by Miko Johnston
* I wish I could take full credit for the title, but a google search uncovered it as the title of another blog post about graduate student life at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec Canada. Suffice it to say this refers to something completely different.
My attitude toward procrastination varies depending on if it’s helping or hindering my progress – as a writer, as a wife, as a friend, and a human being. Sometimes I chastise myself for what I perceive as laziness, or cowardly behavior. I rarely see it as praiseworthy. Nevertheless, I can say procrastination has made me a better writer.
My first book took over ten years to get published. I’d finished it long ago, at least in the “The End” way, but endless tinkering, at first over chapters, then scenes, then words, kept me from getting it into print. I finished my second book in that time. It turned out to be a fortuitous move.
When I finally got up the courage to query a publisher, I had not one, but two completed books in a series, to offer. This probably helped draw interest to my work. Naturally, finding the right match of writer and publisher helped as well, and I was fortunate enough to find myself in that situation.
My first book took eight years to write and my second book, four years. I half-bragged/half-joked that at this rate I’d get book three done in two years, and number four in one. And did I?
Of course not. Some unexpected delays occurred. Part of my writing method is to immerse myself in the time period, right next to my characters, and through research and logic balanced with creativity, I can turn out good scenes. When I can’t get immersed, it’s a problem, as when I tried to write about the suffering in Europe during the tragic “Turnip Winter” of WWI. Picture Ireland’s Potato Famine coupled with an abnormally cold winter in the middle of a war. Now imagine trying to put yourself in that mental state when you’re vacationing on a tropical island where, much to your surprise, you’ve been given luxury accommodations.
The biggest writing lapse I’ve taken so far has been between a promising start on my fourth book and writing the final chapter. An eighteen-month gap lingered between the last pre-pandemic chapter I’d written and when I returned to finish the story in early 2021.
During that time, between Covid and the socio-political turmoil we went through, I saw too many parallels between current events and what occurred a hundred years earlier, when the novel takes place. It seemed disingenuous to ignore, so when I returned to writing it I included many of those similarities into the story, then went back and rewrote the earlier chapters to delve deeper into the effects of a world-wide pandemic and political discord on the characters.
With book four completed, you’d think I’d take advantage of the momentum and begin the final book in my series. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart’s Rick in “Casablanca,” you’d be misinformed. In the past I’ve taken the last two months of the year off from writing, as I tend to be very busy with holiday plans and travel. This year is no different. I am still working out how to finish the story I’d begun twenty years ago, which will prepare me for writing it after the new year, but should I instead dive in and “just write?” Am I procrastinating yet again? I suppose I am, but it may lead to a better finale. Time will tell.
Miko Johnston, a founding member of The Writers in Residence, is the author of the historical fiction saga A PETAL IN THE WIND, as well as a contributor to anthologies, including “LAst Exit to Murder” and the soon-to-be-released “Whidbey Landmarks”.
Miko lives in Washington (the big one) with her rocket scientist husband. Contact her at email@example.com
16 thoughts on “The Gift of Procrastination*”
Miko, thank you for allowing us to enter your soul and share your writing situation. We all write to our own rhythm and clock so I don’t see any reason for you to fore yourself into other writers’ modes. You are very brave!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks, Jill. I appreciate the support and encouragement. It’s what we’re all about, isn’t it?
I agree with Jill about writing to our own rhythm. These days we know so much about other writers, their process, daily word count, marketing/promo, etc. That can be helpful at times, discouraging at others. I’m slowly learning to find my own comfort level with writing-related activities. Thanks for a great post!
Thank you, Maggie. When it come to the process, I suppose there is no right way or wrong way to write, as long as you write. And welcome to WInRs!
Thanks for sharing your ‘guilty secret’ of procrastinating. So glad I’m not the only one! But sharing your process is really helpful. And the amount of deep research you do for each of your ‘Petal’ books is impressive and clearly enriches your writing. Thanks Miko.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Rosemary, your Lottie Topaz series has always inspired me to use research in a creative way to enrich the story, so thank you for that!
Just think what kind of book you would have turned out if you slapped it together without digging into the heart and soul of your characters. Maybe “procrastination” is another word for “polishing.”
LikeLiked by 3 people
Ooh, I like that! And yes, taking the time to get the story…not perfect, but well done to the best of our ability is worthwhile.
I always think of procrastinating as something bad that I do… a lot. But seeing how it worked for you, I have hope.
Is it one or two more books you have in the series?
Oops. I see you have only ONE left to write. Wonderful!
One at least. Then…?
LikeLiked by 1 person
I suspect may writers berate themselves when they haven’t met a self-imposed deadline, either a daily word count or a completion date. I don’t see how that could help the creative process.
Oh, Miko, do I know about procrastination. Your post has given me a little nudge…thanks!
If I’ve encouraged you, I’m happy, because your recent post has me wondering what Leiv will choose to do. And I must confess – I’ve begun to outline my next book.
Excellent post, Miko. Maybe we should start a support group? Procrastinators Anonymous?
Ha ha, Bonnie. Doubt we could find a facility large enough to hold them all.