I’ll do it later

Faithwriters.com Challenge – 11th August 2016 – Topic: Procrastination

I did it again! I’ve a terrible habit that keeps recurring even though I’ve tried for years to conquer it. Most recently it occurred in the writing of this article, but it started when I was still at school.

When I was about 14 I received an assignment from our English teacher to write a 400 word short story or play, to be handed in a week later. Every evening I faithfully did my other homework, but when I looked at this assignment I thought, “I’ll do it later.” Most evenings I was busy with activities at The Salvation Army, which also became handy excuses. By 8pm the day before the deadline I could postpone the agony no longer. I sat down with my English exercise book (no time for rough drafts now) and began writing. Two hours later I closed the book and went to bed.

In class next day, I handed in my assignment – a 2000 word radio play recounting a space battle. When the marks came back I was amazed to get 18/20, with very encouraging comments from the teacher. Marks were lost mainly for use of cliché (which is normal in science fiction) and exceeding the word limit.

Since then I’ve said, “I’ll do it later” when writing newsletters, reports for work, magazine articles, my journal and even emails. News items about activities at my church have not made it to press because of the delay, but most things are written just in time.

This delaying habit has an impact on the results of my writing. A tentative submission to an internal Salvation Army magazine yielded an invitation to write a three week Bible study series the following spring. My outline and titles were agreed six months before the deadline, but the first study was only submitted a few days before the due date and the third was only just in time. The published articles were all good enough, but signs of hurry were evident in part 3. Had I written them all in plenty of time, the quality and consistency would have been much better.

I’ve often tried to analyse why I put things off until the last minute. Preparing outlines and drafts as early as possible would give me more time to plan and review, which should suit my perfectionist personality. On the other hand, I don’t like to begin something when I don’t know how it will end. Writing something down seems so final. Sometimes when writing I feel I could be doing “something more useful”.

The way my mind works also affects the way I work. I often choose tasks that have some tangible benefit, perhaps because they help someone else. This means I struggle to focus on long term objectives, such as the novel that I began ten years ago as part of a writing course.

It’s time I organised my time better, setting myself goals and deadlines. If I write just 100 words a day I could draft the novel in a few months. Given time for editing and rewriting, peer review and proofreading, perhaps it could be published next year. I’ll get started right away.

Then again, maybe I’ll do it later.

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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