Procrastination, Perfectionism and the Writer

This morning, I browsed some of my old posts, searching for inspiration for today’s Monday Meanderings. I was a bit disheartened to discover this entry, originally posted on May 18, 2010–over three years ago. The discouragement comes from the fact that some of these goals are still pending:



This is a theme I have to come back to from time-to-time: the things that keep me from writing. In almost every area of my life I am not a procrastinator. When I see something that needs to be done, I am driven until I’ve completed it. I revel in the sense of accomplishment that comes with checking a task off of my to-do list, whether figuratively or in actuality. But when it comes to writing, I sometimes put it off.

Today is May 18th. My intent had been to begin the rewrite of my novel (The Sin of His Father) on the 15th. I haven’t even taken the hard copy out of the file I lugged home from Palm Desert.

Another goal was to compile a book of poetry to submit or self-publish. That hasn’t happened either and, if I remember correctly, my target date was for the end of 2008. The redeeming factor in this one is that I have more poems to choose from and better quality writing.

Why is it easier to meet concrete goals such as cleaning out the closet or weeding the garden when the more satisfying, creative accomplishments often elude me? Are there legitimate reasons to put off writing?

Maybe if we take a look at the reasons we procrastinate and the devices we employ to legitimize not-writing, we’ll get a clue as to what needs to be done to move forward…or to be a bit more lenient with ourselves.


Oh, it’s true. I’ve make progress on all of these goals.  I’ve completed numerous edits and rewrites of The Sin of His Father and submitted it to a dozen agents and a contest. Before I make the next move, I’m waiting for results of the contest. In the interim, I completed a total rewrite on my first novel and it was published in 2011 by Lucky Bat Books. I’ve compiled a few different volumes of poetry and am working on self-publishing one of those. This week I prepared a Kindle Singles article on helping persons with early stage dementia and should have it up in the next day or two. I’ve written lots of poetry, participated as a team member on dVerse, Into the Bardo and a few other blogs. Then there’s the dreaded marketing of Winter is Pastmy nemesis. And, of course, there’s life and it’s way of presenting the unexpected and demanding attention to the routine, not to mention relationships to nurture.



Could it be that the real enemy isn’t procrastination, but perfectionism? What about you? 


11 thoughts on “Procrastination, Perfectionism and the Writer

  1. dragonkatet says:

    I have to admit, I laughed when I read that your novel “Winter is Past” was your nemesis! I think it is a wonderful book, with rich, believable characters and ‘real’ situations that pull at the emotions. But I can see how the ‘marketing’ aspect of it could be a nightmare – it’s one thing to write it, quite another to try and sell it to others! (Like the difference between creative writing and technical writing – one is for fun, the other is…well, not. lol)

    I can also relate to procrastination and perfectionism, especially when it comes to creative tasks. I can’t tell you how many times I have been working on a piece of creative writing or a poem and realized that I was editing as I GO! It’s terrible! Like that perfectionist editor is “always” working, no matter what!

    All in all, though, all we can do is the best we can with what we have at any given moment in time. Whether it’s good or bad will be something that decides itself in time – true “perfection” is an illusion, and in the end, the only person who TRULY has to be satisfied with it is the artist. 🙂


    • You’re inside my head! The biggest illusion. BTW, the novel wasn’t my nemesis, though it took me almost 10 years to bring to publication. It’s the marketing. Just not my thing. Thanks, dragon.


  2. Ravenblack says:

    Very fine line between trying to work towards being good and becoming a perfectionist. Perfectionism has that effect of causing procrastination… or rather makes up the right excuses to justify it or accuses one of it. I’ve not just encountered it in writing but in daily work life. Perfectionism also has self condemning effects and could envelope one in glow of guilt too.

    Why is it easier to complete concrete goals rather the creative ones? Because one is afraid to mess up the creative goal, it’s so good you want to don’t ruin it. It’s special and often unique so it can’t be treated like some menial task. So you think, “I’ll do this when… ” And then later you chastise yourself for not pushing yourself. Does that even make sense? 😀

    Writing with goal to publish was one of the most damaging things I ever done to my creativity. One would do well to put that out of one’s mind, because it has an effect of making the work about impressing someone else. If you want to find a publisher, it’s nearly full time job in itself. Even those with connections have a tough time. Publishers will only publish what they can sell. You will be rejected until you have to hit one at the right time — when it just happens that your work is what the publisher is looking for. That’s what I think anyway.

    (Another wordpress blog…great. I can hope this post doesn’t end up in the spam bin. If it does…I guess it’s fate. lol)


  3. Victoria ~ I sincerely believe neither ones are your enemy but, I’d consider Timing a very important factor ~ my prayers are with you! You will achieve wonderful things if you continue pacing yourself and Remembering that Timing has to have its course. Faithfully Debbie


  4. Mary says:

    And good luck with YOUR goals! And I hope you prove me wrong with The Sin of His Father.


  5. Mary says:

    Right now my enemy is ‘procrastination.’ But I am making progress. I no longer expect to publish anything in a major market. When D and I were working to get an agent and / or publisher for our two novels (which people read and really liked) it was frustrating. We ‘pitched’ them at Maui Writers’ Conference, received positive comments, sent excerpts, etc. and nothing ever resulted We self – published them through (pricey) X-Libris, and took advantage of some of their (pricey) promotional opportunities. Nothing. I KNOW these are good novels. But….I really think publishers are interested in the works of people who already have NAMES, or else people recommended by someone who has a NAME. I think it is connections, for the most part, that gain a person any kind of chance. So from this point on I will ‘publish’ things through ‘print on demand’ LULU only for myself and family and those who might be interested in my words. We did two “perfect” novels, and I did one “perfect” poetry book…….but at this point my goals are less lofty. I am working on my fourth unashamedly IMPERFECT poetry book, and my goal is completion by early August. And that, I am sure, is more than you want to know.


    • Victoria says:

      I’ve shared the same experiences, Mary, and that’s why this week I mostly excused myself from blogging to learn how to upload on Kindle (hope to finish that small project–an article) today or tomorrow. The next step will be to take it to Create Space which is also POD. I can’t help but think our age factors in…publishers and agents want someone they can work with long term. And perhaps our goals. I feel like the two of us have a sort of mission to share what we’ve learned in life. And of course, that takes us back to age. I’m not looking to get rich…wouldn’t mind it, though. Or for fame. That’s too elusive. Just to share and to be able to enjoy the process of writing.


      • Mary says:

        Yes, I agree, Victoria. Mission to share what I’ve learned….with whoever cares enough to read my words. I had dreams once…no more. Reality is reality. And I will just write for the enjoyment as long as I can. I will have to look into Create Space.


  6. brian miller says:

    i think that perfection is an enemy…as it is a very ellusive goal…i dont know that we will ever get it completely perfect you know…though we try…and when we get it back from a contest or publisher we think maybe there is something we can change to make it better….i think part of it is hitting the market at the right time…and there is an element of luck as well…


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