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Making Procrastination Work FOR You

Positive procrastination

Be honest: how often do you find yourself with too much to-do list at the end of your day? I think this happens to a lot of us. And, according to Jon Acuff, author of Finish, it’s one of the things that keeps us stuck, prevents us from finishing the important things – large and small – in life. We started, but we didn’t get it done – on time, perfectly, as well as our sister-in-law would do it – so we quit entirely. Throw in the towel. Well, I’ve failed again. Why even keep going?

Just in case you’re wondering – this is a bald-faced lie your ego tells you to keep you safely inside your comfort zone. Because guess what – growing is uncomfortable. Progress is challenging. Finishing stretches muscles we may not have used in a long time. And our ego is right there to reassure us that giving up this time is OK because we really didn’t want to write that book, get that speaking gig, or plant that garden anyway. We can always get overpriced organic food at the store.

In Finish, Acuff recommends making procrastination our friend. If your goal is to finish your novel by the end of the year, you’re probably going to have to give up – or put off – some stuff that you’ve been doing while you’ve been not writing your novel. They could be smallish things – like turning the TV off – or they could be bigger things like stepping back from your leadership role – or membership in – a favorite group or club.

This doesn’t mean you’ll never do these things again, just that you’re not doing them – or as much off them – right now.

Acuff’s term is bombing some things to make way for other things. I think of it as leveraging procrastination as a tool for the good! Here’s an example. Our car was a mess. Almost-rainstorms in Phoenix create a muddy muck on the exterior of any car not garaged when the mist that spits from the sky is followed by a fine dusting of desert sand. Bonus design points when your cat walks all over the car leaving a mad paw-print motif.

catprints on car

I asked my husband to take responsibility for getting the car cleaned and replacing the windshield wipers today. He told me last night that that sounded like a reasonable one-day to-do list. Then he woke up this morning not feeling well. So I offered to go get him some grapefruit juice and chicken noodle soup. It just so happens that the auto parts store and the carwash are on the way to the grocery store. So I stopped, thinking, Since John’s not going to get this done today and I’m right here, I may as well just do it myself. Mind you, the whole reason I asked him to do these chores was to take some of the load off of my plate so I could get other things done.

This is a scenario where employing procrastination would have really worked in my favor. Could I live one more day with a dirty car? Of course! Did the windshield wipers need to be replaced today? As far as I’m aware, we’re not due a torrential monsoon storm tonight – so, no. The wipers weren’t an emergency. Oh – and while I was at the carwash, I decided to vacuum out the back because I was already at the carwash, right?

I think there’s a fine line between overcoming procrastination of the lazy, “I’ll just do it tomorrow” variety – and knowing when the thing you’re taking time to do today is actually a distraction or hindrance to your progress and process and would better be put off till another day or time.

How can/do you use procrastination as a tool for the good in your life? We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

Laura

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Release the perfectionism and find your own voice as a writer

 

Of all the books I’ve ever read, the one that stands out as the most beautifully lyrical is Sting’s autobiography, Broken Music. Perhaps that can be explained by his years as lead singer and chief lyricist for The Police. I tend to think the British flavor of his writing is also a significant factor. However it came about, I was just so delightfully surprised by the book that certain details of his story still remain fixed in my mind, though I read it only once seven years ago.

Another wonderfully gifted writer is Ed Montini, columnist for the Arizona Republic, my hometown newspaper. His attention to detail and deft use of language enable him to spin word pictures like Rumpelstiltskin spun gold. That we still get to read him twice a week is a rare gift in a world of disappearing newspapers.

My writing, on the other hand — well, you can see it for yourself — tends to be proficient, but it’s no frills. “Just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe Friday would say. Back in 2004, I made my first foray into the 3-Day Novel Contest. Though I did not win, I received what could only be considered an exceptional rejection letter, a handwritten note at the top of the form letter that said, “Laura, Stan (my title character) made it pretty far into the process. Good dialogue. Good flow. Good job.”

Heartened by the feedback, I set out to enhance and expand my original 109 pages (pretty typical for a 3-Day Novel submission) into something that more resembled an actual book. After two years, I think I might have bulked Stan up to a hefty 150 pages. Convinced I needed help, I asked my friend, Carol Hogan — an amazing poet in her own right — to have a look at it. Her feedback, while truthful, was telling of my skill (to that point, at least) as a fiction writer: “It’s a really good outline.”

I still believe Stan has a lot of promise and plan to finish his story one day, perhaps weaving in some of Carol’s fanciful and creative suggestions. The thing is, I know I’m not a bad writer. But I make a significant portion of my living editing other people’s words, which usually means paring back, NOT adding to the original text. So the gorgeous descriptions that make delicious fiction so vibrant are notably absent from mine, if only because my creative process just doesn’t seem to work that way. I would venture that the same is true for most of my writing.

That said, I do recognize and appreciate luminous writing when I see it. Two blogs I’ve recently begun reading come to mind. The first I mentioned last week: the anonymous gal who writes Stopping the Wind, in which she elegantly chronicles her commitment to personal change.

The other is Sonja Haller’s Soulful Writing. In a recent post, Sonja wrote about ditching the pursuit of perfection to begin creating. I liked it immediately because it reminded me of a post I did a few months back about my mantra for procrastinators: Done Is Better than Perfect. However, while Sonja writes soulfully of her own experience, I target the reader with an in-your-face bit of advice.

From Sonja’s post:

And almost weekly I struggle when doing a bit of creative writing because I’m waiting for some version of perfect to appear. I’m waiting for the kitchen to be all clean. I’m waiting to feel fully awake and alert. I’m waiting for some inspirational or ethereal nudge.

From my post:

And next time you are tempted to rewrite your blog message before posting it, change your social media profile picture one more time, re-read and edit your e-mail blast for the dozenth time, spend another hour editing a video, or any other aspect of what can only be called busywork, catch yourself in the act and recite your new mantra: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.

The thing is that neither is right or wrong. We simply have different writing styles. Just because I have a deep appreciation for melodious writing does not mean that everyone appreciates that type of prose. Some people are probably naturally attracted to a more straightforward, unembellished writing style. I think the biggest thing to take away from this discussion is the importance of finding YOUR voice. What about your writing makes it unique to you?

May you find a way to relinquish perfectionism and discover your voice!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!

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New mantra for procrastinators and perfectionists: DONE Is Better Than Perfect!

(Please click on image to enlarge.)

Last post, we touched on a problem that challenges authors, entrepreneurs, SBMs* … just about everyone at one time or another. We spoke of it so briefly, however, that you might have felt a sigh of relief that we didn’t spend more time on it. Well, today’s the day we spend more time on it. What is IT? The dual-challenge of procrastination and perfectionism.

If you’ve been waiting to get your marketing campaign started for any reason but especially because you want to make it perfect first I want you to stop what you’re doing immediately. Grab a Sharpie or a pen or a pencil or a CRAYON, and write in HUGE letters on a piece of paper: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. Then, I want you to write it again. And again. And then I want you to tape it up prominently where you are constantly reminded of this new mantra.

DONE is better than perfect.

And next time you are tempted to rewrite your blog message before posting it, change your social media profile picture one more time, re-read and edit your e-mail blast for the dozenth time, spend another hour editing a video, or any other aspect of what can only be called busywork, catch yourself in the act and recite your new mantra: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.

As a reformed procrastinator, I can tell you that perhaps the best antidote to the procrastination that stems from perfectionism, fear of success, and other self-sabotaging nasties is the book The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield Strap on your seatbelt, though, because this book is going to grab you by the throat and hold on until you’ve screamed “Uncle!”

I’ve said it before and I will no doubt say it again: marketing isn’t rocket science. It’s not complicated or difficult. What it requires is diligence, consistency, dedication, and the utmost desire to succeed. But before you can have any of those, you must begin. Have a vision  for what you want to create (number of books sold, radio and/or TV appearances, speaker bookings, etc.) and fix all your attention on that. Quit worrying about the process and whether it’s good enough. Just make a plan and get started. TODAY. I dare you…

See you Monday!

MARCIE

*Savvy Book Marketer

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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PREVIOUS POSTS

Monday, July 11 – Your book marketing efforts need to be as consistent as Lady Gaga’s hit songs

Thursday, July 7 What gets MEASURED gets done, when it comes to book marketing

Monday, July 4 – A commitment to book marketing means MAKING time for it

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