Procrastination: I’ll think of a better title later

I saved this post for last.  Because I kept putting it off.  This article is about procrastinating. I do that a lot.  Like a LOT.  Everyone does it to some extent, I’m sure.  There are many reasons to do it and some of them are psychologically valid.  Writers, and other people too (like students), have been procrastinating for hundreds of years.  Writers seem to have a special penchant and reputation for putting off writing.  And I thought it was just me.  I stumbled across Writing About Writing on Facebook which reinforced the idea and then in watching re-runs of Castle I remembered this exchange:

Photo: Screen shot from IMDB.com

There is also this article from Reader’s Digest which shows that many classic authors had the art of procrastination down to a science.  Clearly it’s not just me.  It’s a common trait. 

And what does this have to do with social media?  Well, social media makes procrastination really, really easy.  It’s one thing to clean your entire house to avoid writing.  That’s just another form of hard (harder) work.  But social media is right there.  It’s available on the very same machine where I am supposed to working on my blog, assignment and/or novel.  You must all have had similar experiences.  Raise your hand if you went all through your Facebook newsfeed twice before actually committing words to the screen?  How can you resist looking at a cat video?  Listening to that song that someone posted for Throwback Thursday?  There is so much to discover at your fingertips that seems way more interesting.  Like Ted Talks!!  Don’t you just love Ted Talks?  Look at this one

That Ted Talk is actually very interesting for a few of reasons:

  1. It makes me feel like my ability to put things off is almost amateurish.
  2. It actually explains how a rational, intelligent person can engage in such behaviour. 
  3. Even at over thirteen minutes long, it’s engaging and gets me out of doing any work for over thirteen minutes. 

In gathering information to write this article, it gave me an excellent chance to waste my time do more research on procrastination and why it happens. 

Photo: Gemma Correll

It turns out there is a lot of psychology around procrastination and it has been studied extensively.  Here are some highlights of those studies:

  1. It is very common.  At a study at the University of Vermont, 46% of subjects reported that they “”always” or “nearly always” procrastinate writing papers (Solomon, LJ; Rothblum (1984). “Academic Procrastination: Frequency and Cognitive-Behavioural Correlates”)
  2. To some extent, it can be normal to procrastinate as it helps us prioritize among tasks (Wikipedia, “Procrastination”, Health Perspective)
  3. It can have roots in a fear of not attaining perfection (McGarvey, Jason A. (1996). “The Almost Perfect Definition”)
  4. From my own perspective, it means that there is still the possibility that what I create will be exactly what I was aiming for.  Once the assignment is done, it’s out of my hands as to how it will be received.  Procrastination gives me the illusion of control. 

Social media has offered me so many useful resources about writing.  And yet, I even put off reading them.  Currently, my Saved items on Facebook has eight links to articles about being a better writer and getting published.  I have not read one of them yet.  I even procrastinate about being a better writer!  What is wrong with me?

Photo: Pedro da Silva, Unsplash

This blog will be posted well ahead of the midnight deadline of April 11.  In that way, I have never procrastinated during this course.  The existence of a deadline is actually helpful to me.  And I have developed some coping mechanisms so that I can actually function and get things done.  A lot those have to do with bargaining with myself.  No, you may not go shopping for birthday presents until you’ve finished your blog.  No, you may not post that amazingly witty thing on Facebook until you’ve finished your blog. 

How do you cope with procrastination?  And did you get your blog posted on time? 

References:

Lauren Gelman, “6 Famous Writers Who Were Masters at Procrastinating”, Reader’s Digest

Tim Urban, “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator”, Ted Talks, 2016

Facebook:  I write; therefore, I procrastinate.
https://bit.ly/2Kp9XHW

Twitter: I write; therefore, I procrastinate.
https://bit.ly/2Kp9XHW

Rejected!  Via Social Media

Rejected! Via Social Media

I was really struggling with a topic for this blog.  I thought I would write about how literary agencies use social media to promote their latest published novels.  On Twitter, I follow the agency where I had recently submitted a query for my latest novel.  On Monday, April 1st, I went to review their recent posts. Here is what I found:

Photo: screen shot from Twitter

I submitted my query on March 4 and did not receive a request for further material.  Ugh.  This tweet was posted on March 15, so I’d missed it that day.  This was not an April Fool’s joke.  Someone must have commented or retweeted it on the 1st which is how the tweet was closer to the top of the page.  So now I have a topic to write about and I’m quite bummed out. 

Photo: Steve Johnson, Pexels

What really struck me about this was how completely detached and impersonal it was.  This is the reality of pitching to agents in the social media world.  You either hear nothing or you find out through a widely broadcasted posting.  You don’t even get a “thanks but no thanks” email.  I know this is the way of the world now, even when applying for jobs, but it can be disheartening, nonetheless. Even though social media is supposed to allow us more communication with larger groups of people, it also provides yet another layer to distance us from one another.

Being a writer means learning to accept rejection.  This is where social media can be helpful.  I know if I were to post something on Facebook about this, my friends would rally around me with encouraging words, bolstering my confidence.  Well they would, if they knew I was actually writing.  You see, I’ve kept it a secret.  I had this fantasy of getting picked up by an agent and become published before telling anyone but my husband and son about my writing activities.  That is a blog for another day. 

My first impulse, after getting over the sinking disappointment I was feeling, was to reply to this tweet.  Are you sure?  Did you actually read my query?  I think it’s a great concept!  Seriously, take another look.

I didn’t do that, but perhaps I should?  Do you think that would be constructive?  I am open to this! 

My next thought was to determine my next steps.  Because I actually believe I have written something publishable.  I follow many agencies and agents on Twitter so there are numerous places where I can submit my query.  I also know two authors, although they live in England, and they might have some ideas of how to improve my chances of being represented and published.  And I can even investigate the idea of self-publishing.  That’s a whole new realm I know nothing about, but it’s there!  There are many possibilities. 

Photo: rawpixel.com, Pexels

I just love this picture.  It perfectly sums up the writing process.  I have failed well, and I will try again. 

Facebook:  Rejected!  Via social media.  Who needs PFO letters? https://bit.ly/2IaLZNz

Twitter:  Rejected!  Via social media https://bit.ly/2IaLZNz

Book and Movie Reviews: Not just for the pros anymore – thanks to social media

In the old days…

Yes, I am old enough to use that phrase.  In the old days, if you wanted to read a review about a book or movie, you had to rely on print media and entertainment shows.  And you had to do it on their schedule.  You could read the opinions of expert movie and writing critics who actually had advanced degrees.  Their opinions were certainly of interest but did not necessarily reflect the views of the everyday reader and viewer.  There used to be, and still are, book clubs, where like-minded people could discuss specific books they were reading. My friends and I are avid readers and one of them suggested we start a book club.  Surprisingly, she was unanimously shot down by everyone, including me.  No one wanted to read on a deadline and that was the end of that.  Social media has changed the book and movie review process and allowed everyday people to offer their opinions.

Image: Pexels

You can be heard on social media

There are many social media tools available to those who wish to read reviews on books, films and TV shows that also encourage discussion.  Goodreads is an excellent resource for writing and reading reviews on books.  They have thousands of contributors and also offer author blogs and their own awards system.  And the quintessential source for movie reviews is IMDB.  This comprehensive site offers a fantastic array of information about movies and TV shows as well as allowing users to provide their own reviews.  The advantage to all of these applications is that reviews are allowed by anyone, not just the so-called experts in the field.  Both Goodreads and IMDB are also well organized to allow for easy search and cross referencing.  Trying to remember that movie where you first saw that guy?  IMDB will definitely help you find out.  Do you want to know how many books you read in a year and how they are being received?  Goodreads lets you do that.  Discussion boards abound. 

I do follow one hard and fast rule when using these sites.  I will not read any reviews about a book or movie until after I have actually read the book or seen the movie first.  I use these sites as validation about my experiences and to gain additional insight and not to filter out what I will and will not read or watch.  (That’s not entirely true.  If my husband is suggesting we watch something obscure on Netflix, I will see what its overall rating is before deciding to watch.  This got me out of watching The Emoji Movie.)  When I read The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, I was not that impressed.  This book had many effusive reviews on its cover (they all do of course), but I was underwhelmed.  I was gratified that many people on Goodreads felt the same. 

That little thrill

While reading my classmate, Jennifer Biemond’s blog, I really understood that little thrill we get when something we have posted is liked or commented upon.  When I’ve taken the time write a comment or offer my opinion on social media, I do get that jolt of excitement when I get any kind of feedback.  I used to belong to an online group called Answerbag (now defunct) and the more responses I got to my input, the better I felt about it.  I would check it several times a day.  Often, the responses would validate what I was thinking but it also made me feel heard – that what I had said had resonated with someone. As Jennifer mentioned in her article, it made me feel important.  That is a powerful pull.

Will I be able to take it?

I do love these applications.  But I do ask myself, if I do ever get published, and my writing is out there, how will I respond to the inevitable negative comments?   There are bound to be some.  Because of the power behind others’ comments, will I be hurt if my work is panned?  I hope that I can find some value to those types of comments when and if they occur.  Knowing that it can happen will certainly not stop me from trying to achieve that goal. 

Image: Pexels

Facebook:  Book and Movie Reviews:  Not just for the pros anymore – thanks to social media.
https://bit.ly/2WhRj5G        

Twitter:  YOU are the reviewer!
https://bit.ly/2WhRj5G

I’m an Old New Writer with a Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media

I started writing my first novel at the age of 53. It was difficult – a lot more difficult than I imagined. Like most writers, I procrastinated and was easily distracted by the vast world of social media. In the three years since, I have developed a love-hate relationship with it all. At times it’s a fantastic resource. At other times it is overwhelming.


Why the love? Why the hate? Because I love reading lists, here it is for you in list form:

Four reasons I love social media:

  1. I found a lot of encouragement on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, I found and started following Writer’s Relief which offers a plethora of information about all aspects of writing. On Facebook, I found Writing About Writing, which offers whimsical and often horrible puns about writing in general and has routine posts that tell me “You should be writing!”
  2. I love lists. I love anything that starts with “5 ways to …” or “10 hacks for…”. It hooks me in every time. And not just about writing. About anything! It’s quick, it’s organized, and I have a short attention span. And there are tonnes of these lists about writing, especially on YouTube. One of my favourites is Ellen Brock’s channel. Once I got over the fact that she’s young enough to be my daughter, I found her lists concise, helpful, and entertaining.
  3. Information is bountiful. You can anything about writing through blogs that pop up on social media.  Once you’re following one person or organization, others are suggested.  It’s one of the beautiful things about social media.  I found myself being inundated with new possible blogs and sites to review.  It made me feel like I could learn about all aspects of writing from the comfort of my computer chair. 
  4. There are writing communities everywhere.  Once I started following writers and writing blogs, I was followed too.  By actual writers!  Imagine!  It made me feel like a real writer with something to contribute.  And I learned about groups in Ottawa that I could join and seminars that I could attend.  I’ve attended several over the last few months and found myself inspired even more. 

But of course there is a downside…

Four reasons I hate social media:

  1.  The amount of information can be overwhelming.  As I am writing, I sometimes find myself thinking of everything I’ve read online about writing.  Am I committing those mistakes now?  Am I telling instead of showing?  Am I using the right tense?  Are people going to like my “voice”?    Am I making the 25 Mistakes that Peg You as an Amateur Writer?  It can be paralyzing trying to internalize all you’ve learned while you are attempting to actually write.    
  2. It can be soul-crushing.   I submitted my first novel to many agents, including Angie Agent* who requested my entire manuscript.  I was so encouraged that I started following her on Twitter.  Then she passed on my work.  And then I would see, on a weekly basis, the new writers she was signing up.  I ended up un-following her to save my sanity.
  3. It can be a real time-suck. Even before I stated writing seriously, I had a serious procrastination problem.  Frankly, it’s amazing that I kept a job.  Add a new project with new information to learn and follow and comment on, and it was taking up a lot of time.  Time when I should have been writing. 
  4. Sponsored links.  I hate them.  I know it’s the price we pay for “free” social media, but there is a lot of crap that shows up in my newsfeed, vaguely disguised as advice on self-publishing or how I can earn great money by writing for a living.  (I actually know that’s unlikely.)  I’ve become adept at separating good and bad social media content, but there is still a lot of litter out there. 

The fact is, social media is here to stay.  Overall, the good outweighs the bad and like all things in life, should be taken in moderation.  Excuse me, but I should be writing. 

(*Angie Agent is a pseudonym.)

Facebook promotion:  My love/hate relationship with social media as a new writer.  https://bit.ly/2u0UbId

Twitter promotion:  New writer: loving and hating social media. https://bit.ly/2u0UbId