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