Despite having spent most of my life writing words for websites (and project proposals, that sort of thing), and having had two jobs with the word “Editor” in the title, I’ve never really considered myself a writer.
Recently, I was asked to write a short article for Ariel, the BBC’s internal corporate newspaper. On a topic I knew a lot about, indeed, that I somewhat relished.
However, I kept putting it off week after week until finally, today, I was told that I had to get it to the editor by lunchtime or knives and screams would be heard. So I knuckled down, looked at the few notes I’d made, and in an hour, I’d turned out 425 words of prose that’s almost professional. It’s elegant, the end references the beginning, and it’s one of the best articles I think I’ve written. And I knocked it out in less than an hour.
I’d whip myself even more about being such a procrastinating fool about it, but it seems I’m not that alone. Douglas Adams famously declared that “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Most of the emails that Russell T Davies sends out in The Writer’s Tale are of him either avoiding starting work on a script, procrastinating over working on a script, or the insane things that happen as he tries to finish his work to deadline.
What is it about writing that encourages procrastination to such an extent? How is it I can quickly knock off a blog entry, no problem, but trying to write an article causes huge amounts of internal angst? How come editors don’t want to strangle their contributors at every available opportunity? And how can I stop procrastination in the unlikely event I ever get asked to write another article?