Procrastination means at its most pure form putting off what we need to do and doing something else instead. The “instead” isn’t always less important, or mindless, but sometimes it is. Sometimes I’m an expert at procrastination, especially when I don’t have a deadline. “Instead”, I look at Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, work on my bookkeeping, Google my name, shop online for shoes, run errands, make “to-do” lists, clean the kitchen, play Two Dots on my iPhone, check blog unsubscribes and newsletter opt-outs, watch YouTube videos, and fritter away my time with everything but writing.
Procrastination creates stress because my writing tasks don’t go away. And, if anything, when I procrastinate the writing project acts like a toddler and pulls on my leg until I pay attention to it.
Many aspiring cookbook authors struggle with procrastination too. For the next few blog posts, I’m going to write about procrastination. Today, I’ll cover common reasons why writers procrastinate. In the next blog post I’ll give some suggestions to stay focused on your writing.
Here are my top eight reasons why writers procrastinate:
1. We can’t do our project justice. We know we need to do more research or that we have the wrong answer. We need to do more background work in order to maintain our standards, but we don’t want to. We just want to write, not fix something or do research. So instead, we don’t do anything.
2. The project isn’t good for us. It may take our career in a direction we don’t want to take. Or maybe, it’s not right because we’re underpaid for the job and we’re working way too hard for the pay. There are even times when there’s no money attached to a cookbook for self-publication or when writing a cookbook for our families. We think that no one will ever know if we stop working since this project isn’t good a good fit or earning money.
3. The project is too easy. If it’s too easy, we become bored and when we are bored, we aren’t interested in working. It’s hard to sit down and work on an easy, boring project. Just ask any intelligent 6th grader. They’ll tell you if it’s too easy, the next step is boredom. Then comes finding other things to do that seem more exciting.
4. We are paralyzed by the idea that we and our book concept isn’t good enough. At the deepest level, we fear being exposed for the fraud we actually are. We ask ourselves, “Will anyone know that I haven’t earned this spot to write this book or article?” As a result, we seek out familiar tasks where we shine (such as writing status updates on Facebook or sending funny Tweets). Our followers like these posts, plus it’s easier than writing where we risk our reputation.
5. We compare ourselves to writers with “natural talent”. We have unrealistic expectations about what writing means because all we see from other successful writers is their final draft, their newly published cookbook, or their glossy story in a magazine. We don’t see the edits and the failed parts of their work that end up in the recycle bin. On the other hand, when we write we see every bad sentence and we labor over the entire process. So, instead of working through the drafts (the hard part), we put off writing. As Kurt Vonnegut said about writing, “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”
6. We want directions and praise. We work hard on our writing, but there’s not any feedback along the way. We become stuck in inaction because no one cheers us on or pays attention to the work we’re doing. It would be easier if someone gave us some guidelines or deadlines.
7. We need to look busy and successful to everyone around us. If we’re sitting at our computer, writing bad first drafts, we won’t appear “busy” to others. The busy people are visible while they volunteer in the community, organize blood drives, or serve lunch in the school cafeteria. Unfortunately, every step of writing is a solitary act and you have to do the work alone. It can be uncomfortable to sit while the “busy people” are getting the recognition, but, if you want to write a cookbook you have to stay glued to a chair and keep busy with your writing.
8. Our book will be met with rejection or with conflict. Actually, that’s true. Not everyone will like what we write. Get over it and keep writing. Remember their is an audience you’ve identified who loves and is waiting for your cookbook. Paste their picture on your computer or notebook if you have to, in order to remember who you’re writing for.
This blog post identifies common reasons why you might be putting off your writing. As you know, when you procrastinate you don’t write. And when you don’t write you can’t move closer to your goal of writing a cookbook. In my next blog post, I’ll discuss ways to enhance focus on a writing project to decrease procrastination and increase productivity.
Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”.