How do I make that deadline kick work for me? I set myself earlier deadlines & trick myself. I plan for them, mark them on calendars, and by the time they are looming, I feel that kick. In doing this, I'm "at the last minute" for my false deadlines, but significantly ahead of schedule for the official deadlines.

So far, I’ve only written six novels, but I’ve turned every one in early. My next book is due December 2011, but I have set myself a personal deadline six months earlier in order to prevent lateness. In other words, I work with my natural tendency to procrastinate by building it into the schedule.

Of course, my other natural inclination is towards obsession, so it could really be that I’m not being organized at all, merely that I wanted to work on this new project so I rationalized it as “forward planning” in order to justify what I wanted to do anyhow. Hmm . . . that's a new topic though, so we'll stick with the idea that I'm actually harnessing the procrastination, NOT that I'm powerless before the obsessive desire to write. Either way, it led me back to Scotland. (Ahhh, if only all paths led to Scotland!) I went there to work on the new novel because I’m either working around my need to procrastinate OR because I’m rationalizing my obsessive streak.

. . . and anything that leads to more travel (especially to lovely Scotland) is a good thing.

So what about you? Do you have personality quirks you harness for your job? For your self-rationalization needs? Have you found yourself off on any adventures or predicaments because of your attempts to harness the quirks?

[NOTE: While I'm not online all day, I will be back to read replies. I always read every reply to any blog I post be it here on the group blog or on my own blog.]

18 comments:

nymfaux said...

great post!!!! I heard a saying once, 'never leave until tomorrow, what you can leave until the day after tomorrow'

If it's for work--I tend to get something done and out of the way as soon as possible. But when I was in school, I always left homework and papers until late--or even early morning...I put off doing laundry, or cleaning the dirtiest dishes--of course those just become good excuses for buying new clothes or eating out ;)

I guess when other people depend on me, I just make sure things get done. But when it's just me, I end up making a lot of excuses and putting things off.

I don't know if my procrastination has ever led to any adventure, but I know my complete lack of geographical awareness has--I lived out east in PA, I was trying to find a movie theater and somehow ended up at Valley Forge. I went to New Jersey several times, by accident--which is, incidentally, the reason that I got a cell phone, so that I could call my roommates and they could tell me how to get home. I found out that you can't just ride a subway one way and wait for it to turn around.

I was taking a road trip out west and stopped to gas up. When I left, the only reason I knew that I was going away was that in my rear view mirror, I noticed that I was heading AWAY from the setting sun, instead of TOWARDS it.

I've actually been rear-ended going the wrong way on a one-way street.

Out here on the west coast, I bought a gps after it took me over 2 hours to get home from work one night--it usually takes a half-hour. And the next week, I still got lost!

Unless I'm in a bookstore, I just absolutely have no natural sense of direction. I turn left when I should go right, or vice versa, and have even been known to turn around in a complete circle without realizing it. And it's lead to plenty of adventure.

oh, just finished Wicked Lovely!!!! my mind is still full of all the good things!!!! :)

Claire Dawn said...

Same here. I definitely finished my thesis at lik 3 am the morning it was due.

I like your trick the system mentality. I've just resorted to that myself. I have commitment issues. If I stay with anything too long, I get bored. So I've divided my year into "school terms" and "vacations." We'll see how it works out.

Sharon S. said...

I do a sort of different time thing. If I have an appointment at 3:00 I think of it as I have to leave at 2:30 for my appointment (I'll even write in on my to do list as 2:30 doctor) I even go as far as building in time for traffic, getting kids out the door, ect... I am a little anal about getting places early .

Pamela Palmer said...

That deadline kick or adrenaline flood (what I call my panic) is a powerful rush. It focuses me and inspires me like nothing else. I miss it when my deadlines get spread out. Though I do set false deadlines for myself, they're just not the same. It's hard to get a true panic going when I know the deadline isn't real. So I wind up having to fall back on self-discipline, which works but isn't nearly as much fun as a full blown deadline panic.

Glad you enjoyed Scotland, Melissa! It's my favorite place on Earth. Especially Loch Ness right around Castle Urquhart.

Jeaniene Frost said...

"So far, I’ve only written six novels, but I’ve turned every one in early."

I have just one word for you: Bitch.

:)

librarypat said...

A procrastinator here too. Finished many a paper just in time to make it to class and turn it in. I have been hemming clothes, while wearing them, in the car on the way to some event.
I organize pretty well, but it doesn't seem to make any difference. Things just don't seem to get done.

Victoria said...

I am early for everything and have trained my kids to be the same way. In fact, there isn't a single clock in my house with the correct time. They are all 7 to 10 minutes ahead. That way we are never late.

KerrelynSparks said...

I can definitely relate to this post! My writing style is procrastination and panic. And my favorite place in the world-- Scotland!!

Meaghan said...

I am a pro at being a procrastinator. I think I like the pressure of doing things last minute, I almost work better that way. As I have gotten older, I have learned to almost try and trick myself into thinking things are due earlier. That way, I get it done earlier and I have time to go back and look over what I have done again and get a fresh perspective. When I do that I am always happier with the outcome.

I also do this with waking up in the morning. I set my alarm about 30 minutes earlier than I need to get up to give myself a little bit of a buffer. I love my snooze button and hit it often. It drives my husband crazy, but it works for me :) The night before I always have every intention of getting up early to get going for the day, but then the alarm goes off and the snooze button calls me. It is a viscous cycle that I think I will always live with.

nymfaux said...

just curious about how much writing you got done while you were in Scotland, compared to home--I don't know how I'd be able to concentrate with all the things to explore over there!!!!

Vania Stoyanova said...

It's nice to see that even the most accomplished people struggle with procrastination and deadlines (or not).

Great post!

Katie Dalton said...

If I can't get it done right away, it wont EVER get done. I have to do it early or not at all. I find that if I wait and put it off, it gets lost in the shuffle of my crazy life.
So the motto I HAVE to live by is "now or never" :)

http://ismellsheep.blogspot.com

Patricia Lynne said...

I know for me when it comes to work, I do procrastinate. Procrastinate going in. I wait as long as possible before rolling (and I do literally roll out of bed and onto the floor) out of bed and rushing to get ready. Fortunately, right now that doesn't matter because I'm the first one in at my job so no one is there to see me show up late and my boss is glad she's not the one getting up for 6am shift and doesn't care. everything else about my job doesn't matter, I pick what I want to do and when and if I don't get it done, I shove it to the next day. *sigh* I love my job ^^

Nazarea said...

I LOVE deadlines. And I've found--without them I don't do anything. There's no motivation, so I just chill, write at my own (sloooow) pace, or read and say I'll write tomorrow.
So when my Hubby and I decided to try for a third baby, I set a deadline for myself--to finish my current WIP before October 1st (definetely before I get pregnant.) THAT deadline plays into my revision/rewrites deadline which plays into my query deadline, which hopefully will be going on by the time the baby is born. Yeah. I have a plan.

And all of this is working out wonderfully. I've been more productive in the past two weeks (Since I set the deadline) than I have been since my last project went to my editor. I'm being held accountable to me, even if only to myself. I loves it lots. :)

Okay, gonna quit rambling now. :)

Rachel Morgan said...

The deadline kick is AMAZING! That's why one can get SOOO much studying done the morning before an exam :-) (there's not much point in trying before that...)

I love where you said, "I've only written six novels, but..." And my brain stops at SIX NOVELS? And she uses the word "only"?? I'm finding it tough enough to get to the end of ONE!

melissa_marr said...

Rachel, there were a bunch before the 6 that I didn't finish . . . & one I did but usually don't count bc it sucks so bad! The rest had deadlines (& contracts). Those deadlines & contracts were FAB motivations in a way that my own self-nagging wasn't.

Nazarea, Nothing wrong w a little rambling! It just means your brain is zinging which IMHO is a great thing :)

Nymfaux, I came back from this trip convinced that writing retreats=win. I wrote abt 25k in less than 2 wks. VERY productive. I concentrated well, in part, bc those days were earmarked as writing days. If I got the goal met, I could then allow myself to go explore. Having Scotland outside my door was a great motivation!

Jeaniene, *smooches* That's how I feel when you mention your light travel-for-work schedule. I could go for a few less flights in my life...

Pam, I didn't go over to that area on this trip. Last time, I was over at Culloden (the only battlefield I've ever visited) & we went down to Loch Ness (son is a serious cryptid fan!). This time I was mostly in the Hebrides & in the Orcadian Islands. All of it=amazing.

Crystal said...

I have a procrastination problem too doing things I don't like, hence the major laundry pile in our spare bedroom. And it only get's done the day my step-daughter comes over because she needs to sleep on the bed. But things I'm looking forward to, I am a total planner and will have things ready a week ahead of time.

My major quirk though? I'm like the freakin white rabbit, I am late for everything! No matter how much extra time I give myself or set things out ahead of time somehow I always end up late. Yes, I am that that mom. It drives my husband crazy but it is like the universe is totally against me being on time or Heaven forbid EARLY for something! This has led to many adventures of speeding down I4 looking out for FHP. LoL But alas, no foreign trips yet.

Great post! =)

Vicki Pettersson said...

I really, really need to learn how to trick myself...

I've been told that I actually enjoy the rush of beating up against the end of a deadline. Picture a bird trapped, fluttering about in a briar patch - that's how it feels. Why on earth would I like that?) And yet...

*sigh*