Once upon a time I enjoyed cooking. I took great pleasure in turning out new recipes and getting compliments from family and friends. Not wanting to see my culinary talent go waste, my entrepreneurial husband encouraged me to write a cook book. I liked the idea. But I didn’t know how to write a cook book. So, when I saw an advertisement in a magazine for a writing course by the Institute of Children’s Literature, I quickly enrolled myself in it. Then being unfamiliar with the craft of writing, I must have assumed that any kind of writing course would enable me to write a cook book. But by the time I finished my course, my interest in writing a cookbook had vanished and I ended up not writing one. However, I have no regrets for taking the writing course that taught me the ABC of creative writing.
Even though, the course prepared me well to write for children, I preferred to write for adults instead. Except for my short poem titled, Is Christmas Your Birthday, Jesus? which got published in our church bulletin, and my story on the life of Brother Yun-the Heavenly Man, which got published in children’s magazines Partners, and Guide, I hadn’t published or written anything for children in the last fifteen years of my writing life.
But lately, to my surprise, a nudge to write a children’s story has been following me for weeks. As always, I’ve tried to give all the excuses why I cannot do it, but found no luck with it. Interestingly, even the story line has started to shape in my head with names for the characters, and a childhood memory as the background. But I couldn’t make myself to sit down and write out even the first sentence onto my computer screen. I kept procrastinating it.
The term 'procrastination', which derived from a Latin word means,“ to put off for tomorrow.”
“The things all writers do best is to find ways to avoid writing,” wrote Alan Dean Foster.
Since I give into procrastination easily, I did a little research recently to find out what causes us to procrastinate. I learned that procrastination can be triggered for many reasons, and it doesn’t always affect for the same reason. In certain stressful situations, it works as a coping mechanism to keep the stress level under control. At times, overwhelmed with the project in hand, the brain refuses to cooperate with our schedules. It is at this time, we tend to distract ourselves with trivial activities like returning phone call, scanning the e-mails, dusting the sofas or walking the dog instead of doing the important project- writing in our case.
Usually when we procrastinate, we tell ourselves that we'd start our writing, when we get enough ideas or mood to write. But according to Julia Cameron, the author of The Right to Write, the process actually works backward. “It’s the act of writing that calls ideas forward, not ideas that call forward writing.” She encourages us to have more than one writing project so that we don’t get stuck with one, when ideas or words fail to flow. A writer who is not writing can be filled with self-loathing and guilt stricken, she writes.
Cameron suggests a daily habit of writing three pages in long hand or having Artist Date to create an inner welling up of thoughts and ideas that will become more and more pressing to put on the page. Lack of motivation, fatigue, fear of failure, perfectionism or laziness could give rise to procrastination.
At times, not knowing where or how to start could lead to it. Once something has a beginning and end,, it’s easier to visualize what’s in the middle. So, it’s better to work from both ends and fill in the middle later. To get through perfectionism, we need to give ourselves permission to write sloppy first draft. Otherwise, we wouldn’t get through our beginning sentence without pressing the delete button a number of times. I speak out of my own experience for I know too well how many days I used to spend on my first draft in the beginning of my writing years. Thankfully I’ve got better with time, but still some remnant of it shows up now and then.
Now that I’ve learned the reasons behind procrastination and not to put off for tomorrow what I can do today, I hope I'd be able to write down the children’s story in my head sooner than later.
“ Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” ~ Charles Dickens