Monday, February 21, 2011


Perils of procrastination: Part 2

Linda’s latest blog struck a cord with me. Procrastination: it has to be the greatest enemy of the productive writer. Not only that the writing doesn’t get done, but it hangs over your head when you are being distracted by, well, it doesn’t matter what. Anything. I would like to add … wait is that a cardinal in the tree outside my window? Gorgeous. I’ll be back!

Where were we? Oh yes. Procrastination. My grandmother used to say, “Never do today what can be put off until tomorrow.” She really did. I don’t think she intended me to take her seriously, but it happened. I’ve spent my life dodging deadlines and dreaming of writing.

The problem with writing and actually selling books is that when the dream come true it also comes with a deadline. Dead. Line. That would be two (!) four-letter words sent to torment.

Thirteen books and two dozen short stories and nothing’s changed. The massive task of writing a book is so overwhelming that it sends many of us to the sofa to watch endless reruns of CSI. Would you like blowflies with that order, sir?

Even if you’re not procrastinating, the task can get hijacked by the gazillion business and promotion tasks (yes, Miss Facebook and Mr. Twitter, I’m talking about you). What about you? Are you procrastinating about promo if you’re writing or putting off writing if you’re scribbling updates for your shamefully outdated Webpage? You claim you would have done that earlier, except you were scrambling to get your mailing list up to date and your newsletter ready. But wait, your blogs are due! All at once? Eeep.

What do you mean you need to have a bubble bath?

There is a tiny glimmer of hope for the worst of us. It came in a blog post from my friend Elizabeth Spann Craig (also Riley Adams) a while back and stuck with me. She’s a busy writer, bloggeuse, and mom with at least two mystery series going. Who knows what else is up her sleeve? In an interview Elizabeth revealed her secret of seizing writing time in fifteen-minute (and even smaller!) segments wherever she finds it: in the car at stoplights, in coffee shops on the way to errands, in waiting rooms and at kids’ sporting events. In the same interview, Elizabeth said that for pleasure and escape, she was in the middle of In the Shadow of the Glacier, by our own Vicki Delany. You can check out Elizabeth’s writing tips on

This fifteen minute idea stuck with me. It does the trick. I think it works because writing under those circumstances seems like time stolen from duties. It’s a bit like when we first got started, when writing was a stolen pleasure rather than a requirement. Me? I’m all for going back there, at least in my attitude.

How about you? Do you write at stoplights? In the shower? While being arraigned for writing at stoplights? Any tips to share? We need ‘em!

Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three (soon to be three and a half) mystery series and a couple of dozen short stories. Her thirteenth mystery novel, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder (April 5, 2011), is brimming with names, no two the same.


  1. I think procrastination is something we all face! I've found that it also helps when I remind myself that I need to do some heavy-duty housework if I'm not going to be busy writing. :)

  2. Oddly enough, the only time I really ever feel like cleaning is when I've made a scheduled time to write. The rest of the time, I can ignore the dust bunnies, no problemo. How twisted is that?

    Professional athletes use sports psychologists to improve their 'game'. Hello out there in mental health land . . . we writers require your services!

  3. Lately I've been procrastinating about just about everything including procrastination.

  4. Nice to see you here, Elizabeth. Good advice too.

    Susan, it's time the dust bunnies took care of themselves.

    I hear you, Sue!

    I like these approaches, ladies.

  5. I was going to respond earlier but I had to change the sheets and the dogs needed to go for a walk - well you get the picture. It's the 'hanging over us' that I hate. It means you don't write but you also don't do the other things because you should be writing. I think that with 13 books and lots of short stories to your credit you have managed to overcome procrastination and done it very well.