Let’s talk about: Procrastination

Me + Procrastination = LIFE

From Merriam-Webster:

 Pro·cras·ti·nate – to put off intentionally and habitually, to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done. Latin procrastinatus, past participle of procrastinare, frompro- forward + crastinus of tomorrow, from cras tomorrow.

Now that my epic revision of Poppies is done, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the experience. I started the revision process late January. I finished mid-March. The eight-ish weeks I worked on Poppies felt something like this:

Fiddle around, long run, piddle around, think, think, think, accomplish mundane task that doesn’t matter, think, think, think, piddle some more, long run, more piddling, mundane task, think, think, think, long run, fiddle a lot, think, think think… REVISE! REVISE! REVISE!

You might notice that once the active revising started, I was in it to win it. Truly. Everything but necessary humanly functions and occasional time with my family fell to the wayside. All I could think about was Poppies, and it was an exhilarating, industrious, glorious feeling.

But, it took me forever to get there. I was an expert procrastinator. I spent an unhealthy amount of time on Pinterest. I read a lot. I ate a lot. I organized my husband’s dresser drawers by color, lining each t-shirt up in a graduated rainbow fashion (no, he was not nearly as impressed as I’d hoped he’d be). Now, the whole time I was procrastinating, I was thinking about what I needed to do to revise my manuscript, but I still carried a pit of guilt in my stomach because I wasn’t actually doing anything. I should be working, I thought constantly. Why can’t I get going on this revision?!


It comes down to this: I wasn’t mentally ready, and my subconscious knew it. 

Oh, I was on-board with the revision and all the changes it would entail. I could see how it would improve my story, and I was truly excited about it. I really like revising, upping the stakes, fleshing out characters, cutting and adding and pondering scene endings and word choices. I like bouncing ideas off my CPs and my agent, and I like checking revision notes from my To-Do list as I complete them.

But this revision was big and had multiple layers of change and, to be perfectly honest, it was SCARY. I wasn’t sure if I was capable of pulling it off and, initially, I wasn’t even sure how I’d attempt it.

So, I procrastinated like a champ.

Turns out, though, that all my procrastinating may not have been such a bad thing. It gave me ample time to think and muse and contemplate and brood. It let me work out all the  psychological road blocks I was dealing with, and it gave me a chance to get ready, to truly embrace the changes that needed to be made. And you know what? Once I got to That Place, I was a revision tornado, whipping through my manuscript with unmatched enthusiasm. And, it was FUN.

Tell me: Are you a procrastinator?


41 thoughts on “Let’s talk about: Procrastination

  1. Miss Cole says:

    Best response to the issue of procrastination ever! And you make a really good point about using the time to prepare yourself for the task. You just *know* when the time comes.

    • katyupperman says:

      I think so! There’s got to be a reason why our brains won’t let us focus on the task at hand. I’m hoping my brain knows better than I do that I need more time to ponder!

  2. Elodie says:

    What do you mean your hubby wasn’t as excited about the clearly-very-practical-and-visual organization of his clothes? 😀 I had to smile at this because organizing my own closet is one way for me to procrastinate…

    Great take on procrastination and how it did help you somehow…I could have majored in procrastination but I would call it organized procrastination…When it came to school, I waited to write papers but I did do all the research on time so it was not like I was rushing without anything at hand. When it comes to writing, I did procrastinate in taking big decisions for my current WiP. Now that they’re taken, I cannot wait to go back to it to implement them even though they’re scary. Like you, I think the time taken away, procrastinating with “anything but” helped my mind process the necessary information. By the way, now that you’re done with the major revisions, what are you tackling? A new project? 😀

    I really need to stop writing novels as comments to your posts 😀

    • katyupperman says:

      I love your comments, Elodie! Now that I’m done with this POPPIES revision, I’m going back to the rewrite of my contemporary YA (the one I’ve been procrastinating on for months!). I think I’m finally read to tackle that baby! Glad to know I’m not the only “Organized Procrastinator.” 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Holly! The more I thought about this, the more sense it made, and the less guilty I felt. I think taking the time to work things out mentally before diving in can be a really GOOD thing.

  3. Sophia Richardson says:

    I am procrastinating brainstorming the next novel/short story/poem/ANYTHING like a motherf*cking champion. I am doing it right now. I should probably feel guilty about this, but I am at least doing things that could be construed, in a certain light, as having a life, so I’m letting it slide. Give it another month and I’ll probably be super guilty to make up for it, though.

    • katyupperman says:

      Having a life is important too. It’s what gives us perspective and ideas and inspiration. I’m going to try really hard to excuse myself from the guilt of procrastinating from here on out (within reason, of course!). When we’re ready, we’ll do it! 🙂

  4. Jaime says:

    I am the worst sort of procrastinator. I still have small chunks of my story left to write and I keep going back to older parts and tweaking them (aka semi-revising before it’s time). It must feel good knowing that you’ve successfully revised your WiP. I can’t wait for that same thing 😀

    • katyupperman says:

      Oh, I do that tweaking all the time. That’s an easy one to excuse away, too, because technically we ARE working on our stories. Sometimes the big stuff is just too intimidating to tackle right off the bat.

  5. Erin Bowman (@erin_bowman) says:

    I actually have very little trouble sitting down and focusing. Like you, when my mind wanders and I end up “procrastinating,” it’s often because I’m not ready to move forward, or don’t know HOW to move forward, or simply need to think things through more. Now sometimes, if you’re not on a tight deadline, this is fine. It’s when a due date is looming and you’re still not in the mental state to address things but have to power through anyway that’s the real challenge 😉

    • katyupperman says:

      I have to give myself deadlines or I honestly think I’d sit and ponder (or Pin! :)) indefinitely. If I make a completion date goal, I have a much easier time eventually buckling down and sticking to it.

  6. Rebecca B says:

    I’m a waste-time-until-I’m-ready-to-work-but-feel-guilty-about-it procrastinator. There is no limit to the time I can spend online if there is work to be done!
    Congrats on finishing revisions!

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Rebecca! Yep, I could surf the internet for hours if I had them to spare, especially if there are more important things to be done. Oh, the joys of technology and social networking!

  7. Eve says:

    Oh I am. I think of I’ll do ‘that’ tomorrow. Tomorrow arrives and I just can’t think of why I would do that today when I need to do so many other things, that maybe if I’m lucky 1 or 2 get accomplished. I put things off and I don’t know the reason myself but I’ve been trying to get better. Especially where it concerns my WIP (which I haven’t been working on).

    Congrats on finishing the revision!

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Eve. I’ve found that if I set self-imposed deadlines (and tell my husband and agent about them!) I’m much better about eventually getting down to business. I’ve discovered though, that I need that time to “procrastinate” because it lets me work out the problems in my manuscript and their revision solutions.

  8. rklipman says:

    um, YES. my first round of edits took almost 10 months. it included a total rewrite and adding 25,000 words of new material, but still. it took almost 10x longer to write draft 2 than it did to write draft 1. it was terrifying.

    it would have taken me a long time regardless, i’m sure, but i procrastinated like a champ on that bad boy.

    • katyupperman says:

      Maybe you procrastinated because you hadn’t mentally worked out solutions to the problem areas in your first draft? That’s usually why I find myself dinking around on Twitter and Pinterest–because I just haven’t nailed down resolutions yet. (And yowza! Great job finally finishing that bad boy!)

      • rklipman says:

        oh, sure. part of the issue was that my story was changing as i made it better/stronger… and part of it was that i didn’t KNOW enough about my story and this world, and what the conflict was, etc. etc. i’m the kind of person who usually can’t force answers like that, so i needed some time to work through it.

        but in any case, i am not one of those writers who love revisions… and this is why! 😉

        • Katy Upperman (@katyupperman) says:

          Now I’m curious, Rick: Are you a plotter or pantser? I’m a plotter and outliner, but it still takes me until about the midpoint to know my story and characters and conflict. Even with a plan, that’s really what the first draft is about for me, and that’s why I LOVE revising–because I finally have a good idea of who my people are, what they want, and how I can throw roadblocks in their way.

          • rklipman says:

            I’m somewhere in the middle, but for the most part I identify as a pantser. I love first drafts because it feels like I am discovering the story for the first time – I know revisions make it better, but I hate the process of actually DOING them.

            In the case of the story in question, I really hadn’t gotten to the point where I KNEW my story well enough yet – I hadn’t been able to figure out certain key things, which is why I went ahead and wrote it. I was like, ‘Well maybe this will click if I just wrote the damn thing’.

            It didn’t, not completely, but in the revisions stage everything eventually came into place! Then again, you can’t revise a blank page, now can you? 😉

            • katyupperman says:

              “Then again, you can’t revise a blank page, now can you?”

              That’s the mantra I constantly repeat when I’m in the (torturous) throes of first-drafting. 🙂

  9. elschneider says:

    Oh, believe me, I feel your pain. Cause I’m right smack in the middle of a big ole pile of procrastination.

    I have this colossal re-write ahead of me, but am still waiting for the official green light from Mr. Agent Man, to really dive in. And because of this, I’m dragging my feet like none other.

    And a little part of me is terrified…because this re-write is huge. As in, changing more than half of what I have written, huge. Yikes.

    But a part of me just wants to jump in and try the ride out – cause I think it might be fun, in a sort of sick and twisted way! 🙂

    Now if only he’d get back to me sooner than later…twiddles thumbs, checks out Pinterest, reads blogs, and works that day job that pays the bills….none of which is nearly as fun as re-writes, right?

    Great post – you’re not alone…and you’re so lucky you’ve finished!

    BTW – saw The Hunger Games Friday night – loved it!!!! Thought they did a great job on sticking as close to the book as possible, considering all they had to fit into 2.5 hours. I need to read the books again, now!

    • katyupperman says:

      Yikes, Erin! I imagine procrastination comes even easier when you’re waiting on another person for guidance/feedback. And yes! Jump in and tackle that baby! I bet you will find it fun (also probably challenging and frustrating and, eventually, rewarding!). Good luck, and keep me posted on the details. 🙂

      Oh, and glad you loved The Hunger Games. I totally did too!

  10. Carla Essen says:

    If people got paid for procrastinating, I would be richer than Oprah Winfrey. Also, I am going to tweet you a picture of my rainbow closet that I accomplished during a dreary winter day when I was probably procrastinating on cleaning the bathroom. (At one point I had also labeled all jeans hangers so I knew if they were long/normal/crop length, flare/boot/skinny leg – and then I org’d them by denim wash. I have issues.)

    • katyupperman says:

      Oh my God! The jeans! I would have never thought to label mine, but you’ve kind of put an OCD idea in my head… I might just have to do the same. 🙂

  11. Zanne says:

    Oh, I am definitely a procrastinator! I am procrastinating right now. 😉 I have recently started 2 part-time jobs (in addition to my day job and a freelance job), so I have 4 jobs total. I know it doesn’t leave me much time to write. Well, I had a rare Sunday off from all my jobs and was planning on spending the day writing. I didn’t even turn on my computer. I suck. I am sure that once I get started, I will be fine. I just can’t seem to get started! I WANT to write, and I think about it all the time… I just never do it. I can totally relate to the ecard and cartoon you used! Those are great!

    • katyupperman says:

      It doesn’t sound like you’re procrastinating — it sounds like you’re taking a much needed break! And yes, those cartoons were just too fitting to pass up. 🙂

  12. Jessica Love (@_JessicaLove) says:

    I’m in the middle of this right now…so bad! I’m so pumped about this new things I’m working on, but I’m just not READY. So I’m putting it off. And it’s making me mad because I need to get going! I’m trying to tell myself that my subconscious is working it out, but…yeah. I don’t know if that’s true.

    I’m glad you finished your big revision! YAY!

  13. Meredith says:

    I certainly can be a procrastinator (like, you know, right now—I seriously need to jumpstart another book), but maybe I’m just more of a thinker, like what you’re describing. I need time to mull everything over in my head and work out all the little kinks before I dive in. Yes, let’s go with that. 😉

    And congrats on getting the POPPIES revision done!!

    • katyupperman says:

      Yes, let’s definitely go with that. 🙂 For me, all of the thinking and pondering give me more confidence when I actually get going. I don’t feel like I’m flailing quite as much.

      (And yay! Glad you’re able to comment again, Meredith!)

  14. Alicia Gregoire says:

    This is a great post, Katy. I’m dealing with this currently while doing some additional worldbuildng for my urban fantasy. I’m doing it all longhand to prevent the siren call of Pinterest, Twitter, and online games.

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Alicia! I admire your resolve to work longhand… I could never! When I’m avoiding internet distractions, I go work in the cafe at my local Target. No WiFi! And good luck with your worldbuilding. 🙂

  15. Krispy says:

    I am a professional when it comes to procrastination, but I totally agree with you. It can be good! I mull over things forever and sometimes the answer will just show up when I’m doing something totally mundane or unrelated! I just need to know when to stop. If you let me, I could probably procrastinate forever. 😛

    • katyupperman says:

      Oh, me too! That’s why I have to set deadlines for myself, just so I’ll be accountable. The sparkle of the internet is sometimes too much to ignore otherwise. 🙂

  16. Christine says:

    I am a total procrastinator! And it’s usually because, like you said, the task seems to big and scary. Or, I’m not good enough to do it. I find that especially true with writing. Sometimes I think I just don’t have the talent to accomplish what I need/want to do. It’s always nice to have a little chuckle with a fellow procrastinator.

    Good luck with the Challenge!

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Christine! And I agree: I procrastinate for a REASON, not because of pure laziness. I’ve come to terms with the fact that when I’m ready, I’ll get to it. Until then, my house will be tidy and organized and I’ll Pin my little heart out. 🙂

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