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Advice on Avoiding Writer's Procrastination

Bestselling writer Sharyn McCrumb's thoughts and advice on procrastination and how to escape it.

Need a shot in the arm to keep writing? How about a boot in the pants? Bestselling writer Sharyn McCrumb gives you both in "Of Time and the Writer," the May 1998 cover story of Writer's Digest. She makes her case pointedly and effectively.

Commenting on the popular excuse "Someday when I have the time, I'll write a book," McCrumb offers these inspirational words:

Each time someone blames his unwritten masterpiece on a lack of time, I smile sympathetically and nod.

I am thinking: "Crap."

Procrastinators get no sympathy from me. In 1986 when a publishing company accepted my four-page book proposal, the catch was this: In order to meet their spring deadline, the editor would need the completed novel in six weeks. I did not have six weeks to devote to writing a novel. I was working full time at the university. I was teaching a night class in fiction. I was taking two graduate English courses that semester, both requiring research papers. I had an eight-year-old daughter. I was six weeks pregnant, and I felt awful.

I wrote the book in six weeks.

It won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Paperback Novel in 1987. It's still in print.

McCrumb's advice on escaping procrastination:

  1. Write at night or very early in the morning, depending on whether or not you are a nocturnal being.
  2. Set small, manageable writing goals.

McCrumb notes that "if you are an unpublished writer, you have more time now to write a book than you will ever have again. . . . by the time you are successful enough to quit your 'day job,' your writing career has become your day job."

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