How Writers Can Stop Procrastinating Forever

Carol Tice

do it - procrastination conceptHave you been trying to get serious about writing, but can’t seem to develop a regular writing habit?

Do you find you keep putting off writing in favor of something else — snacking, chatting on Facebook, reorganizing your closets…pretty much anything except sitting your butt in the chair and grinding out the paragraphs?

“I manage to do everything except the actual writing!” one would-be writer emailed me recently. “Can you help?”

Another writer recently related that she quit her job to become a freelance writer about two years ago, and then never wrote a word. Ever. Until her money ran out and she had to go back and get a day job again.

Yet another commented on Facebook:

I need motivation-Facebook comment

When writers don’t write

So here’s the thing about being a writer who doesn’t write. And who is looking to the outside world for a way to acquire the burning drive to do so.

I can’t help you with that.

You might tell yourself or your spouse or your writer friends, “Well, I’m procrastinating about writing right now.”

But really, you’re not.

Let me explain what I mean.

The truth about procrastination

The reality is, you are never procrastinating.

I know! It feels like you are. But you’re not.

What all human beings really do, in their every waking moment, is make choices.

Every minute of every day, you are making decisions about what you will do, based on what matters most to you.

You are not procrastinating. You are deciding.

Today, or this month or this year, you may be deciding not to write anything.

Yes, maybe today you really were dying to write but you had to take the kids to soccer. Maybe this week the relatives were in town.

But over the course of a month, a year, a decade, you ultimately make time for the things you want to do.

And you don’t make time for the things you don’t.

Be aware of your choices

Often, we make these choices on how to use our time a bit unconsciously. We become creatures of habit. “Yes, I never miss an episode of [your favorite TV show here].”

If that’s you, then it’s time to bring these choices up to the level of your consciousness and start thinking about how you spend your time. Keep a time-use diary for a few weeks if you need to.

It may help you confront a basic reality of life: We all make time for whatever really matters to us.

It’s been said that you don’t become a writer or aspire to be a writer…you either are a writer, or you aren’t.

You are one of those people who is scribbling song lyrics in the margins of their grocery lists, or lying awake at night composing poems in your head, or pitching editors dozens of article ideas. Or you are someone who doesn’t feel that drive to get words down and put them out in the world.

“I’m dying to become a published author!” you say. But contrary to what the greeting cards tell you, it’s not the thought that counts — it’s the action.

If you’re never making time to write, it’s because deep down, you don’t really want to write.

Or at least, you don’t want to write bad enough to face your demons, overcome your laziness, and sit. down. and. do. it. On a regular basis.

That may be harsh, and tough to confront. But that’s the reality.

Stop putting it off…

Runners get out every day and run. Writers make regular time to write, because it’s impossible to go on living without getting those ideas out of your head. And because we know it’s another muscle that has to be exercised a lot to get working well.

The corollary, I’d say, is if you are a freelance writer who never can find time to market your writing, you don’t really want to do this for a living.

Maybe you want to dabble with your memoir or your fiction or write a personal-journal type blog, but you don’t have the drive to make writing your source of reliable income.

The next time you find yourself wanting to complain that you are putting off writing (or marketing), remember that it’s not procrastination. It’s a deliberate choice.

Stop waiting for the kids to leave home or the move cross-country or to feel better-rested or whatever it is you blame for why you’re not writing now.

Be a writer, not a waiter

There will never be a better time to write. For all you know, you may not have another day of life to live beyond today.

If it matters, you’ll make time to write.

Because you are doing exactly what you really want to do with your life.

How do you fight procrastination? Leave a comment and share your tips.

Freelance Writers Den


  1. Kay

    Honestly, I can’t tell you how I fight procrastination because it’s something I suffer from. Or rather, it’s a choice I make. Regularly.

    What I can tell you are the things I choose over writing: the internet and TV are huge time sucks for me. Even music. My excuse is that I “just need a little noise in the background” or some music to get me going.

    But the truth is I can only really concentrate and buckle down when there are no distractions. I need the TV and music off. No phone and no checking emails, either.

    It’s also hard for me to stick to a writing schedule. I’ve noticed that when I blog regularly I have more traffic, of course. But when I try to set a schedule I feel like I’m trapped. I know it’s supposed to help but I feel like I’m setting myself up for failure.

    I enjoy writing but I need to start thinking of it as more of a business and not just a hobby.

    • Carol Tice

      It is a different mindset, when you want to write for a living Kay, then if it’s something you want to occasionally dabble in for fun. Think you’re onto it.

      A while back I mentored a writer who complained that she couldn’t seem to get any writing done. In talking, we discovered she had the habit of running the TV every minute she was awake! I gently suggested she might want to try turning it off.

      Personally, I go back and forth — sometimes I need it quiet, and other times some music I like makes the writing go faster, especially my own blog posts. If it’s something reported with a lot of interviews to weave together, I usually need total quiet.

      When I was building this blog, I can tell you I didn’t watch a TV show for two years. Nothing. People were saying, “Wow, Walking Dead, it’s so amazing!” And I was like, “What’s that?”

      Nowadays, we no longer have regular TV — Netflix only. LOVING that as your watching becomes much more deliberate vs flipping it on and just ending up watching some junk. Keeps my kids from wasting time on junk viewing as well.

      I just think at the end of our lives, none of us will say, “Man, I wished I had watched more TV shows!” But we might wish we had loved, had more friends, traveled, written, laughed, stayed in shape, more.

    • Katherine Swarts

      I don’t watch much television either (JEOPARDY! to ensure I get to the fitness center at 4:30 every weekday, the very occasional documentary, and holiday specials are about it). Actually, I have trouble putting my finger on a single time suck (though e-mail would be a good #1-spot candidate); often it seems as though any excuse will do! I have no trouble brainstorming good ideas or finishing actual assignments, but when it comes time to decide what “good” things get DROPPED from the list to make room for the BEST things–oh, boy!

      Technical question on the side: I haven’t seen the usual subscribe-to-comments link on the last couple of posts, and I think I’ve missed some comments as a result.

      • Carol Tice

        Hmm..we moved the blog to a new server recently, which turned out to be WAY more complicated than I ever imagined…I will ding the webmasters that we need that feature back.

  2. Shanan

    Carol, I do battle with procrastination in its many forms every day.

    I’ve even built a writing blog out of it, aptly titled: The Procrastiwriter.

    Ultimately, it takes willpower to make the right choice, and a lot of would-be writers simply find themselves drained of the resources they need when the time comes to write…or do something else. To write, or to do the dishes? To write, or to meet up with friends? To write, or to sleep in?

    For those who are well-intentioned and have “done it all,” yet they can’t seem to bring themselves to do the one thing that matters, answering “no” to the question of, “Do I write, right now?” isn’t always a moral failing, or an impulse. It can be a failure of internal resources, a sapping will, an overloaded mind, and other things.

    For me it was a crippling fear of failure, inability to cope with the brain drain of a 2+ hr daily commute, and a persistent feeling that my life wasn’t interesting enough to write about. All of these things manifested as procrastination. I’m sure other writers have other trigger points, too.

    But then there comes, as you pointed out, a tipping of the scales. When you want to write badly enough that you’re willing to take drastic measures, plug your ears against doubting voices and have someone else pick the kids up from soccer practice, you’ll write. Because you’ll have no other options.

    The key is that once that tipping point arrives and the words begin to pour out, you manage them in such a way as to make your writing a daily habit instead of a dam burst. And that’s when procrastination rises again, and again, and again.

    How do you fight it? To keep that lunatic focus, to make writing weigh heavily on your sense of priorities, and frankly, drop some of the other things you used to spend time on (some other hobbies can take a backseat. This is important) and get to writing, if it matters that much.

    • Carol Tice

      Shanan, most of my own life is totally boring to write about. I had an achingly average childhood. My parents didn’t beat me and stayed married and we lived in a suburb and my sister and I were utterly normal bright, well-behaved little girls and did Girl Scouts and had bat mitzvahs and so on. Seriously Zzzzzz.

      Probably why I became a reporter and embarked on a life of writing about others. You don’t have to be your writing topic! Especially to earn as a freelance writer — most who earn well are not writing about themselves.

      I once saw an interview with wildly prolific author Joyce Carol Oates that was a real lightbulb moment for me. She said roughly, “People don’t understand that I don’t go to plays or dinner parties or long walks or to the movies. I don’t knit or raise purebred dogs. I write.”

      Writing as your avocation or your career, your calling, involves sacrifice. Writers tend to not have huge social circles. We’re not up on the latest fashions or bands and haven’t seen all the hot new movies. We’re busy creating rather than consuming. As you say, it’s a choice, or a passion we can’t ignore.

      • Angela

        Great comment, I really appreciated reading this today, Carol. I have been struggling a bit in my commitment to my writing. I just arranged a meet-up with a friend next week when I know I should be writing a blog post in the morning. It is good to be more aware of these choices though, so I can start changing them for the better.

        I had been thinking it a bit strange and peculiar that I don’t have much of a social life but as you say, it’s part of a writer’s life and I guess it’s something I need to come to terms with it. After all, what can get written if a person is out and about town every day and night? When I’m at my writing table, it takes some focus and discipline to get those words on paper or computer screen. Writing is the act of writing, and so I must continue.

  3. Daryl

    I think procrastination is something that everybody struggles with. Especially for writers who work at home, there’s the double whammy of having distractions both in the home, as well as right there on your computer!

    For some reason listening to music really calms me and helps me to focus – it brings back memories of those long nights spent in the library, trying to stay up while I researched for an assignment or crammed for an exam! The sound of the music in my ears always told me that it’s crunch time.

    • Carol Tice

      You know, the whole being at home thing has never been a distraction to me. I feel zero urge to stop writing or researching or interviewing to unload the dishwasher or declutter the shelves or watch TV. Doesn’t even cross my mind.

      I got great training because I worked at home in my staff writer jobs too. So I was used to being ‘on deck’ during business hours in case one of my editors called in, and being focused just like I would at an office. After 12 years of that, I just continued those habits as a freelancer.

      Truly, it takes self-discipline to create for a living. It’s not like writing short stories for fun. It’s more like being a machine, stamping out blog posts or articles or marketing emails all day. You turn on the power button and start to crank, 5-6 days a week. Writers I know who do that in a focused way tend to earn a living.

      I think writing that much and that regularly isn’t for everyone. It was my observation as a staff writer that while many people could write a good business article now and then, very few could write 3-4 of them a week, 50 weeks a year, year after year. Being a freelance writer is the same, except no boss standing over you making those deadlines — you have to make them yourself. Do you have that drive? That’s the question.

      If it’s a lot of “procrastinating” instead, you’re choosing that this is not the career for you. Which is fine…but realize you’re making that choice, is all I’m saying.

      • wahyu widayat

        Hi Carol,
        I’m learning to write my first book. Nice to learn from your website. I’m now develop my small habit to write 50 word a day. And it works ! I never write only 50 words a day, always more then that. Now, my progressing in writing books is on my track.

  4. Lindsay

    I used to have that desire to write, the one you’re talking about that is so strong you blow other things off so you can write down the ideas in your head. Then I hit a confidence crisis and struggled with depression for almost a decade, where I didn’t do any of the things I really wanted to do, like write, read every book on the best seller list, and learn to sew. Those things seemed unattainable, because sometimes I even struggled to cook dinner. I only spent time doing the things I was required to do, like stuff at my job, and stuff that took no effort. I’m only now adding those things back, one at a time. The writer’s muse is nothing like what it was before, but it’s slowly gaining its voice back. Or am I kidding myself? Can a writer who had her fire doused by low confidence and depression ever call herself a writer again?

    • Shannon

      Well, you wrote this, and it made me stop and think about how we all question our abilities at times, and how writing can make us so vulnerable. And your words made me empathize with you, which is the goal of all writing, isn’t it? So I would say that, yes, you can call yourself a writer again.

    • Carol Tice

      Lindsay, you remind me of the period when I was a severe asthmatic and the idea of getting off the couch to go feed the dog was too overwhelming for me. I don’t think I did a lot of writing those years.

      I think many writers have fallow periods where we can’t produce, for whatever reason. After I had my first kid I thought my brain had been passed by a big bulk eraser, I had lost all my chops, and would never write again. All long before my staff jobs and this blog, and really anything significant in my writing career had happened yet!

      I recently saw a NY Times piece about Art Spiegelman of the Pulitzer-winning Maus series. Long before those shattering cartoon books about the Holocaust, he had finished a cartoon series and written in his diary something to the effect of, “Agghh! I have nothing left.”

      We may feel that way sometimes, but we’re still writers inside. Welcome back to it.

      • Lindsay

        Thanks so much, Shannon and Carol! I must have spent way too long in Facebookland because I’m wishing there was a button to “like” both of your comments! I wish internet communication had been what it is today back when I hit my roadblock shortly after finishing college. If I could have got kind, encouraging comments like these back then, I may have circumvented it instead of nosedived. Carol, thanks for an awesome blog with some great tips. It’s always one of my first reads of the day!

        • Carol Tice

          So what do you think of my schedule switch to Tues-Thurs-Sun, vs my longtime M-W-F? Exciting new experiment I’m doing right now…so far I’m loving it! People seemed to go crazy commenting on Sunday, who knew?

          • Lindsay

            It was a great surprise! I clicked onto the blog to re-read the last post, and there was a brand-new one, on a weekend! I love it. Experiment successful – I say keep doing it. šŸ™‚

          • Carol Tice

            I was really nervous about going to Sunday…but it seems a lot of writers catch up on their learning on weekends! For now I am planning to stick with my new schedule of Tues-Thurs-Sunday. I had a traffic expert tell me M & F are NOT good days to post, so I’m moving away from that.

          • Lindsay

            Go for it. I think it’s a great idea, and you can log your stats over, say, one month or six months, and see what happens. I like the idea of sitting down on a Sunday night and reading the first post of the week to get into gear for the working week.

    • Katherine Swarts

      I have some depression issues myself, and am very much at a crossroads right now on what-sort-of-writing-do-I-REALLY-want-to-do (inspirational gets top vote) and can I REALLY pay the bills with it? One insight that helps me some: take a little more pure leisure time than you think you “should” need. Give your mind some rest and let it build up energy to work on new thinking habits!

  5. Kevin Carlton


    Writing procrastinators remind me of wannabe pop stars.

    They play air guitar. They pose in front of the mirror with a hairbrush for a microphone. And they spend far too much time focusing on their clothes and air.

    Most good musicians work really had. They practise loads and rehearse for gigs over and over again (so I hear).

    Likewise, good writers work really hard too. They don’t dream. They just get on with it.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on. When writers are asking me what piece of software I use to track my query letters or schedule my tweets or how I organize my day or whatever I always think — who cares. Just write more!

  6. Lisa Baker

    Love love love this. I used to procrastinate. Then I had kids. They cured me. Because my kid-free time became so SHORT and therefore so SACRED — I had to write immediately because later didn’t exist. Preschool only lasted a few hours. I wasn’t going to be able to do it later. So I sat down and put my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard. Once it became a habit, it got easier. I used to take all day to write 1,000 words…now I can easily write three times that before school gets out. šŸ™‚

    NaNoWriMo helped me a LOT with this, too. I did it for several years…never published any fiction (never tried to), but I did finish several 50,000 word “novels.” Really they were more like collections of gobbledygook, but they taught me to throw words at the screen and edit later.

    However, I’m procrastinating right now, because I was in the middle of working on a blog post when the notification for your email popped up on my screen and I *had* to click! Sometimes I have to choose MALW posts over everything else. šŸ˜‰

    • Carol Tice

      Well, we all do the occasional distraction. To me it’s just over time, do you write? Do you get assignments done? Then you’re good.

      My first kid brought an AMAZING productivity jump for me too — funny how you can suddenly get what you used to get done in an 8-hour day done during a 2-hour kid nap. šŸ˜‰

  7. Alexandria Ingham

    I have days where I just want to do anything but my actual work. I guess everyone goes through that, though. Most days I’m really good at doing what I need to and save the rest until the end of the day. But the days that I really struggle, I have to set myself blocks of time to write throughout the day. I’ll do 45 minutes of writing and then spend 10 minutes doing what I really want to do and 5 minutes just getting away from the desk. I’ll keep going with that cycle until everything that needs doing is out of the way and then I can focus on what I’d really like to do.

    It’s worked for me for the last two years, since I developed my own way of doing things. I remember being up really late finishing off some work for someone because I didn’t want to do it and kept making excuses to myself. I promised that I’d never do it again. Since then, there’s been one time that it’s happened and that was a family emergency, so I don’t count it.

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve been working hard to cut back the late-night hours, too, Alexandria. I find the lure of having nights off helps me be more focused in the day now.

  8. Alexa

    I enjoy writing and don’t procrastinate until I get an assignment I don’t like.

    Here recently I was asked if I’d ghostwrite an eBook for a client. The subject was to be on something insurance marketing related. I agreed and then he decided he wanted the eBook to be on “Insurance Marketing in the Age of Obamacare” I knew no hard facts about Obamacare and realized that this book was going to take me a lot more time than I had originally planned. Since I had already agreed I didn’t want to tell him no.

    I waited until the last week to start researching and writing the book. Luckily he ended up loving it but the only reason I got it done was because there was deadline. If I don’t like the topic I am writing on I wait until the last minute.

    • Carol Tice

      Which is why I try to not take assignments I don’t find at least moderately interesting. šŸ˜‰

  9. Jennifer

    If I am not being productive, then if it all possible, I will go do something else for a time. Clean the house, watch a tv show, go for a run, play with the dog. For me, I write my best work and am most productive when I am in the correct frame of mind. By forcing myself then I take twice as long and its half as good. And I”m not really using my time wisely.

    By stepping away, then I clear my head and usually when I sit back down I am more productive and in can create work that I am proud of. I think that downtime is useful and essential. So I always ask myself when I am fiddling around at the computer and NOT writing, if I am using my time wisely. If not, then I go do something that will either recharge myself or get something off my to do list.

    I also write almost all of my articles in my head while I am away from the computer. When I sit down I have the lead and the structure already written in my head. So usually by walking away, i will actually get the first draft done and all I have to do is transcribe my thoughts.

    I totally 1 million percent agree with you about making time for what you want to do. I love my job and to me it doesn’t feel like work. When I have free time, I will usually try to spend it writing because that is one of my favorite things to do, other than hang out with my kids. I believe that you are a writer or you aren’t.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m with you, Jennifer — sometimes it is time to throw in the towel for the day. And I get a ton of my writing done on walks, in the shower, and lying in bed dozing off or waking up. Solve a lot of challenges in my business too, questions about how to prioritize things.

  10. Michael Agene

    You killed it right there, Carol.

    I used to tell people, “its not that you don’t have time to do something. The truth is, its not a priority. We always MAKE time for what we REALLY want to do.”

    One way I deal with procrastination, however, is by focusing on the RESULT rather than the PROCESS. The process always sucks. As humans, we love embracing what gives us pleasure and run away from what gives us pain. So when we focus on the result, it becomes a do or lose effect.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Carol Tice

      You know, I mostly enjoy the process, too. But when I was a songwriter, I was always reaching for that high I got when I finished a song. I was never happier than when I played it through for myself, that first time.

  11. Emelia

    Thanks for the reality check Carol. I’m gonna start fighting procrastination today. I never really dealt with it. I allowed it to rule my day or days until I felt guilty for not being productive and start working. I hated it but didn’t know how to deal with it. Your post just gave me a solution-when I feel like not working i just have to decide to work!

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t know if it’s quite that simple — if it were, we’d all decide to write and have no trouble screening out everything else.

      But if you’re consistently having trouble deciding to do the writing and marketing you need to make this a career, it’s time to ask yourself if freelance writing is really what you want. Because your actions say no.

  12. Ashley Brooks

    This post correlates perfectly with one I just wrote to help NaNoWriMo participants beat procrastination. Since I assumed Wrimos are already motivated to write, I focused on providing writing prompts to keep their creativity up and running. Personally, I only drag my feet on writing when I don’t have any good ideas swirling around in my head–but if I do, I can hardly stop myself long enough to eat.

    It’s almost like there are two types of writers: those who write but struggle with the occasional writer’s block, and those who like the idea of being a writer but never actually sit down and get the words out. I’ll be sharing this article to hopefully light a fire under the latter group and encourage them to just START. Thanks for the excellent post!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad I can help the Wrimos, Ashley!

      You know, 12 years of having to write 3-4 stories a week on deadline cured me of all “writer’s block” claims. That doesn’t exist in the deadline newsroom environment. I feel it’s really a b.s. excuse. You might write junk and throw it out at the end of the day, but have the drive to sit down and try, if you’re planning to write for a living.

  13. Nida Sea

    Darn! I had a very thoughtful comment on here and my browser went screwy! Urgh!!

    Anyway, to sum it up, I had a conversation regarding procrastination with my husband just a few days ago. We broke everything down and found that my fear of rejection is what caused me to procrastinate on writing (or blogging) for income.

    His explanation was good. He said that rejection is part of everyday life, it’s just more common in a writing career. His suggestion? Keep writing for income everyday and start receiving more rejections. He’s right, and it is getting better.

    I still cringe at the thought of receiving a rejection, but it doesn’t sting as bad as it used to sting. My motivation for avoiding procrastination is to just do it. One thing that really works for me is knowing that my career is slowly dying because of my fear. Knowing that I can keep my dream alive by just doing it through that fear and not feeling regret later helps me keep writing.

    Wonderful post, Carol! Thanks again!

    • Carol Tice

      “My career is slowly dying because of my fear.” I think a lot of my readers should print that out and post it!

      Once you see that written out, you know, you don’t want to let that happen.

    • D Kendra Francesco

      That reminds me of the video of a young man who decided he would risk “no” for thirty days. He wanted to get to the point that “no” didn’t sting quite so much. Every day, he’d ask what he thought were impossible requests with the expectation that he’d be told, “no.” Every day at least one request (maybe more than one; I don’t remember).

      He was absolutely amazed at how many times people said, “Yes.”

      The particular vid I saw showed him asking a Krispy Kreme to make the rings of the Olympics. She did it. She thanked him for the challenge. She even refused to take payment. (I think her boss gave her a raise for ingenuity.)

    • Ruth

      I remember reading a quote by a successful writer ā€” Linda or Carol, maybe? ā€” that basically said, “if you’re not getting rejections, you’re not putting enough stuff out there.” That totally changed my perspective on rejections.

      For ex., I pitched a story to Elle or Marie Claire or some glossy my first year as a freelancer. First, I got no response, so I sent a quick little follow-up email a week or two later. The editor wrote me back from her Blackberry saying, “I think we’ll pass this time, but thanks.” I was elated! One of the top editors in the country wrote me back, not to tell me query sucked, not to ask who the hell I thought I was pitching them, not to tell me to never pitch them again, but to kindly let me know my idea wasn’t a fit at that particular point in time.

      After that, I NEVER worried about rejection again. And I certainly never used fear of rejection to procrastinate on marketing and writing. I definitely do procrastinate, but I’m happy to say not with that.

      • Carol Tice

        I never worried because I was too stupid to know I should be worrying…as you probably read in my recent Idiot post. šŸ˜‰

  14. peachfront

    In my humble opinion it doesn’t make any sense for a “writer” who doesn’t write to fight so-called procrastination. Find something you actually want to do. Do that.

    To the person who says the process always sucks, I have to say I haven’t found that to be even remotely true. The writing process doesn’t suck. It’s addictive. That’s why so many people write whether they have a paid outlet or not.

    If you have to struggle to write, I’d take it as a big clue that you are meant to do something else that you actually enjoy.

    • Carol Tice

      I have to agree — if writing is like holding your hand on a hot stove for you and you’re only into the result, that’s a sign this isn’t your career.

      We should all enjoy the journey we’re on.

  15. Francesca Nicasio

    I love what you said about bringing choices up to the level of our consciousness. I used to check Facebook way too often, to the point where I would type in “F-A” in my browser without even thinking. And I would do when I’m in the middle of writing assignments, too. Talk about counter-productive.

    I eventually just got a browser plugin that blocks distracting sites temporarily. While I think I’ve gotten better at “catching myself” and being more conscious about my choices, it wouldn’t hurt to get a little help with some apps or tools. šŸ™‚

    • Carol Tice

      Mine was checking email in mid-sentence. Now I switched to MacMail which is so annoying — keeps reloading as new things you’ve already read! — that I only check 3x a day because I hate how it works.

  16. Mary Rose

    I am not given to superlatives (well, OK, I am, but still . . .), this has to be the best article on writing I have read so far. Just do it. Duh. But you said it so well: “You are not procrastinating. You are deciding.”

    Thanks, Carol! I have made a decision today to write!

  17. Janice

    Thank you for this post, Carol!

    I find that writing is something that comes really naturally to me, but when it’s now become my “work,” there’s just that little part that says, “Ah, I’ll get this project done, right after I do some cleaning/knitting/cooking/(insert favorite chore or excuse here).” Sometimes, all I need to do is just start tapping on the keyboard or even handwriting in my journal or a notebook, just to get going again.

    Yes, the writing life is a tough one, but it’s been given to me because I was let go from my job a year and half ago. So in a way, I have no “I’m busy” excuse to not write. And while I haven’t quite achieved the level of success that I want, I know exactly what I need to do to get there – take a lot more forward action than I have and stop thinking that writing jobs are just going to magically fall into lap.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, I call that “Waiting for the luck fairy to bring you a job.” Doesn’t happen.

      Decide to go out and find clients. šŸ˜‰

  18. Susie Klein

    Ouch ouch ouch! True words that hurt…but in a good way, my friend. Thank you. You really are a writers friend when you post the strong kicks in the butt that we need! Again Thank you.

  19. Rebecca Klempner

    I just love your suggestion to reframe procrastination as a choice.

    I do sometimes still procrastinate, but when I don’t want to work, I try to think, “Why?” If I don’t feel alert, maybe I need a catnap or 15 minutes of exercise. Did I work through lunch?

    If I don’t want to work on THAT particular assignment, I try to work on something else, even if it’s a journal entry (could turn into a personal essay!) or a poem (could turn into a children’s book or go to a magazine!). After a half hour of that, I usually have been re-energized.

    Deadlines can help, too. You know, the fear that if you don’t produce, you don’t get paid can be very inspirational.

    Usually. I’m still a recovering procrastinator. šŸ˜‰

  20. D Kendra Francesco

    Well, well! I just now realized that in SOME writing arenas, I’m already choosing to write on purpose. I found myself deleting certain posts without reading them because I’m not focusing on those right now.

    An example:
    I love NaNoWriMo. I’ve done it almost every year since the early 2000s. But, today, it came home to me that I’m not only not writing that 50,000 words, I’m not reading their messages either. I’m deleting the:)

    I’m also consistently deleting others. I unsubscribed from about dozen mailing lists today, once I recognized that. (Carol, you’re stuck sending them to me; not gonna let you slip away!). I’ve put their site into a folder for when I might want to take a gander at them in a free moment, but I’m not receiving their emails right now.

    So, it’s a start.

    • D Kendra Francesco

      …er… “them.” I’m deleting them.

      (so much for proofreading!)

      • Carol Tice

        Remember, you are always covered under my Universal Comment Typo Insurance policy! It’s just blog comments. We know what you meant. šŸ˜‰

    • Carol Tice

      I am a massive unsubscriber these days. I used to get 200+ email a day, and now it’s down to about 65 I actually have to glance at. And I keep getting off more lists all the time.

      Email is a real low-value activity — I could be taking one of Copyblogger’s Authority trainings or writing an ebook or something instead…and now I AM.

  21. Cheryl Rhodes

    That’s a good article. I tend to procrastinate in other areas of life which isn’t usually a good thing. There has to be a balance between what is procrastination and what is having other things to do and which to go for first. Everyone has commitments on their time. My father’s birthday is tomorrow so I’m bring lunch to him and the next day I’m taking him to a doctor appointment and then lunch. Sure that takes up a lot of time and I probably won’t get much writing done, but he’s in his 80’s, in failing health, and lives in extended care. There’s no way to know how much time he has left with us. And there’s the choice between writing and taking care of something important to me.

    People have stresses or medical issues going on in their life that make writing or doing anything else nearly impossible that I wouldn’t call procrastination and not sure I would call it a choice either. When that happens for me I change the type of writing I’m doing, focus on writing a novel instead of sending query letters and writing articles. I change my focus and that is a choice.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Cheryl — Right on. As I said in the post, sometimes stuff happens and we really don’t have any writing time. This weekend I spent a day visiting a terminally ill friend with my daughter — we took her some challah I didn’t have time to bake but did anyway.

      I’m never saying write at the expense of ending up friendless and alone…but over the span of time, you find time to write if you really want that to be what you do.

    • D Kendra Francesco

      Writing can, by its intrinsic nature – and the nature of writers in general – help us cope with impending loss, as well as the loss itself. Stories, poems, scripts, journaling, remembrances, even letters… it all helps. I don’t know if any of my things written during those times will ever make it to print, but it helped me through the worst of it all.

  22. Kerry C

    Great article, and timely, as I’ve been wrestling with this a lot lately. Thanks!

    Writing is not ‘easy.’ It takes effort; the effort of fingers to keyboard or pen to paper. For me I’ve noticed that I shut down at “word constipation” — the concepts and thoughts are floating around but actually getting them down as what I want to express makes me respond like an overheated computer – shut down!

    What I’ve started doing is taking a breath and saying “What am I trying to say?” And then writing exactly that: “I am trying to say that…” to get all systems to fire back up again. It helps clarify WHAT I want to express, and that helps me move forward towards actually expressing it. Whew! Words, huh? šŸ˜‰

    • Carol Tice

      I like to phone a friend and tell them what it’s about when I’m stuck…brain will automatically organize your idea with most important points first in a conversation like that.

  23. Rae Botsford

    It’s all true. I’ve been procrastinating for the last hour on finishing an article that’s due tomorrow, and I’ve been procrastinating for weeks on finishing my novel that’s “due” to a friend who’s holding me to finish it by 13 Dec. For the last hour I’ve picked Pinterest over writing, somewhat consciously. For the last several weeks I’ve picked a hundred things over my novel, mostly unconsciously. Recognizing you have a problem is really the first step to making it go away. Then if you really do want to write (and I do, I swear), I think the next thing to do is agree to write for *just* twenty minutes or half an hour or whatever, and then if you really feel done after that, quit. Because who really stops immediately after that?

    • Carol Tice

      Breaking down tasks into smaller steps and tinier time blocks has always worked well for me, too!

  24. Linzi

    Hi Carol,

    Your post certainly gave food for thought this week. Like others on here, I always wanted to write but suffered from a huge fear of failure which kept me stuck for so long. I started blogging in April this year and fast forward 40 posts, I’m still plugging away and really enjoying it. I think the key for me is to just focus on the enjoyment and not to worry about the result, number of followers, comments etc. Sometimes, we forget about the simple pleasuring of putting words on the page and get too caught up on what people will think or if the writing is any good or not.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, I’m pretty hopelessly caught up in whether my posts get traffic and comments and all…but yeah, I also enjoy the heck out of the act of writing this blog. There are posts I’ve done here that didn’t do well that I still love best.

    • Angela

      Hi Linzi, I like your advice about focusing on the enjoyment rather than the results. I recently started blogging and I am really happy whenever I am writing something for it too.

  25. Andrew

    I was going to stop procrastinating . . . . but I keep putting it off!

    Like the piece Carol. Hard, cold facts. That’s what we need in the world we live in today. And I get it – to say “I’m procrastinating” implies that we are doing something.

    In reality, “procrastinating” is what we’re “doing” when we’ve decided not to do anything! Or, sometimes, it’s finding that distraction – that thing which we’re more comfortable doing while we’re not doing the thing we know we need to do.

    The thing that makes us uncomfortable. The thing that seems like WORK.

    Okay. Now I’m doing it too! Dang it. . . .

    Love ya Carol. Keep dishing out the hard truths. “Thank you Ma’am! May I have another?” – Andrew

  26. Margie MD

    I’ve always been pretty self-motivated, so procrastination isn’t a huge problem for me, but I have noticed that when I do procrastinate it usually means I’ve got too much going on and simply need a break. I think it’s easy to overwhelm ourselves when we’re self-employed out of fear that the work will dry up, but we also have to factor in some time to breathe to continue producing quality work.

    I had a crazy-busy week last week and took the weekend off to refresh and get going on my next story due at the end of the week. I would call this more of a “planned procrastination” šŸ™‚ I build in enough time to still get the work done. Even though I may be too mentally fried to write, I can work on other things, like go over my notes, follow up with my source to fact-check and studying the publication some more before doing the actual writing. That way I can get back to my writing with a fresh and clear mind.

    For those who like to put things off to the last minute, maybe they could try a little planned procrastination, but still allow yourself enough time to deliver.

    • Carol Tice

      Taking the weekend off to me is not procrastination, when you’re talking freelance writers. It’s needed recharging time!

      • Margie MD

        Oh, I don’t always work weekends–just had to force myself to not even *think* about anything related to my projects for a few days because my brain needed to breathe.

  27. Nicolia

    I find myself procrastinating when I’m insecure. I keep telling myself that have other things to do that may very well need to be done at that time. However, when I start making the ridiculous excuses, I know I’m just trying to delay . “Yes, I could write now, but I have to color coordinate the bath towels, so, no.”

    I try not to get to that point anymore. For me, yes, it is a choice to buckle down and just do it.

    • Carol Tice

      And the thing is, that creates a death spiral. The later you wait on a deadline, the more pressure and the more you can think, “I’m going to suck at this!” Because you won’t have time to polish the way you’d like. Very self-defeating. Instead, start early and leave yourself all possible time to build confidence.

      • Katherine Swarts

        I recall a comment (intended for salaried-job seekers, but the principle is universal) to the effect of “You don’t have time to research your dreams and introduce yourself to the people who might help make them come true? Would you rather spend that same time fretting about how hard it is to get anywhere through the mass-produced-ads, desperate-for-any-possible-job channels?”

  28. Rhonda

    Oh, the truth can hurt. I’m a lifelong procrastinator – seriously, a queen bee in this particular field.

    Fortunately, about a month ago I decided to take control of my writing and my life. Since then, I’ve worked on my writing projects, written blog posts, sent out 8 guest blog pitches, have more in the pipeline and have set up interviews for article pitches. Every time I hit the send button, I get a little thrill at accomplishing something that I find difficult – pitching. On top of that, my first guest post went live on Saturday – that is a serious piece of motivation!!

    You’re right Carol – it’s about choices. I spent too much time feeling like my life was out of control. Choosing to take control of it hasn’t been easy, and I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but it feels damn good to get started.

    Thanks for some more hard truths. It’s amazing how often we need them

    • Carol Tice

      I think you mean too much time feeling your life was out of YOUR control, Rhonda.

      And in one sense, of course, life isn’t in our control. A typhoon could hit or a loved one could drop dead or crash the car.

      But there are things we can control. With the time we have available, we can decide to write and market.

      • Katherine Swarts

        I think most people give more mental energy to worrying about the things they REALLY can’t control than to working on the things they can.

        • Carol Tice

          Katherine, I discovered the world of Al-Anon in the past year, and their literature has had a huge impact on my life. And ALL they talk about is putting the focus back on your sphere of control — you. Change what you do, change your reactions to things, change your mindset, if you want things to get better. Because that’s all you really can do. Everything else is out of your control.

  29. Sherry B

    Hi Carol,

    I absolutely love this post! Some days I find myself doing a lot of procrastinating and others I’m pretty good at getting things done. The past couple of weeks I’ve been having to work at my day job a lot more than I usually do since I’ve had to fill in for a coworker out sick, so I haven’t gotten any writing done at all.

    It seems there are so many things I have to get done, but not enough hours in a day to get it all done and still write much of anything. I get home exhausted and I usually try to do something to get going on my writing but often end up dozing off and on at the computer.

    This is getting so frustrating! I want to write, but it seems I just can’t even force myself to stay awake long enough to get started. I’d take a nap, but since the kids get home the same time I can’t do that either. At least not often since I’d feel too guilty about leaving my hubby to watch the kids by himself every day. He gets home the same time too.

    One thing I’ve found that is my main problem is getting started on the actual writing! Once I get started writing I’m fine and find I get it done rather quickly. I get on a roll, so to speak, and let nothing distract me from it. I always listen to music to get me going and as a bonus, I realize it blocks out a lot of other distractions going on around me. In fact, I don’t even really “hear” the music either once I’m in my writing zone. Everything else can wait until I’m done writing whatever it is I’m going to write.

    Since I’ll be having quite a few days off coming up I’m planning on getting myself back into writing gear again. Everything else can just wait until I’m done writing and unfortunately it will all still be there waiting for me too! šŸ™‚

    Thanks for the inspiration yet again Carol!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Sherry — you’d feel guilty having your husband care for his own children… why?

      Sounds like you are trying to build a writing career so you can quit that job. Get the family’s buy-in that that is important. See what help you could get.

      Could kids go to an after-school activity 2 afternoons a week? Mine are doing mountain biking (they pick them up right at school!) and gymnastics right now. Could hubby do 2 or 3 afternoons a week? Could you swap with another mom where kids go to each others’ houses 1 day a week? Hire an after-school teen your kids love to sit for a couple hours?

      Start fiddling with the schedule to see where you can carve yourself some blocks of time that come before you fall asleep.

      I also know folks who put aside a 4-hour block somewhere on the weekend to work on their business.

      You should check out my pal Linda Formichelli’s new book Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race for more tips on this:

      Bottom line: Do you want to write? Then you have to make time for it.

      I know, the kids, they’re young, you want to be with them every minute. But think about how many more minutes you could spend with them, and in better condition, if you didn’t have to work a day job. If this is your departure plan, there has to be time to work on it, or it won’t happen.

  30. Lorraine Reguly

    It is great that you have pointed out that writing is a conscious decision we make. Sometimes it is. But sometimes it isn’t.

    Forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do in the first place takes the joy of out it. Sometimes writing is necessary. Sometimes you do it to pay the bills. Sometimes you write as a form of therapy. Sometimes you write for joy.

    There are many different reasons why I write, and I make the conscious decision to write if I know I have to (ie a blog post) but most often, I write when I am compelled to do so. This gives me the most joy.

    On the other hand, it does not pay the bills.

  31. Jeff Moser

    Procrastinators need the tough love you’re giving, Carol. I know: I’m a repeat offender. But I wonder what you and others here think about this concept…

    I work as a web developer, and often when I’m working through difficult coding challenges, the most productive thing I can do is step away from it. I’ll take a walk, take a shower, read…anything to get my mind off the problem at hand. I guess my subconscious mind works on it while I’m off playing.

    When I come back to the work–or sometimes while I’m still in the shower–the solution to my dilemma makes itself known.

    This might not be procrastination in its traditional sense, but some people may see it that way. I’m lucky to have a project manager that understands this process.

    Do you see any corollary here to the writing process? When I’m writing, I fell I need some “baking time” during the process. I don’t think that’s the same as procrastination, but maybe I’m just rationalizing an excuse for producing less than I could.

    • Carol Tice

      That’s a productivity question, not a procrastination question.

      You’re doing a project, and your optimal process may include a walk, a shower, etc. Many of us find we get more done if we do take breaks…speaking as someone who takes every Saturday off no matter what, I’m with you there.

      Procrastination to me is more, you have a project that needs to get done in a month…and you’re doing nothing on it. Nothing, nothing, and then maybe you finally get to it and suck at it because you didn’t devote enough time to it…or you blow that deadline and client relationship. You’ve got serious mental issues with sitting down and writing.

      Or you are supposedly working on a novel, except you never do. That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about here.

  32. Shauna L Bowling

    Carol, this article is a real kick in the pants and I mean that in a good way! We CHOOSE to procrastinate. It’s so very true, no matter how you look at it. Some days I don’t write a word (with the exception of comments) because I’m busy going over all the tutorials that I’ve subscribed to or sitting for webinars, etc.

    My biggest problem is with prioritizing. When I do sit down and write, I don’t look at my email unless I’m taking a break. After all, you never know when a prospective client is trying to get a hold of you. (Recently, I’ve had several RFQs come thru my email).

    Sometimes starting my blog draft or article or whatever it is, towards the end of the day works for me. That allows me to address necessary emails and correspond with clients. Other times, first thing in the morning is most conducive to writing and staying on track. I go with what the flow seems to be for me on any given day.

    And, yes, sometimes I choose to not write at all. Usually on those days I concentrate on learning and researching.

    I know once my business grows I’ll have to set a more rigid schedule for myself.

  33. Cinthia

    Great post! I meant to comment earlier but I was too busy procrastinating, hee, hee. But seriously, what works for me is shutting off ALL social media, which can be a huge distraction plus a major mind suck. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Even while deep in my writing there’s a voice in my head whispering, “Let’s take a peek on Facebook/Twitter okay, just for a minute, I promise, only one little minute
    But procrastinating is a conscious choice. I love that you correlated it to running, Carol. It’s a fitting analogy. Runners are obsessed. They’ll forsake anything to fit in that run, including meals, social engagements, entertainment, etc. Imagine what writers could produce if they adopted the same mindset.

    • Carol Tice

      People are always asking me how I became such a good writer. And I say, 3-4 articles a week for 12 years. And I don’t mean content-mill type articles, either — fully reported stories.

      I find most people aren’t willing to do what I did, but if you exercise that writing muscle a lot, you get better. Really that simple.

  34. Helene Poulakou

    I don’t focus on just one type of writing, or on one topic.
    So, when I don’t feel like writing how-tos & non-fiction, for example, I write fiction & fantasy; or, I might write a video script; or, search images for my next post / video / Pinterest (business / inspiration) boards, etc.

    I’ve found that diversifying my efforts helps me keep doing at least SOMETHING of what I’m supposed to do about my writing, so I’m not being totally unproductive. This, in turn, helps me to not feel bad about not doing the job — which would be bad psychology and self-defeating attitude.

    And, I have a notebook with me almost always. I’m famous for being at friends’ homes & suddenly asking for a bit of paper to jot down thoughts and images. I think I should start buying them A4 paper packs, this way I wouldn’t be finishing up all their paper supplies, LoL

    • Carol Tice

      Right on — when I don’t feel like doing my article assignments I usually write posts for this blog, or ebooks or develop course presentations. Nice to be able to switch it around!

  35. Ms. M.

    I procrastinate all the time. I have all the excuses and distractions. And that’s what they are. I am ADhD but that shouldn’t stop me. What does stop me: fear, doubt and anxiety. And honestly, I don’t know what to do about it. I know I should market, but I freeze. I’m beginning to think I suffer from social anxiety because after 3 years in a new town I haven’t made any real connections. Not sure what to do, but it feels good to say it and get it out.

  36. Dep-Wah Davis

    Sometimes the procrastination comes from pure exhaustion either physically, mentally, or both. My husband just started a permanent job after 6 months of being unemployed and 5 years of working contract positions. I have a son with Aspergers and daughter with ADHD. So this includes weekly therapy appointments, monthly runs for prescriptions, check-ups every three months, plus the frequent meetings at school. Adding to that I’ve been battling some of my own health issues the past couple of years. Quitting my job wasn’t an option due to the need for a regular paycheck and insurance. And during the past years as I’ve been feeling anxious and depressed, I had a therapist I worked with who helped me realized that a good chunk of this was because I wasn’t doing anything for me. While on a medical leave from work, I did some writing. What I didn’t wasn’t that great, but it the first project in several years. I still find many days that I can’t focus on writing for being too tired. Started taking online writing classes, so even though I don’t write every day, it forces me into a deadline where I have to do something. Plus hoping to improve my writing while I’m at it.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Dep-Wah —

      My kids have their own issues, so I feel you there. If you want to pursue writing professionally, you’re probably going to need more kid help…just a reality.

      Writing and marketing your writing both take big blocks of time where you can really concentrate and aren’t checking homework/monitoring behavior and/or driving kids to the umpteen appointments and activities our special needs kids all have.

      Every mom-writer I’ve mentored who said they felt overwhelmed and like they were never moving forward, when I asked them, they did not have adequate support. If you have a newborn, you are not going to magically launch a freelance business with no child care! Yet many of us supermoms think somehow we will. And then we’re frustrated that we’re not finding writing time.

      The point of this article is if you feel that tension, and you know you NEED to write — to build a career for yourself and ultimately have more flexibility and time for your kids — you will find the help you need. I did babysitting swaps with other moms for years, for instance. I’ve also hired special ed teachers to babysit who could cope with my kids’ behaviors. Get more buy-in from your husband — could he do kids one weekend day while you work on writing and marketing? Find where your opportunity is and go for it.

  37. Ramesh B

    Hi Carol,

    For me its choosing on what subject / topic to write, then to do it constructively. Yes I agree with a bit of laziness and procrastination. That’s it.

    However, how do I get out of it !

  38. Sid

    Hi there,
    Actually I know I am not procrastinating, but i know that I am worried about writing.
    I have this feeling that holding a pen to write, or opening a blank word file might eat my brain or something.
    And my ultimate distraction is drawing. I just want to draw a moment I have imagined or one of the characters.
    I want to do both writing and drawing, but i need a solution with being afraid to write.
    Could having loads of ideas in my head be a reason why i feel lost and unable to write?

    • Carol Tice

      Maybe your brain is just trying to tell you that you want to be an illustrator, rather than a writer, if you can’t ever seem to get around to the writing and keep being interrupted by drawing.

  39. Limbo

    Hi, I thought you might have some advice for me. I have been a writer who wrote regularly. But due to a series of unfortunate events, I have been thwarted at every turn. My computer broke, I had to make money choices on whether to buy food or a notepad (I wrote on my arm.), I broke my elbow, and subsequently have ulnar nerve compression, I live in Australia and the heat drives me away from my writing desk. I’ve just found that trying to get back into writing is becoming further and further away, harder and harder. I find I procrastinate a lot. Whereas before I’d say to myself: ‘Just write, even if its utter crap.’. I know its a choice. I’ve been told that I am to limit my typing each day. But when I sit down to write, nothing wants to come out. Advice?

    • Carol Tice

      I think most of us write not so much because we want to, but because we’re compelled.

      If you don’t feel that drive to write, maybe it’s a fallow time. Time to do something else for a while and then come back to it. Or maybe it’s just not something that could be a full-time living for you, where you’d need to do it every day.

  40. Jean Robert Bourdage

    Hi there. Very interesting topic.

    I’d like to add my own thoughts about why I procrastinate.

    First of all, writing is my second job. I’m an actor. I write when the phone doesn’t ring, because I want to remain creative without having to wait on anybody else involvement (a play, a movie, tv script all require some level of approval and don’t really “exist” until they are produced. So writing fiction is a way for me to keep busy)
    But it is also a passion.

    When you’re involved in rehearsing a play, there is this idea you have about your character, what it should aim for, and the whole process of rehearsals is to adjust what you want vs what the director wants, and adapt accordingly. And then come the dreaded moment in rehearsals: the first run through. There is no one in the audience, there is no set, costumes, you use rehearsing accessories, so it should be easy, no? No. it’s painful, because in your mind you are still lightyears away from what you want, and you’re not in a discovery process because for the first time you have to add all the little bits you rehearsed together, so it’s basically remembering and noticing how much work there is left to do.

    I think the first draft of writing is exactly the same. It’s going to be light years away from what you want it to be so you postpone that deception as far as you can.

    The good news? from my personal experience, and I don’t have that much (I have published 2 short stories, 1 novella and 1 novel) is it gets so much easier when the first draft is done. Your mind is free.

    I think this post applies more to plotters than pantsers, but I could be wrong.
    (forgive the poor grammar, I don’t work in English)

  41. tess

    I feel like the author knows nothing about procrastination. I do think theres something more psychological at play. Its like asking an addict to “just quit.”
    Procrastinators tend to do this in all parts of their lives.

    • Carol Tice

      Yes, I’ve never put off anything I was supposed to be doing, Tess. šŸ˜‰

      I’m not asking people to ‘just quit’ putting off their writing. I’m asking readers to reframe their thinking about what it is they’re doing.

      If you feel you really want to write for a living but you’re never doing it, it’s time to ask yourself why that is — and if you really do want to do it. Because every day, you’re making a decision not to do it. If you ask yourself why, it may lead to new thought patterns that allow you to break out of your habit of procrastination.

      • tess

        I think i know why I procrastinate. I think I am afraid to fail, if I dont try, I dont have to be a failure. But that is incorrect, because not even trying is a failure in itself.

        • Carol Tice

          Right on, Tess.


  1. J. L. Zenor » Everything Great Worth Doing Is Worth Sacrificing For - […] - How writer’s can stop procrastinating forever. […]
  2. 5 Ways Iā€™m Getting My Writing Mojo Back — Kolakube - […] know Iā€™m not the only one fighting this battle of procrastination, self-doubt, and bewilderment. I have all the ideas…
  3. Write Now with Carol Tice - Justin Cox | Freelance Writer - […] As someone who had to file 3-4 stories a week to keep my staff writing jobs for 12 years,…

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