How’s Never? Is Never Good?

It’s time to stop procrastinating, writers!

How’s Never? Is Never Good?

I’ve been thinking of writing a column about procrastination but keep putting it off. (I know, that’s a really stupid joke.)

Most of my ideas for this space just pop into my head, usually while I’m dozing off, in the shower, or driving (and at least five miles from the nearest computer). I almost always remember to have my smartphone handy in the car, but even in the hands-free mode, it’s difficult to record my thoughts. Often, the recording is interrupted by some other driver saying things like, “Hey, you bleeping idiot, pay attention!”

So, many of my greatest ideas are lost. I’m fairly certain I thought up a cure for cancer and a solution for interstellar travel, but darn it, I can’t remember the details.

Anyway, back to procrastination (before I put the topic off again). According to Google, it’s “the act of delaying or postponing tasks, often to the detriment of one’s own goals or well-being.” It is “a common behavior that many people experience at some point in their lives.”

For a writer, procrastination can be a real problem. In my case, I simply have too many things on my plate. Books, screenplays, treatments, promotion, and marketing ad nauseam. I tend to put off one project to do another. But at least I’m always writing something. Lots of writers procrastinate even when writing is first on their to-do list.

When I worked for the New York Times, I often picked up the ball from other reporters who wanted to put off whatever it was they were working on. Now, since they were usually writing opinion pieces about finance — and not about an imminent Russian attack — they could get away with missing “deadlines” that were more like suggestions anyway.

I suspect many of my colleagues were just lazy or had figured out nobody really cared what they thought. Where they saw drudgery, I saw opportunity. Ah, youth!

During my long and varied career (how long? I’m beginning to think mayflies and salmon have the edge on me), I’ve been told by numerous people that my ability to write is something they envy. (Obviously, they haven’t seen my bank account.) I get it. Some folks just don’t like to write. Others, though, want to write but still keep putting it on the back burner.

I’m not talking about writer’s block; every author occasionally gets that dreaded affliction. I mean choosing to mow the lawn or do the laundry when you should be writing. Now, those tasks are important and ought to be worked into everyone’s schedule — but not at the expense of writing. Do you think Hemingway stopped writing For Whom the Bell Tolls because the dishes were dirty? He got to them eventually but also had time to pen classics. I’m not saying I’m in his class, but when I sit down to write, I’m not thinking about housework.

Also according to Google, there are two main reasons for writers’ procrastination: fear of failure, and perfectionism. As to the first, FDR said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And as for the inability to show someone your work before it’s “perfect”? That’s just plain dumb. If the original idea is good, get it out there. Others certainly do — I still find typos in books by famous authors!

Lawrence De Maria has written more than 30 thrillers and mysteries. Truth be told, he fears housework more than writing.

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