Battling procrastination

So how do you all manage to juggle your writing pursuits with your job?

In my case, the answer is very poorly. I am a big procrastinator, so that plays its own role. At the end of the day, I would much rather face a bit of mindless television than a decent stint in front of the computer. And I think writing has become more of a discipline to me since finishing university – the pressures of producing something good, something worthy, have compromised my ability to become inspired, and I now tend to peck away at something for quite a while before I feel it’s at a quality good enough to be read by others.

Is this self-doubt a bad thing? Probably. In ways I think it can be helpful. It makes me check and recheck my writing, draft and redraft. But that compulsion is at odds with my hectic schedule, meaning that if I allow myself to pop in that DVD, very little gets done.

During my last year at uni, a modestly successful author come in to lecture to our writing class about her writing process. She claimed she had to literally schedule in 35 minutes of writing time at 10:00am, and 20 minutes of writing time at 12:45pm, and so on and so forth, to fit in around her kids and her job and her various other commitments. She seemed quite amazed (dare I say disgusted) at our lax attitude to writing, and the odd little quirks we had to perform in order to get ourselves in the mood for the task ahead; fixing a cup of coffee before sitting down, lining up bits of stationary in colour coordinated rows, checking our emails so the lure of the internet didn’t strike and ruin our productivity. She simply didn’t have the time to gather her thoughts; she had to get down to business right away and then forget about plot and characterisation and structure until her next ‘scheduled appointment’ with her muse.

I found her clinical attitude rather off-putting at the time. But I am now starting to understand where she was coming from. It’s hard to indulge your desire to clean or read or surf the net to put things off when you don’t have a lot of time to begin with. It’s a tough reality that the working writer has to prioritise just about everything else above that thing that we love. I try to write where I can; in small outbursts on the train, over my lunch break; when the neighbourhood has been subdued by sleep and the clock is ticking on the wrong side of midnight. It’s not always successful, but I remind myself that I have to get over those hang-ups messing with my creativity, or I will never write a damn thing.

Competitions of note coming up include the Ethel Webb Short Story Competition, closing on October 31st. Entries must not exceed 4,000 words, and there is a $7 entry fee.

The Brighton COW Short fiction Competition welcomes entries up to 3,000 words on any theme. First prize is £100 and all prize-winning entries get publication on the website. The deadline for entries is November 1st. A £4 entry fee is payable via the website.

The Poetica Christi Press Annual Poetry Competition closes on October 31st. They are accepting poems up to 50 lines on the theme ‘Horizons,’ and there is a $5 entry fee. The top 25 poems will be published in a 2011 anthology. The entry form is available for download on the website.

The 2010-2011 Neil Gunn Writing Competition closes on March 11th, 2011.

There are 4 separate sections of the competition. Adult prose (Narrative form) up to 2500 words, Adult poetry up to 40 lines, Secondary school (S3-6) poetry or prose and Primary school (P5-7) poetry or prose. The theme for the competition is ‘A Wrong Turning.’ Only the adult sections are open to all writers worldwide.

And in addition to our call for submissions of poetry, fiction and artwork for our second issue, we are now looking for bloggers to write on a variety of subjects to liven up this somewhat sporadically updated blog.

We are looking for articles about publishing opportunities, literature, ideas and perceptions about writing, and experiences within the industry. It would be great to have a contributor discuss overseas opportunities as well, so Americans/UKers, please don’t be shy.

If you are interested, shoot us through an email with an article you think might be relevent (500-1000 words) to If you would prefer to contribute a one-time only article, that would be great too, just let us know.


3 responses to “Battling procrastination”

  1. Mark Welker says :

    I have developed and failed at many new habits to counteract my rampant procrastination; writing in the morning, doing half an hour a day, writing at coffee shops, joining a writing group.

    In isolation, none of them have worked, but as a group of developing habits, the overall effect is like a wave slowly cresting. At some point in the far distant future, I’m hoping the wave will break and then the worry will be on whether another set follows it.

    Thanks for the competition tips.

    • ricochetmag says :

      Not a problem.

      And I suppose it’s a constant exercise in self-discipline, isn’t it? You eventually work on yourself, even if it’s just bit by bit, and get the job done.

  2. phill says :

    Like Mark, I’ve tried a bunch of different ways of organising myself over the years. Morning routines, Internet-less days, special task-managing software, monthly word count targets, etc. etc. None of it works by itself, but it all contributes to a sense of…not ‘obligation’, but a sense of self-checking. Like I know that I need to sit down and write at some point. It’s always there in the back of my mind, nudging me towards the computer/WIP when I do have some spare time.

    I dare say that the development of these habits and self-checks is something that every writer goes through. I’m looking forward to the point in the future when I can discard them all and realise that all I need to do to write is sit down and start writing. (:

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