I’ve got a goal, and I’ve got a problem.
My goal is to persuade you and everyone like you that I can teach you to do what I do.
Yes, be widely and successfully published.
My problem is that the more I do it, the harder it is for you to believe that you can do it too.
Are You Making any of These Excuses?
I’ve been a published author since 1974, writing several books every year since—188 now with 21 New York Times bestsellers and 70 million copies sold. For decades I’ve also been teaching writing and how to get published, all the while facing every excuse and objection imaginable.
“It’s easier for you,” students say, “because:
- “You’re well-known.”
- “You write faster than I do.”
- “You’re obviously more disciplined than I am.”
- “You can’t be a procrastinator like I am.”
Time to put on your big kid pants and face the truth.
If you want it badly enough, you can do what I do. And here are the facts about those excuses and objections:
- I was once unpublished and as unknown as anyone else. Learn the craft, hone your skills, pay your dues, and you can be published too.
- Writing speed is a learned skill. There’s no secret to it. It comes from learning the tricks of the trade and building your writing muscles.
- No question, it takes discipline to accomplish any goal. No one has a monopoly on discipline. Again, it comes down to how badly you want to achieve your dream.
- I must not be a procrastinator? Pull up a chair. We need to talk.
The Embarrassing Truth about Me
Procrastination is the most common offense I hear confessed.
Everywhere I teach, all over the world, budding writers admit this to me as if it’s killed their dream before it was even born.
And when I tell them they’re talking to the king of procrastinators, their looks alone call me a liar.
But it’s true—I am a procrastinator.
In fact, I’m the worst.
And it once paralyzed me.
Believe me, I’ve seen this monster try to morph into writer’s block, that most terrifying of all boogeymen.
How Bad Was I?
I should ask, How bad am I? Because the truth is, I have not rid myself of the curse.
I have merely learned to manage it.
And you can too. Really.
But back to how bad I am.
- I read the backs of all my wife’s cereal boxes before I can even consider getting started on my writing. (And I don’t eat cereal anymore. I’m an eggs and bacon guy.)
- My writing cave must be pristine—yet I would not entertain a guest while writing on deadline for any reason.
- I cannot allow even one unanswered email in my inbox, not even from an elderly relative persuaded that this conspiracy is real and was foretold prior to recorded history, verified by codes only recently discovered in ancient texts deciphered by a toddler guru.
- And is it my fault if the list of the 10 worst movie ideas of the 1990s leads to 20 of the worst plastic surgery fails of all time?
- Why, yes I would also be interested in seeing pictures of 15 undersea creatures I wouldn’t believe actually exist.
- My two dozen pencils must be sharpened to points that could impale faeries that weigh less than a gram. (And I haven’t used a pencil since the sixth grade—who has? It would be impolite to ask when in the early ’60s I was in the sixth grade.)
But now it’s noon, and that’s too late to start writing. So I’ll change the number of pages I need to write tomorrow.
But tomorrow proves to be more of the same, and I—you—start to spiral.
That’s when I despair, turn over a new leaf, resolve to start again.
I try everything to keep from falling further and further behind.
I change locations, eliminate distractions, and still find myself stalling, delaying, changing those numbers of pages per day on my calendar, committed to make my deadline.
But before I found the answer, I had trouble sleeping, despite my dogged determination to really, finally get started the next day.
Naturally, that led to only more frustration. For even if I somehow found the spark—or whatever I needed—I would be too exhausted to write.
A person of faith, of course I had been praying throughout the ordeal—every time, all the time. So it shouldn’t have surprised me that an answer came.
To my shame, I didn’t immediately recognize it as divine cause and effect. As I too often do, I merely accepted it as my good fortune.
I had been procrastinating…
…by researching procrastination. That may be what you’re doing now.
And I stumbled upon something useful and freeing.
Now so have you.
The Secret to Overcoming Procrastination
Don’t stop procrastinating.
You read that right.
Don’t try to beat it or avoid it.
Rather, expect it, plan for it, schedule it. And believe—know—that while you’re procrastinating, your subconscious is working on your book.
Then you’ll be able to rest, even to sleep.
The #1 Requirement that Ensures Your Success
Keep your deadline sacred—even if it’s self- rather than publisher-imposed.
No matter how long you delay, stall, procrastinate, and increase the number of pages per day you must write to make your deadline, there absolutely has to be a limit.
You cannot let things get to the point where there are too many pages per day for you to write.
Trust me, that’s how you can learn to live at peace with procrastination.
Do What I Did
Now, when I have a deadline, I:
- Dutifully schedule my daily writing plan
- Know full well I’ll stall and delay and go through my ridiculous rituals, unable to get started when I know I should
- Relax and sleep well anyway, knowing my subconscious is working on my book
- Keep a careful eye on the calendar so I don’t let the days get out of hand
- Keep my deadline sacred
- Finally start when I really have to and enjoy discovering the surprises my subconscious reveals
Has this helped you? How will it affect you the next time procrastination threatens? Tell me in the Comments below.