When I started screenwriting, I procrastinated over the usual things. The kids had to be picked up, the reports needed typing, the bills paying, the housework, the dinner, the DVR with my favorite TV show on it. I eventually realized that if I didn’t give screenwriting a central place in my life and its own home on my schedule, I would never finish anything.
Over time, I learned to put my writing first and everything else after it. It took some trial and error, and eventually I settled into a time slot early in the morning, before the interruptions started. That worked really well for a while.
Until… I got better at disciplining myself to write, and my procrastination got better too. While I was writing, it was off doing push-ups. It learned to wait for me to let my guard down, and then pounce.
Sometimes, I don’t even know I’m procrastinating. Blogging, for instance, has become a major source of procrastination for me. The rationale is that it is an important networking tool, and that I am furthering my screenwriting efforts by sharing what I know. And technically, it is writing. It’s good practice for me to put myself “out there.” In some ways, it really helps me. And so do social networking and discussions and forums and email updates and research and books and trades… you get the picture. Even TV-watching helps me prepare to achieve my goals.
And then there are the really beneficial distractions. I am beginning to read and evaluate scripts. I’ve got two writers groups, one of which I am organizing. The other one is made up of members with far more experience than I (translation — I have to prove my worthiness to be there). Those things will take up several hours per week, but will also make my writing better.
So now it’s not only my family, home, hubby’s business, two dogs, and managing everyone’s schedules, but all those writing-related activities as well. And suddenly, there’s too many important things to get done and no time to work on my White Collar Spec! I’ve gotten away from it without even realizing it was happening. That’s how cunning procrastination is.
So I’m back to square one, having to learn the same lesson. Screenwriting first, everything else second.
Okay, it sounds good, but what does it mean? How do I fight this enormously powerful enemy—procrastination in all its forms?
This is where I need all the tools at my command. First of all, I need to be absolutely clear about what is most important and why. I can look back at my statement in Hill’s Key #1, in which I developed a “Major Purpose.” I can remember how much I want to work in TV, and how all the other things in my life can support that if I let them. I can talk to members of my mastermind alliance, and therefore stay accountable. I can admit it in my blog: I’m not getting much writing done. I can make a commitment: I will finish my first draft by Wednesday. It is more important than the script evaluation due tomorrow, the preparation for my groups, or the laundry that needs folding.
Now it gets a little tricky. See, all those other things still have to get done. They are important and if I try to neglect them, they get in the way of my writing by pulling my focus. That’s another thing I’ve had to learn the hard way. Therefore, my second task is to make a list of priorities. First priority, screenplay. Second priority, evaluation. Third, meeting preparation, fourth housework. No, that can’t work. I’ve forgotten about personal care and family care. Those things can’t get put on hold indefinitely. So here’s the revision:
1. Screenplay—first draft finished Wednesday, about 6 hours per day
2. Personal Care (shower, meals, sleep, etc.), 11 hours, 7 left
3. Kids to school, to home, homework done, appointments kept. 2 hours 5 to go, plus all my downtime gets spent with them and hubby, and meals, too.
4. Bare minimum of housework (just for this week) 1 hour incl. laundry and meal clean-up, 4 left
5. Evaluation of script due Monday. 3 to 4 hours, but I’ll start it tonight, jut in case it takes longer
6. Breakdown of 2 – 4 TV Shows or Movies by Wednesday Evening. I’d better make it 2 TV shows, and get it done Tuesday!
7. Preparation for Writer Action Group Thursday Evening. Mercifully, it’s mostly done.
8. Now that I know the priorities, I can map out a schedule so everything gets the attention it needs and I get some downtime, too. Like all day Friday, for starters.
9. Each and every time I catch that devil procrastination in all its cunning disguises sneaking up on me, I will take a gigantic mental sledgehammer, and smash it to smithereens!
How do you fight procrastination?