Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finding the Underlying, Specific Reason for our Personal Procrastination

Astronomical Clock detailSometimes I put things off.

There are many different kinds of things I put off.

Replying to emails.  Making a doctor’s appointment for a family member.  Writing a particular scene in a book.

I’ve found that if I can just identify why I’m putting something off , I have a much higher chance of finally finishing the task.

Not answering an email? Is that because I have to check a particular date and I don’t have my calendar near me? Because I need clarification on what the original emailer is asking  of me? Because I need to plug a conference into my GPS to find out if it’s within drivable distance?

Not making a doctor’s appointment? Is that because I’m not sure what type of specialist would handle the particular medical issue?  Because my family member’s schedule is too in-flux to nail down an appointment date? Because I haven’t researched what questions to ask the physician?

Not writing the next scene in my book?  Is that because I feel the character’s motivation isn’t clear?  Because I’m not sure how I want the scene to end up?  Because I’m not sure how to approach the scene—with tension?  Humor? Action? Pathos?  Because I’m not sure the scene is necessary? Because I’m worried I’m repeating myself?

Once I’ve identified what’s making me stall, it’s easy for me to make a list of steps to finish the task.

The email—pull out my calendar. All my calendars.  Email the person back to make sure I understand what they’re asking.  Take out my GPS and figure out the conference location and whether it’s feasible for me to attend.

The doctor’s appointment—set a timer and research the issue online to prepare.  Call my family doctor for specialist recommendations.  Make the appointment, knowing nothing is set in stone and appointments can be changed, if needed.

Not writing the next scene?  Skip it and come back to it later.  Make lists of all the ways the scene is improbable.  Make lists of all the ways I could fix that improbability.  If the character motivation is in question, what would make this particular character want to do this particular thing?  Is there something in his backstory?  Some fear or desire?  Label it and incorporate it into the story.   Not good at writing action or a tension-filled scene?  Set aside 20 minutes to research writing blogs for tips.

Do you sometimes procrastinate?  What’s your method of working through it?