Monday, June 7, 2010


The best way to get something done is to begin. - Author Unknown

I’ve been rather adept lately at avoiding two major projects that really should have been completed by now. Though one has to do with housework and the other with writing, I was struck by their similarities.
The first project is my bedroom closet. I open my closet door with the intent of going in and conquering the mess, then I step back, close the door and convince myself I’ll take care of it later. Later to me means sometime in the next millennium. I know the job will start slowly. I’ll refold a top, put a dress in a Goodwill stack, another in a discard stack. Then there’s a move-to-the-dresser stack, I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with pile, and on and on until I reach a point where I’ll have so many heaps scattered around that the house will look as if a bomb exploded. My rational side knows that if I stick with it, there will come the point where the piles begin to decrease and the house comes together again. My surroundings will once again be neat and my closet orderly. In other words, it will be worth the effort if I can only make myself take that first step.

The second task is editing my latest manuscript. I sit down with good intentions and place my fingers on the keyboard as though I’m a concert pianist about to begin a performance. I can’t back out and close the door like I do with my closet, so I play a game of solitaire, visit a few blogs, think up something to ‘research’ on the internet and anything else I can come up with to procrastinate (anything besides cleaning the closet, that is). It’s all because I know it has to get worse before it can get better.

I’ll start off slow by adding or deleting a few commas and correcting minor errors and the next thing I know the manuscript is in shambles. This scene needs to come earlier; that chapter has no point; this area needs more action; that character cries too much; this character is too emotionless. I’ll end up with stacks and piles everywhere and a manuscript that looks like it was written in red rather than black.

Thinking about it makes me want to scream and say forget it—the original is fine. Yet deep down I know if I stick with it, at some point all those stacks will all come together and blend into a product I can be proud of writing.

Writing this post has been a sort of pep talk to myself. So now that I’ve confessed to the world that my closet is a mess and I’m one of the world’s greatest procrastinators, I’m taking a deep breath and I’m diving in – to my manuscript that is, not the closet (I do have priorities and I’ve lived with the closet in chaos this long). I needed reminding that it’s the sense of accomplishment that makes this task (or any job) worth the effort it takes to complete it.

Do you jump into a project the moment you see something needs to be done or do you procrastinate? What keeps you motivated to finish a task?

Thank you all for your comments and guesses on my blog about truth and lies. I explained I was not a good liar and many of you verified the fact. The one lie was that I am the middle child of eight girls. Actually my only sibling is my big sister. Jan M. was the first to guess that this was the lie. Joanne and Ann verified that math was not my strong point either by pointing out that eight doesn’t have a middle. Yes, A.K., I did drive while wearing a ghutra, but I don’t recommend it. Helen, Arlee and Patricia, the shrimp was small and a delicacy of a certain area of Taiwan. I didn’t want to offend our host, so I swallowed the shrimp whole. Because I visualized the eyes moving down my throat, I immediately gulped a whole glass of beer. And, just to clear the record, it was a miscommunication that caused me to congratulate my Taiwanese landlord on his mother’s death. I thought he was inviting us to her birthday party, not her funeral.

Thanks for stopping by today. Hope to see you again next Monday.

Tags: procrastination, editing, closets,


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I think the way I get through it is just as you mentioned--the knowledge that it's GOING to be horrible and that I'll fix it.:)

I have a bedroom closet that sounds a lot like yours!

Jan Morrison said...

oh man, I think I have to go back and check this but I thought that was the TRUTH! Oh well, at least I knew it was the anomalie - that is something.
As you might know my dear Jane, I'm where you are. I've tried to use Elizabeth's fine twitterific sites to find specific help for the revision process. That way, when I feel like I'm procrastinating I'm at least storing up info to help me with the whole schmozzle! I won't go on as that is me, procrastinating. By the way - closets too. yikes.

Jan Morrison said...

oh ho - I did guess right! Darn, I wanted you to be the middle of eight girls. By the way you CAN be the middle of eight. It just means that two of you are - the fourth and fifth! Gee math guys! There's ALWAYS a middle.

Anonymous said...

I tend to do things that need doing, or that I want to do, but things that can wait, wait a long while. I moved five months ago but only this weekend actually bothered to re-sort my books. I put them on the shelf in the order they came out of the box (which meant no order what-so-ever). Having finally re-alphabetised them, I feel much better but I would put it off at least five months if I move again.
Best of luck with your writing and your closet.

Journaling Woman said...

I am not a procrastinator except for doing things I fear. But, I try to follow the advice I gave my kids growing up, do what you dread first and it will be out of the way. Now- if I would just do it.

Have a great day, Jane.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I recently tackled my closet and it wasn't as bad as anticipated - you can do it, Jane!
Writing my next book - now that's been my challenge.

Joanne said...

I'm not generally a procrastinator, but on occasion a project will idle. Usually I get myself going two ways. First, I imagine my life without the project, without the writing, and don't like that, so I sit down and get serious with producing words. Second, my daughters don't tolerate much slack, and get on me to "Own it," the "it" being whatever I'm delaying.

Karen Walker said...

Yeah, same closet. Same issues with writing. Oy! Sometimes we just have to "do it" whether we feel like it or not. I'm thinking about deleting Spider Solitaire from my computer. NOT.

Carol Kilgore said...

If I procrastinate, it's usually about weird things that don't really matter. Otherwise, I'm more of the get-it-finished-so-I-don't-have-to-look-at-it-anymore school.

Laura Marcella said...

Oh, yes, I know exactly what you mean about that first draft revision! It's my arch nemesis! So overwhelming. But the hardest part is sitting down and starting, so I just do it because the sooner I start, the sooner it'll be done!!!

“Every hour you spend writing is an hour not spent fretting about your writing.” ~Dennis Palumbo

And that goes for your closet, too! You can do it, Jane!!! Remember, the sooner you start the sooner it'll be DONE!

Darcia Helle said...

Jane, I was cracking up while reading this post. I am facing the same dilemma with my closet. I have been putting it off for 2 weeks now, while waiting for magical fairies to come do it for me! Like you, I will eventually have piles scattered throughout the house. The entire process is daunting and so I continue to put it off. After all, it's only a closet and we can just close the door, right?

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Elizabeth, I’m sure that’s the best approach. I need to put on a mental coat of armor and go in to slay the dragon and be done with it.

Jan, I’m not sure I’d want to be the middle of eight girls – I think I’m just a small family type of person. One sister is enough! By the way, I enjoyed your timely (for me anyway) post on revision today.

Cassandra Jade, I have to admit, I’d probably be perfectly content simply getting the books on the shelf:) but congratulations for completing a task that made you feel better.

Journaling Woman, that is such good advice. I’m going to try to follow it.

Thanks for the encouragement, Diane. Good luck with your new challenge.

That seems like another good approach, Joanne. And getting your daughters into the act is even more incentive to get going.

Karen, I’ve managed to wean myself from spider solitaire to plain old solitaire simply because the games are shorter. I probably should delete them both from my computer.

Carol, I wonder if the “get-it-finished-so-I-don't-have-to-look-at-it” is a gene that was omitted from my DNA – maybe they can splice one into my system:)

What a perfect quote, Laura. I’m printing it out to hang on my computer. Thanks.

Darcia, if those fairies show up would you please send them over in my direction when they’re finished with your closet!?!

arlee bird said...

I with you-- sounds like the same identical projects I have waiting for me-- plus some. I've been a procrastinator all my life and I keep meaning to change my ways....

Tossing It Out

Christina Rodriguez said...

Well, creativity isn't something you can just turn on and off. I think procrastination is often symptomatic of artistic frustration. I know I'll put off stuff I don't want to do AND even stuff I want to do because something just doesn't feel right. Usually, it's that I can't get the ideas to come when I need them to.

Watery Tart said...

Ah, Jane! Hopefully the confession will now lead to at least a PLAN to get started (I can never start until I've made a plan)--it's true though--it is intimidating that it always gets worse before it starts to get better again, so good luck!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jane,

Great minds think alike. lol.

I actually clean closets to procrastinate. I am a mad, mad woman. lol


Helen Ginger said...

Well, except for eating shrimp with eyes and congratulating folks on their parents' deaths, you and I are twins separated at birth.

I've successfully avoided cleaning out my closet for almost ten years. And even then, it wasn't clean since I have shoes from college - that are now to small to wear. And I'm trying to edit a manuscript of mine. It is not easy.

Straight From Hel

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Lee, I’ve always heard it's the thought that counts…if only that were true.

Christina, that’s an interesting and probably absolutely right view of some of my writing procrastination problems, but I’m not sure I can use that for my closet issue:)

Watery Tart, going in with a plan sounds like a logical idea for any project. I’ll give it a try.

Nancy, I’m so jealous! If I procrastinated by cleaning closets, I’d at least have something to show for a day of not accomplishing any good writing.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I think once you have your house in order you'll be able to focus. I found that giving things away gave me freedom. I stopped spending time decorating with fufu stuff. The more stuff you have the more you have to dust and to dust around. I buy special pieces of local art when we travel and a silver charm for my bracelet now.

Something else I do to help me focus on my writing is to post my weekly goals on my blog and I update my progress.

I take a nap before I begin writing...I wake up fresh and not worrying about anything other than my goals for that week or day. :)

Best wishes..I found you through Stephen Tremp's blog awards.

Jen Chandler said...

I missed the Truth or Lie post but I love knowing now what's what :)

Honestly, I'd sometimes rather clean my closet than work on my manuscript. I end up cleaning to get out of editing. Bad, writer. Bad!

Happy Wednesday,

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Helen, I swear I only ate one whole shrimp and it’s haunted me for many years. Also I don’t usually congratulate folks upon a death of a parent, but trying to learn Mandarin caused me make all sorts of bloopers!) I don’t feel quite so bad about my closet now, as my avoidance has only spanned a couple of years, but it’s possible I can drag it out for seven or eight more.

Sharon, I’m so glad you stopped by and took the time to leave a comment. I agree that getting rid of stuff is very liberating. We downsized considerably when we decided against being snowbirds and moved to Florida full time. I also like your idea of a nap before writing. Though I’ve never been a nap person, I might have to try it and see if it works for me.

Jen, you and Nancy Parra have something in common. As I mentioned to her, at least you have something good to show for your procrastination:)

Southpaw said...

Perfect post for me at the moment ‘cause you guess it I'm procrastinating right now! I love the analogy. It’s perfect. I’m so excited I’m follower 100! Yippie Skippy. Should I be so excited?

arlee bird said...

Congratulations on hitting the 100 follower milestone!

Tossing It Out

Anonymous said...

The writer's crossroads ... work on the MS or clean the house. LOL! Both are never finished around here. These past couple years we've had to get a house cleaner to come every other week. MS comes first.

Stephen Tremp

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Thanks for stopping by Southpaw and becoming my 100th follower. I should have prepared for this event with some sort of prize and fireworks…but the only things I have to offer are my undying gratitude, sincere thanks and the hope that you’ll come back again anyway:)

Thanks, Arlee. This big occasion caught me by surprise.

Hmmm, you've given me an idea, Stephen - now I need to find out if there is such a thing as professional closet cleaners.

Helen Ginger said...

It's Friday now. How's it going?

Straight From Hel

Enid Wilson said...

I procastinate all the time! That's why I've two wip still hanging around, sigh...

Steamy Darcy

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world