The Struggling Writer

The chronicles of a freelance writer as he tries to make a living.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


The point of this blog is for me to talk about my daily efforts to make a go of this writing thing. The posts I’ve made so far are summaries of information I’ve gathered over the last few months and, though they might be helpful, are distracting me this goal. I’m smart enough to realize that I’m doing that on purpose :)

Today, let’s talk about procrastination. In fairness, I was going to talk about this yesterday. But it wouldn’t be a fair analysis of procrastination if it was on time.

I suffer from a serious problem for a freelancer – I’m lazy.

Well, lazy isn’t really the right word. I work hard when I have a project and a deadline. I’m not afraid of long hours. My record so far is, back when I used to do field work, I put in 12-hour graveyard shifts 22 days in a row. I usually have better hourly production than other people doing the same work. Dedication isn’t the problem.

My problem is self-motivation. When I’ve got only myself to disappoint, I often disappoint. I don’t want to get into some heavy self analysis, but I think it’s important to be aware of your shortcomings so you can figure out what to do about them. Heck, that’s part of the reason I started this blog. If people are watching my efforts, then it’s not so much about self-disappointment.

Since I work from home I am surrounded by distraction. I don’t just mean TV or web surfing, though those can have a strong pull at times. I mean yard work and laundry. There are all those things that I used to find time for when I had a “real” job, but suddenly they seem to be more pressing and more time consuming.

Even things related to writing are distractions. Reading writer forums, checking freelance job postings, researching tax issues on owning my own business, even this blog are all things that I use as an excuse to avoid actually writing. There is nothing like a blank page to fill a writer with anxiety.

For example, I have an email from an editor saying they are interested in an article I queried them about. The email is a month old, and yet the article isn’t done. Sure I’ve worked on it some, but it’s not finished. There have been problems (the article is way too short and the first draft was just awful) but any of those could be resolved with a little actual work.

Another example, Learning Through History is looking for articles on the Ancient Near East aimed at 9-16 year olds. Although I don’t know much about the subject, it seems interesting. I could probably do all the research and get at least a good first draft in a few hours. Have I? No. I’ve done a little preliminary work, but haven’t even narrowed down a good subject yet.

Self-motivation is going to be an important skill I have to learn. I need to figure out what system works best for me. A rigid schedule is not the right answer. Instead, say I have to do a certain number of hours a day of writing and querying. Right now, I’m going to shoot for 4.

Four? I hear you say. Ha! You should be putting in 8-12 hour days. Yes, you are right. But I won’t. I might for a while, but I won’t keep it up. I’d rather get a solid four hours of work than eight hours of looking at my watch wishing it were over. With time, as I start to get work and get a rhythm going, I hope increase that.


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