Not always. I usually write and schedule my blog posts a few days before the due date, and I do my best to finish work projects ahead of deadline. But when it comes to home repairs—or even my current novel—I put things off.
For example, just this week, I had an electrician come to replace a faulty light switch and the ugly, out-dated chandelier in my dining room. These tasks have been on the to-do list since I moved into the house—nine years ago. And it was only last fall that I had the front door rekeyed so that the key to the back door works for it too. Before then I couldn’t unlock my front door from the outside because I had no key.
Now, to my credit, none of these things required urgent action. Until recently, the light switch was only a minor annoyance. The out-dated chandelier was ugly, but it did its job. And being unable to unlock my front door wasn’t really a problem for me, since I use the back door all the time anyway. Once these items worked their way to the top of my to-do list, I took care of them.
But there was also the thing with the squirrels.
I first heard the scrabbling late last fall, and I knew what it meant. I had had squirrels removed from my soffit three years ago. I recognized the sound. Why, then, did it take me until January to pick up the phone and call Critter Control?
In part, I think, I was in denial. I wanted to believe the squirrels would go away if I ignored them. Plus, I was unsure of what to do to get rid of them. I didn’t want to use the service I’d used three years ago, and I didn’t know the best alternative. Finally, on some level, I was ashamed. I know it makes no sense, but some part of me felt like it was my fault that squirrels had gotten into my house again. So I didn’t want to admit it had happened. I kept remembering Grey Gardens and those raccoons staring out from behind the half-destroyed wall.
Then, in January, when I was awakened by squirrels running around and rolling nuts somewhere above my bedroom ceiling, I knew I had to take action. I called Critter Control, and within a few days, the squirrels had been trapped and the holes repaired and sealed. Easy. So, when the critters came back again in March, I was on the phone the next day. They are tenacious, these squirrels. They had gnawed yet another hole. I’ve now had the walnut tree that was next to the house removed, eliminating both a source of food and a means of access. I hope that will take care of my issues with uninvited house guests.
One of the things I learned from all this is the importance of simply taking action. Often I procrastinate because I’m afraid of making the wrong decision, doing the wrong thing. I get overwhelmed by options, and I end up doing nothing. That compounds the problem, making me feel stuck and helpless. And you know what? As soon as I decide to do something, I feel better. Even if that initial action isn’t enough to solve the problem, I’ve at least moved things forward, and the next decision is easier.
The same is true of writing. Sometimes I get stuck and procrastinate because the potential options of where the story could go next seem overwhelming. As long as we stay within the constraints we have already set for our characters and our stories, our imaginations can take us anywhere. And I worry I will make the wrong decision about where to take a scene or the plot. But if I do, then I do. So what? We’ve all experienced writing a scene one day and then cutting it the next, after deciding it didn’t work, no matter how great it might have been. But the writing of that deleted scene, the doing, moves us forward. We eliminate one possibility and get a little closer to our goal.
So the next time you find yourself procrastinating or feeling stuck, just do something, anything. And that little burst of action will get you moving again.
When do you procrastinate? What kinds of things do you put off? And what finally spurs you to action?
Connect with Stephanie Stamm:
Stephanie Stamm is the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy A Gift of Wings. (She is working on the sequel.)
She has also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes: