October 1st, 2008
In honor of My So-Called Freelance Life “officially” publishing today, I thought I’d post a short excerpt from a great Q&A that fellow freelancer Susan Johnston did with me on the fantastic webzine Women on Writing. It’s on my favorite topic: procrastination. You don’t have to be a writer to appreciate the sentiment.
But first (heh — geddit?), I’d like to thank Tara Swords for taking the day-making photo above, Toni Martin for rocking my world with the book’s first Amazon review, and the Feminist Review’s Brittany Shoot for her kickass write-up of the book.
Okay, back to the question at hand….
Susan/WOW asks: A lot of writers (including yours truly) find themselves procrastinating online when they ought to be working. How do you stay disciplined when you have a deadline coming up?
I answer: As you’ll probably glean from the book, I still fall prey to the dreaded P-word from time to time. (Damn you, YouTube!) When a deadline is dire, I’ll have to shut off the phone and unplug the modem. Otherwise, finishing the project just doesn’t happen, or at least, it doesn’t happen without involving an additional six hours of emailing and IM’ing friends about nothing of consequence.
This probably goes without saying, but if you don’t work, you don’t eat, so there’s always that motivation. I’m single and bootstrapping it all the way, so it’s not like I have anyone to pay my bills for me. Besides, the more deadlines you have on the calendar, the more you learn to just motor through the pile of articles or projects on your plate. When you’re mistress of your own schedule, it doesn’t take long to realize that if you have three 1,000-word articles due in a week — articles that require locating and interviewing sources — you need to start now, not the day before they’re due.
Licking procrastination is all about playing mind games with yourself. These days, I’m loving the piecemeal approach to writing articles (write the intro one day, the middle the next, and the ending the day after that) while I research and edit other articles on my plate. So, instead of having to write 1,000 words in one four- to eight-hour sitting, I may only have to write 300 words over the course of an hour or two. Much easier to face.
Bonus answer: In both my books, I talk about some of the tricks we freelancers have to play on ourselves to lick procrastination. The Pretend You Have To Be Somewhere At 6:00 P.M. approach is currently my favorite. Anyone who’s ever made plans with me during the past, oh, decade knows that, as weird as it may sound, I tend to get stressed if I have too many evening outings scheduled during the workweek (and by “too many” I mean, “more than one”). But that doesn’t mean I can’t pretend I need to leave my office by 5 P.M., a tactic that miraculously lights a five-alarm fire of productivity under my butt. Who knew that kicking the I Don’t Need to Crank Today — After All, I’m Here Till Midnight mentality could be as simple as telling yourself a bunch of lies?