How Procrastination Has Helped Me Write (and Sell) More Than 185 Books

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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  • I was once unpublished and as unknown as anyone else.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.)

I’m not kidding about the pencils.

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.

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  • Willie White

    I already do some of those, but need more sales. My one desire is to become a New York Times best selling author

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      That could be a problem, Willie. People who write bestsellers have higher priorities, like things they can control: they desire to write something they’re terrible passionate about; they desire to tell a great story, change a life, make a difference. The sales and making the list are up the marketplace. Do the other stuff and let the rest take care of itself. :)

      • Willie White

        Thanks for the advice.

  • Darla Swanson

    “Hello! My name is Darla and I’m a procrastinator.” (Audience: “Hi, Darla.”). The first step toward recovery is admission, right? This article is funny and very, very helpful. Thanks! I’m going to make a deadline calendar for my book. Right after I check how many people “liked” my latest facebook post…

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      I’ll read your comment later, Darla. First I have to…

      Cute.

  • Jerry, it feels strange and wonderful at the same time to know that you, the author of my absolute favorite book series, is exactly like me. Right down to being interested in the 15 undersea animals I wouldn’t believe existed (Which made me laugh out loud, much to the confusion of those around me)
    The truth is, and I am more than willing to admit it) is that I’m just as bad as you. Yes, I look at the slideshows. Yes, I have to go through the emails, and comment on the blogs, and I have to go on Facebook, and look up HOW to write instead of WRITING. It’s a mess.
    Thank you so, SO much for this article. It not only shows me what I have to do to deal with it, but it shows me that even NYT best-selling authors go through it too. So there’s hope for me. Thanks!!!!

  • Thank you, Jerry! I procrastinate also. I have this verse on my computer screen and Facebook page, “Now finish the work so that your eager willingness to do it will be matched by the completion of it, according to your means.” 2 Corinthians 8:11 This helps me get at least one or two articles or chapters written per day.

  • Janice G

    All the surrounding distractions are fuel for my procrastination. It’s good to hear an author who has written books which stack to the ceiling remains curious about what else is going on in the world besides hands on the keyboard. Thank you for your continuing encouragement through sharing what works for you.
    Blessings,
    Janice

  • Yesterday I read an ebook about writing killer headlines. When this came into my inbox today, my first thought was, “That’s such a killer headline! Who doesn’t have procrastination problems, and how on earth do you turn it into something helpful?” Great advice!

  • Kristy Andrews

    Thank you for your wonderful insight and advice, Jerry. The humor much appreciated too! Your distractions really made me feel so much better about my own. I used to think there were fewer procrastinators in this world, as I seem to be drawn to highly organized people, but I’m beginning to think there’s a correlation between creativity and procrastinating. Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with all of us! Blessings! Kristy

    • Thanks, Kristy. There are plenty of us. In fact, we scheduled a convention, but no one showed up on time.

      • Kristy Andrews

        I just burst out laughing at that one! Thank you Jerry! That is hysterical!

  • Nic Ford

    Thanks for this insight, Jerry. Yes, I procrastinate and yes I worry about it. I am starting to plan around it better, so it boosts my confidence to hear that’s the way to go.

    All I need to do now is get those writing muscles working. I am comfortable with short stories of anywhere between 650 and 10,000 words – but longer form I am utterly daunted by, and struggle with pacing correctly. Any advice in that area would be greatly received.

    • It’s an old saw you may have heard, Nic, but just in case you haven’t: you write a book the way you eat an elephant–one bite at a time.

      View a book-length manuscript as just a bunch of short stories.

  • To use a cliché–you hit the nail on the head! Just today I had a “fan” ask me when I will finish the sequel to my first novel. If I say I’m starved for encouragement, comments like that make me a liar. That’s certainly encouragement. I’m up to my final chapters on the sequel, with a good idea to wrap it up–yet, I procrastinate. I have all the time in the world, no interruptions, many books, articles, tips on writing, but I don’t write. Here’s my latest excuse: I’ve had a personality change and I’ve lost my talent. Should I see a psychiatrist? I’ll keep your blog and read it again.

    • Take two aspirin, Dee, and call me in the morning. Late in the morning.

  • Tom L

    Just received your article on procrastination. Decided to read it later.

  • Elizabeth

    I didn’t think we had anything in common, after all…I haven’t found anyone who dislikes your books…and,…. after all….as I read this blog I can testify that this could have been my very own words, and I wouldn’t be lying. Imagine that…not the lying part but having that much in common….are we all alike? That gives me hope…and why not because this is–among other things–one of the aspects that I love reading your blog, it gives me a lot of encouragement even when it calls me to face the mirror LOL. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Wait, Elizabeth, I’m still hung up on the idea that because you haven’t found anyone who dislikes my books, we have nothing in common. I’ve got to think that one through. :)

  • Procrastination can be a good thing when place strategically during the day. This is because when I am writing I become so engrossed that it will be two or more hours before I realize I have to stand up to stretch. Then I go get a drink of water, or coffee, then come back to the computer, read email, visit FB, talk to someone on the phone, eat something, then…. wait I can’t get back to writing yet… oh the mail needs checking… okay I’m ready to write again… Oh, it 4:00 p.m., I need a cocktail… Procrastination–you only think your getting the job done.

    • Yes, Laura, if carefully tended, procrastination scheduling itself can feed the addiction. Brilliant.

  • heather letto

    Was I procrastinating by reading your article? Nah. Maybe. Am I still procrastinating? Hmm. Well, anyway, just wanted to add another tip for indie authors like myself. Because sometimes a self-imposed deadline may seem a little like a rubber mallet (you know, it won’t hurt too much if I don’t meet it) I schedule all editors, cover designers, and beta readers at the beginning of my project. Accountability. It keeps me… accountable!

    • My blog was a little long to serve as a procrastination aide, Heather. Just here to serve. :)

      Good ideas, btw.

  • Pam Harley Rosario

    I love the pencils! Oh you give me so much hope!!!! Thanks for being transparent and sharing.

    • Thanks, Pam. And I shot the photo of the pencils with my phone. Came out pretty well, didn’t it? :)

  • Steph K

    My biggest reason for procrastinating is raising my family. The laundry can wait another day, but snuggling on the sofa can’t. Sometimes I panic that I’ll be too old and miss my chance to make a name for myself if I put off writing even one more day, but God reminds me that he put the desire to write within me and will lead me to its fulfillment on his schedule, not mine. In the meantime, I can’t slow down time on my growing kids, so I must always stop for them…but still write during karate and basketball practices :)

    • Family always has to be priority #1 Steph. That’s not procrastinating. That’s doing the right thing. I maintained a strict policy when our three sons were at home. I never wrote when they were in the house and awake. That way, when I did write, it was without guilt.

      And don’t write to make a name for yourself. Write from your passion. Sales and fame aren’t up to you anyway. Just worry about what you can control: how much of yourself you invest in giving it your all. The rest will take care of itself.

    • Ashanda N. McCants

      I totally understand where you are coming from. As a home school mother of 6, I find that my time needs to be on my kids. But I agree with Jerry that they are first priority and you, that God will fulfill the project in His intended time. I try to write or research after everyone falls asleep but take advantage when my hubby allows me to close our door and get some quiet space to work.

  • Andrew Cartwright

    Jerry, you’re a mine of wisdom, and better still, a pantser! I challenge all wannabe writers, including myself, to hone our craft. It takes skill to write a “couldn’t put it down” novel. We need to sign up for courses like Jerry Jenkins Fiction Jumpstart. I believe becoming a skilled and confident writer will help remove many of the fears that cause procrastination.

    • Thanks, Andrew. You posted that endorsement exactly as I wrote it. :)

      Just kidding, but seriously, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Dell Anne Hines Afzal

    I’ve self published two family books and both are “out there” for others on major sites but never considered promoting them; they were major labors of love. My intent was to document family events, funny stories and love of family before my brain gives up my memories…(My years ARE somewhat advanced as someone of your own organization can attest…)

    I document my own life experiences and memories, of course not of any caliber as your inspirational writing but as of late have had difficulty with continuing stories on my own website. Your message this morning is a welcome kick in the pants! Thanks for the prodding and reality for a new day! Blessings to you my friend!

    • Just here to serve, Dell Anne, though I try not to make a habit of kicking women (or even men for that matter) of advanced years, in the pants.

      • Dell Anne Hines Afzal

        Nice to hear Jerry. Just ask RDS how many times he’s threatened to kick ME over our lifetimes; Childhood was quite a raucous but fun place between us!!! We are exceptionally proud of how he’s turned out; I guess all the jokes and hard work we accomplished together didn’t damage him too badly!

  • esarbee

    Always thought that writing books was for the well-gifted, intellectual brainiacs who know very clearly what they are talking about because they have the authority to do so. That’s why I have procrastinated or not been sure whether this is the right direction for me thing. No harm in trying, but a lot of wisdom is required. I always think of certain topics because of what occurs in my journey, and then think, “Somebody has already written about that and are better than myself. Play it safe and leave it to the experts.” I believe there is a fine line between knowing your gift and taking a risk to discover whether you are a writer or not. It is an expensive exercise. That was another Procrastinators statement. Certainly have me looking at my journal over the past years and seeing where to start, and dare to risk, dare to set others free.

    • You’re right, esarbee, writing books is reserved for us gifted, intellectual brainiacs. Now excuse me while I tried to get my bride of 45 years to stop laughing.

  • Pam Richards Watts

    Jerry, you never fail to come through with timely and powerful wisdom! If I were to title the theme for this week, it would be “authentic imperfection.” We learn so much from one another’s transparency, especially when it comes from someone in leadership. Thank you for being so vulnerable. Your confessions were spot-on. I almost fell on the floor laughing about the sharpened pencils. (When I was in graduate school, my apartment was never so clean as during finals week!)

    As one who has also wrestled with the Procrastination bully, I pass on this encouragement: http://pamrichardswatts.com/2014/08/13/summertime-and-the-livin-aint-so-easy/

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Pam, and for sharing your blog. Good stuff.

      • Pam Richards Watts

        Thanks–that means a great deal. Can I trust you stopped by to read because you were sincerely interested–and not just procrastinating from writing your own stuff? ;)

        BTW, working diligently every day on the Baylor Spirit of Sports presentation. Most days I find the best words come from those moments I have to drag myself to pen and paper and write on faith because I’m convinced I have no words!

        Great stuff as always, Jerry!

  • Good stuff, Jerry, and excellent advice! Thanks for sharing.

  • Connie Schisler Vellekoop

    Thanks for this timely advice. I tend to write by “spurts” — like right now I’m motivated (usually when I have a bit more time!) to get at it again. By the way, I’m plugging away at a memoir. Here’s a paragraph — maybe too wordy?? “A vivid memory is of our family taking a trip one time over the Aconquija Range to a high desert plateau between mountains. Amaichá del Valle, a small, picturesque colonial town sat in the middle of the enormity of the tree-less, bowl-shaped valley. We climbed some rocks and looked out over the stillness, the crystalline air defining the sheer mountain slopes, the highest ones snow-covered. The dome of wind-swept blue sky was dotted with a few fluffy cumulus clouds. Feeling like we were on the roof of the world—specks on the edge of infinity— it made us want to run and shout into the sheer
    vastness.”

    • Thanks for sharing that, Connie. Part of the idea of community here is sharing pieces like this, and since you asked, I’m assuming you’re sincere in wanting a little input.

      I’ll put my comments in brackets.

      A vivid memory [you could delete that, because this IS a memoir, so we assume it is going to consist of memories, and hopefully only the most vivid ones. So jump in without announcing that.] is of our family taking a trip one time over the Aconquija Range to a high [‘high’ would be assumed if it lies between mountains] desert plateau between mountains. Amaichá del Valle, a small, picturesque colonial town sat in the middle of the enormity [‘enormity’ actually refers more to character (bad) than size, so you might look for another descriptor here] of the tree-less, bowl-shaped valley. We climbed some [you can always find a better, more precise and evocative word than ‘some’ that would tell me more about the rocks; maybe ‘We climbed steep/slippery/jagged/porous (pick one)…] rocks [I would put a period here and not mention that you looked anywhere; we’re already in your point of view, so whatever you describe next, we’ll know you looked at] and looked out over the stillness, [one doesn’t really look over ‘stillness,’ so maybe “In the stillness the crystalline air revealed snow-covered slopes in the distance.”] the crystalline air defining [air doesn’t really define anything] the sheer mountain slopes, the highest ones snow-covered. The dome of [I would delete ‘The dome of’ and ‘blue,’ as you’ve already established that the air was crystalline, so there’s no reason the sky would be other than blue. So, “The wind-swept sky was dotted with (delete the imprecise ‘a few’ and then choose either ‘fluffy’ or ‘cumulus,’ because you don’t need both)] the wind-swept blue sky was dotted with a few fluffy cumulus clouds. Feeling like we [write in the first person; were in your point-of-view and you can say what you think they were feeling or what it appeared they were thinking, but you only KNOW your own mind] were on the roof of the world—specks on the edge of infinity— it made us want to run and shout into the sheer
      vastness.

      Hope that’s helpful. And as descriptive as that is, what will really make it work to keep readers turning pages is action and conflict. Tell me anecdotes that have significance in your life arc. Danger, fear, loss, epiphany. Did someone get lost, hurt, reveal a shocking secret? Those episodes will make a memoir.

      • Whitney

        I feel like I just won the lottery! Your comments on this piece is a lesson I needed.

        I am reading posts and…..procrastinating!

  • Got Sportsmanship?

    Great advice / reminder — there’s a lot more going on then we think…even when we are procrastinating. Thanks!

  • Carmen E Richards

    Hi Jerry, very helpful. You pinpointed some of the crazy things I do in my procrastination – organize, clear the desk, mind, email – I think it’s the fault of David Allen – Getting Things Done guru. Love him, but I get OCD about my writing space and place. I loved what you said long ago and in this article too, keep the deadline sacred. You shared before your process of writing 20 pages and the next day edit them and write some more. I tried that – but now I write with a tomato timer method I adapted from il Pomodoro. I write for 90 minutes at a time with my timer going. I still do clean and organize but at least it gets me writing for a few sessions a day. The hard part for me right now is being in Kauai – yeah you heard me right – home of your ancestors LOL – and home of my grannie kids. I’m working on how to strike the balance between writing and beach with the kiddos. Also, I used to be a night owl – not anymore. Love and Miss you and all the CWG folk. Thanks for the wonderful posts. Blessings, Carmen

    • You’re in one of our favorite spots on earth, Carmen, and if your grandkids are crowding out your writing, you have your priorities in order. You’ll never regret the time you invested there. :)

  • Rhonda Steffey Dippon

    I laughed so hard–because it is so familiar! Thanks, I needed to laugh today. I am notorious for getting everything else done before I sit down to write, and of course, now there is no time left. Good word for all of us, I’m sure.

    • Thanks, Rhonda. I would have read this earlier, but my leftover Diet Coke bottle caps were out of order and…well, you know…

  • Jerry, I like your point about relaxing, knowing your subconscious is working on your book. My conscious even writes while I’m procrastinating. I get some of my best ideas while I’m procrastinating over a sink full of dishes to avoid staring at my book project. Sometimes I even remember to write my ideas down when the dishes are done so I won’t forget. Too often, though, something else has already stolen my attention by the time I sit in front of my writing project again, and I strain to remember what the muse told me over the dishwater. Worst part is, the muse has given up on me by then and clocked out for the day. I’m making a mental note right now to dry my hands and credit the muse before the dishes are finished next time…now lets just hope I can find that mental note when the muse shows up again!

    • Frustrating, isn’t it, Lois, when even our subconscious procrastinates–or at least plays hard to get? I keep telling myself, ‘Surely I’ll remember this.’ Then I get to the keyboard and it’s, ‘Now what was that I was sure to remember?’ I fear it has more to do with age than procrastination though.

      I think you’re on the right track to take an immediate note…

      • Ahh…yes, the age thing! I started to mention that, and no doubt it’s true in my case. I won’t dare ask when in the early 60s you were in sixth grade, but the timing sure sounds like I’m about 3 years behind you, with another birthday coming up in about a month. I wouldn’t go back though. Took me too long to get this far…and it really does get sweeter every day when you walk with the Lord.

  • burtabreu

    I’m working around my own procrastination, fear or whatever mental pillars may have collapsed in my brain. If I overthink I get bottled up and focus incessantly on tiny details until I’ve burned up whatever time I have, or I get frustrated. If I just write, stuff comes fairly quickly, but tying all of these disjointed bits into a cohesive story engages the overthinking cycle. Out of sheer frustration I started posting my writing as an online serial a couple weeks ago, and that has me posting with some regularity. It isn’t perfect, and my instinct is to hold it until it is perfect, but I finally realized I might never actually write if I kept going the way I was. The once a week Saturday writing block, with an occasional jotting of ideas as they stumble around in the gray matter during the week, and I’ve finally got something started. I like your suggestion about scheduling a daily number of pages and think I will set myself an achievable goal and give it a try.

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      Sounds great.

  • Rachael M Colby

    Jerry,

    I read your blog on “Procrastinating” yesterday. Actually, now it’s been a couple- nope- a few days ago! I would have responded to it earlier, but I was too busy procrastinating. Which is also why I haven’t responded to your post with the exercise “I am a writer because…” So, maybe I will answer that now and just mess up the flow of your blog. I love a little mischief anyway.

    Here goes! (Deep breath.) I- am- a- writer, (exhale)… because, Jesus said so. But that’s not exactly how He worded it. What he actually said was, “You’re a hypocrite.” So what do you do when God calls you a hypocrite? You shut up and listen. You just kind of freeze and wait for Him to continue. In this case, I am standing dripping wet, wrapped in a towel. (Yup, this story is an “almost”; but I do also have an actual “Shower Story”.)

    Then God spoke to my heart. “Your favorite songs, books and sermons are the most passionate and honest ones,” He said. “Don’t you think it cost them something to lay themselves and their hearts out like that? You are willing to enjoy their words and partake of the blessing of them. How can you try to persuade your daughter to share her words while you are hiding yours? How can you ask Abby to put her heart out there while you are refusing to make yourself vulnerable by sharing yours?”

    I have prayed, “If I could have any gift over all others it would be to be anointed. Give me words to praise you Lord. Give me a word in season for someone.” But I will be of no effect if I draw back, and keep my words and heart locked in my self imposed prison of preservation. I can’t allow my insecurity, fear of rejection or making some angry, to paralyze me. You see, the walls we build to protect ourselves are the same walls that keep us from our healing, destiny and freedom in Christ.

    It turns out that Jesus’ plan for this journey is for me to trust Him with my heart. I am called to chronicle our grand and crazy romance; these divine interludes, on this sometimes chaotic road trip with Jesus. I am not sure how all this will work out, but my prayer is, “I want to take these words that He has given me and throw them as far as I can so they can impact others for Jesus.” But this won’t happen if I pursue inspiration. I must pursue Jesus.

    “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my heart pants for You, oh God.” – Psalm 42:1 KKJV

    Lord
    I went looking for inspiration
    and found none.
    Then
    I sought You
    and I was inspired.

    I believe that I am finally getting to that place Jesus called me to many years ago. That place called vulnerable. I have indeed become vulnerable by the sweetness of His spirit. Surrendering to Jesus is the only way to win, and nothing we go through in life is wasted when we offer ourselves, our lives, to Him.

    So, maybe I have something to say, because Jesus has something to say. And sometimes, by the grace of God, and in spite of myself, Jesus choses to use me to say it. Sometimes, people get angry when they read my words; and sometimes they laugh. I’m sure they roll their eyes sometimes too. Quite often they cry. I want them to ponder what I have written. Then, I want them talk to God about it.

    Jerry, thanks for your insight, inspiration, and direction. Thanks for the encouragement. May God bless you for investing in others.

    Rachael

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Rachael. Now keep writing. :)

  • Robert Murphy

    I used to have a real problem with procrastination, now it’s just a matter of scheduling time to write. I often pray for inspiration and guidance which is a big help, but the only thing that I can’t bring myself to do is set a schedule or deadline. I do a fair amount of writing in my “real” job: plans, procedures, etc. that all have deadlines – so my schedule is based on when I’m in the right state of mind to write. Granted it’s much slower.
    I’m a hoarder when it comes to writing and research, and something on which I’ve procrastinated or quit altogether gets revived or morphed into something new. Sometimes years or even decades later as with my current novel.

    • Keep shooting at, Robert. It’s all a matter of how bad you want it.

  • B. Gladstone

    I am comment number 62. I received the email on October 20th and today is the 26. Did I procrastinate? I thought I did when I received it but decided that I would read it “later”. Then, when I sat back down and logged in my Mac and it would not load. Mu computer crashed. I am writing using my thumbs…

    Could I actually write a book from my phone? I don’t think anyone has…Tomorrow I am suppossed to pick up the computer. After the Sears technician shows up. My fridge crashed as well!

    • Perfect, B. And it took me only 15 days to get back to you. :-)

  • Sharon Williams

    When I read this article I felt as if you had been spying on me. Not only do I have a problem with procrastination with regards to writing, but I also struggle with staying caught up with my reading. After reading this article, I noticed it landed in my inbox 7 days ago. But at least now I feel armed with how to deal with the procrastination. My biggest fault has been keeping my weekly deadline. Since it is self imposed, I’ve not taken it seriously enough. But now I intend to stay “up to date” (by faith).

    • Good for you, Sharon. And it took me only 14 days to answer. :-)

  • Ashanda N. McCants

    For me, I hate the idea of being a procrastinator but totally agree that sometimes we just need to take a chill pill to give our brains time to work. It’s crazy but my greatest ideas about a manuscript usually come when I should have my mind on other things, like what the pastor is saying. That’s when the perfect scene will arise in my mind. As of late, I have been more diligent about my craft but writing is only part of the pursuit. I am a new author trying to navigate the literary world. That can feel a lot like procrastination sometimes.

  • Patricia G Cevallos

    Procrastinating? What is that? I sat down to finish my homework that needs to be turned in by midnight, but… read the story about the amazing pictures Jerry mentioned somewhere, read several of Jerry’s tips for writing, got up to make popcorn, put clothespins on the grand kids because they are spiky dinosaurs, now they want a snack. Back at the computer wait, got up to get some water. Finally, I’m writing this post so I can get to my homework almost 3 hours later!

    • It took me only 3 days to get to your comment, Patricia. I’m making progress. :-) You’ve got this procrastinating thing down pretty well too, don’t you?

  • Ralph Swalley

    This reminds me a little bit of when I set the clock forward from 5 to 20 minutes to trick myself into getting up on time. I set aside every Saturday to write, but by the time I do all the extraneous things that present themselves to me, I actually have about three hours of solid writing time. Thank you for helping me with the guilt associated with procrastination. Following your plan could actually bring about a great amount of productivity!

  • Amy Costello

    Im in tears literally. Why can’t I do this? It’s been eating me alive. Now my computer is out of order. Good excuse huh? No I must do this if it kills me. All it takes is one word at a time, then one sentence, and one paragraph. A page. But its up to me to take the action!

    • Celebrate small wins. Do one thing at a time. Just format your page. Then just do your title page. Then just your dedication page. Then just an epigram. Then just the first paragraph of your first chapter.

      You’ve worked less than an hour, produced about four pages, though you’ve written fewer than 2-300 words, and you’re off and running.

  • Grace Potts

    I’ve been so excited about the hope offered by the guild that I’ve been keeping fairly well to my schedule for 19 days–until the last couple of days. Got to a difficult section and my chronic procrastination ramped up again. But now you tell me procrastination is really productive subconscious time, right?
    That said, my goal is 6 days a week, 750 words a day. I added my totals this morning. Even with spending several of those work sessions on organization, even with having to live too much of my life on other people’s schedules, even with procrastination, even with other responsibilities of my own, even with keeping up with what’s coming from the guild and my computer lessons, I’ve written 19000 words in 19 work days!
    And, I’m ahead on writing blog posts! Grace Potts

    • Fantastic, Grace!

      • Grace Potts

        You know, Jerry, this kind of affirmation–that I’m not necessarily lazy when I procrastinate, just being efficient–is exactly the kind of encouragement I needed when I joined this guild. Thanks, Grace

        • Good, now go lie down, take a break, do nothing. The work will still be there tomorrow. :)

  • Grace Potts

    Yeah, y’all, what Jerry said. So, for the whole weekend, all my discretionary time, that’s just what I did. Nothing but rest. Grace

  • Grace Potts

    I was researching caves for my WIP and came across this post. The blog is HACK THE SYSTEM, and the guest post is by Maneesh Sethi, “ON LIVING IN CAVES AND FIGHTING DISTRACTIONS”. It’s sort of about procrastination, as a lot of my own procrastination is reluctance to try to dive in until I’m alone because I know the interruptions are going to come (even when I’m wearing my ‘Don’t bother me; I’m working now’ hat), and getting jerked out of my story world hurts pretty bad. http://www.theminimalists.com/maneesh/ Grace

  • Linda VanderWier

    Sir, how you get any of your own writing done amidst your gracious and patient work with us fledglings is astounding! Thank you so much for the sacrifice you make. I have learned so much from you and have been greatly encouraged. My prayer for you is that the Lord will return the time and the blessing to you.
    My dream since elementary school has been to be an author. Now that I have retired from a long teaching career, my dream is beginning to come alive. My time budget is quite crunched with being a pastor’s wife and doing grandma duty. But I have truly been experiencing what you’ve described as the productivity of procrastination. I find myself toying with words in my head almost constantly! It’s almost as if life is a story my head is writing. (Non-writers would find my head to be an exceedingly scary and confusing place, methinks!). Thank you for once again encouraging me to make time to reach my goals, for assuring me that I’m not crazy, and for relieving me of guilt!

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      It’s called compartmentalizing, Linda, and I enjoy it. :)

      That you are playing with words in your head constantly shows you have the right temperament for this. And it appears you have the right background and training too. So you SHOULD be encouraged.

      Your learning curve will include working a lot of cliches out of your system (I had to get only about a quarter million out of mine), and avoid the language of written-ese–that’s what I call word choice that makes your writing sound like writing. I strive to sound on paper the same way I would if I were chatting with you. Am I succeeding?

  • Glenda

    What if “written-ese” is the way I actually speak? Would I be shoving myself out of the way of my writing? On procrastinating:
    “Today is what we have. Let us begin.” On compartmentalizing:
    That’s a good thing? Ice-cold, sweet-tea relief! :)

    • Jerry B Jenkins

      I believe we learn to speak in ways that best communicate, so if your natural manner sounds like written-ese, it must work for you socially. However, you will likely have to resort to self-publishing if you write that way. For instance, if you’re more like to write “A good time was had by all” than “Everybody had a good time,” I’d be very surprised if your writing sold to a traditional publisher.

      That’s a nice line on procrastination, but people who suffer from it know that. That’s why it’s so debillitating. You might as well say, “Quit putting things off and get to work.” That’s what procrastination is: knowing what should be done and not doing it.

      Is compartmentalizing a good thing? Well, it wouldn’t be if I were keeping my church life separate from my personal life and justifying intentional sin. But to keep my wriitng life separate from my family life? Yes, that has proven very good. I never wrote a word when my kids were at home and awake, yet I have been almost insanely productuive (working on my 190th book since 1974).

      I don’t do this (answer Comments) when I’m on deadline. But I do it. That’s compartmentalizing to me.

      • Glenda

        On written-ese. Everybody had a good time. Point taken. A-gain.

        On procrastination…what I forgot to include was, let us begin.
        Cleaning out the fridge first…seeing that I really should file my nails first…like that…I’m a pro at putting writing off….

        Thanks for clarifying the compartmentalizing comment…:)

  • Cathy

    Writing time, for me, means I’m hungry.