Deb Rachel Is a Procrastinator

2012 Debutante Rachel BertscheHow fitting that I should be writing about bad habits at 11:15 the night before this post goes live.

If you can’t tell, my worst habit when it comes to writing is….drum roll…procrastination.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve worked best on a deadline. In tenth grade, I’d start my papers the night before they were due, long after everyone else had gone to sleep. Sometimes I write magazine stories on the same day I have to hand them in. This is not a good habit.

But it’s an even worse habit when we’re talking about books. You can’t write a book the night before it’s due. Not even the week before it’s due. You can stay up all night and you aren’t going to get 80,000 words on the page. Sometimes this doesn’t really matter — if you’re writing your first manuscript, for example, you probably don’t have a deadline. Or you have a self-imposed one. You can procrastinate until you’re ready to dive in, and no one will be banging down your door for a final product.

But sometimes, like if you’ve sold a book on proposal, you have a due date. And you need to deliver on that date. Which means you must pinpoint that perfect procrastination line, nailing down exactly how long you can put off working and still get your book written on schedule. It’s not easy.

Good habit: Writing a little bit every day, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter.

Bad habit: Saying “I’m diving in tomorrow!” every Sunday for months.

Side note: It’s now 11:42 pm, because I watched an episode of SVU in the middle of writing this. This procrastination thing stops now. I mean tomorrow. Right after one more episode.

Are you a deadline writer? Or are you one of those people who writes ahead of time, finishing long before anything is due?  (If you are, I only hate you a little bit. Promise.)


10 Replies to “Deb Rachel Is a Procrastinator”

  1. Ugh. Procrastination. I used to do the same thing with high school papers. And college papers. I once waited until two days before it was due to start a hand-written a hundred-page reading journal. I changed pens, using different ink colors to make it look like I was actually writing at different times. (I know! Nobody would ever catch on to that, right?)

    I did finish in time (barely), with the worst case of writer’s cramp in history. Got an A, too. I suspect the teacher didn’t actually read all those journals…

    I’m not quite as bad now, but I still find quickly approaching deadlines to be remarkably rejuvenating to my “creativity.” 😉

    1. I did that same thing senior year of college in my “intro to drawing” class. we were suposed to draw one thing a day for the quarter in a journal. I spent one day drawing a million things! I guess it’s a right of passage…

  2. Oh, is it ever true, Rachel. That first book allows us such time to languish in our drafts, in our creative process–then it’s a whole new world when the deadline-universe of book 2 comes. It definitely requires an adjustment in work habits. Yes!

  3. I’ll tell you all about how I procrastinate…tomorrow.

    I’m right there with you – in fact, the only way I stayed on deadline for the sequels to my debut is by pretending the deadline was 9 months before it really is. (And…I was a month late meeting that early self-imposed deadline. I’d have been dead in the water if I let myself believe I had time.)

    And I’m laughing at Linda’s comment about the journal. We had to keep a journal in English in high school one year, and I absolutely “faked it” two days before it was due, using different colored pens to make it look like I’d been diligent!!! (PS: the teacher didn’t buy it, though she did think I’d been keeping it sporadically rather than writing it all at once. I counted it as a win.)

    1. Yeah, clearly I need to be stricter with my self-imposed deadlines. I’m thinking of making my agent start harassing me for material…

  4. When I was in college, I was in denial of my procrastination habit. My friends would always complain about how they’d procrastinate when it came to writing papers or studying for tests. I always said I wasn’t like them because I’d make a schedule of how much research I needed to do for a paper, when I’d do it, and when I’d need to start actually writing the paper. My schedules were always great, giving me weeks to make a perfect paper…

    But then other things came up and I’d always say “Oh, I’ll just push this off until tomorrow…” and then the next day and the next day and the next until I start researching and writing two days before the paper was due. I always got good grades, so I figure the pressure to write helps. Though I’ve never had a deadline for a book. I’m not sure how I’d handle that situation. I bet I’d make schedules of when to write and how much… and I bet I’d ignore it like I did before.

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