Do You Recognize the Early Warning Signs of a Lazy Writer?

By June

Writing is not the easiest of jobs. So if you’re a lazy writer, and you depend on your skills to pay your bills and put food on the table, you’re in trouble. But there’s hope. One of my grandmother’s favorite quotes was, “Prevention is better than cure.” In other words, don’t sit in a room full of people with colds, or you’ll get a cold.

How does that relate to writing? If you know the early signs of lazy writers, you can stop yourself from becoming one. Or if you are one, it’s time to take action to change the situation.

I’ve listed some of the signs. Nip them in the bud before they develop. You’ll then be able to take full control of your writing life.

1.  You procrastinate about stopping procrastination

“Procrastination is my sin. It brings me naught but sorrow. I know that I should stop it. In fact, I will… tomorrow.” ~ Gloria Pitzer

One of the students in my class had a classic case of procrastination. His goal was to improve his punctuation skills. After each session I gave him homework to reinforce what I taught him. He happily took it and always promised to do it. But each week he came back with an excuse and no homework. He was too busy playing computer games or hanging out with his mates. Yet, he carried on promising to do his homework.

Do you know what happened? Playing computer games was his priority. Even though he knew the only way to develop his skills was to study more. Procrastination got the better of him. He was too lazy to be bothered. So, he failed his exams.

It’s so easy to look at your ‘to do writing list’ and get stressed. Why? Because as a writer your list is massive. So instead of tackling them one by one, you put them off for tomorrow. Doing that may reduce your stress of the day and makes life a little easier. But when tomorrow comes you repeat the same actions. And you tell yourself that you’ll stop procrastinating. At that moment you convince yourself that you’re in control. But are you?

The cycle carries on and you’re not progressing. Your writing business suffers and your bank balance doesn’t grow. A lazy writer is a poor writer.

What you can do to knock procrastination on the head:

  • Create a daily timetable and stick to it. Tick off each task as you complete them.
  • Get rid of anything that will distract you. Turn off mobile phones and your TV. Don’t be tempted to go on the internet.
  • Have a scheduled time for checking emails, writing blog posts and updating social networks.
  • Write even when you don’t feel like writing. Write anything so that you’re exercising those creative muscles.
  • Set weekly SMART goals. They should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timed. Don’t just leave them on paper. Focus on working towards achieving those goals.

2. You spend countless hours reading about writing and less hours writing

You love reading advice about freelance writing. You read blog posts, magazine articles, eBooks or library books. In fact you’ll read anything that can educate you about writing. There’s nothing wrong with reading. It’s a great way to increase your knowledge. But it can also be a distraction. When you spend more hours reading and less time writing, something is wrong.

There’s got to be a point when you tell yourself, “Enough is enough!” Otherwise that lazy habit of reading and not writing will drag on for weeks or even months. And you’ll probably end up with information overload. Some of which won’t even be relevant to you.

The internet is good. But it can also be a big addiction if you’re not disciplined. I call it a lure trap! How many times have you gone on there to research something, and ended up spending hours reading? The sad thing is, at the end of the day you forget what you were searching for in the first place.

What you can do to stop reading and start writing:

  • You’ve got to start writing sometime. There’s no time better than the present.
  • Put all the books away and only use them for references or research.
  • Make good use of the knowledge you gained from reading. The information that you’ve stored in your head needs an outlet.
  • Create a 30 – 90 minute slot each day just for writing and make sure you write.
  • Listen to some relaxing music in the background while you’re writing. It enhances your emotions and aids concentration.

3.  You fear that you’re not a good enough writer

Fear of  not feeling good enough could make you a lazy writer. Doubting your abilities will prevent you from making the effort to write. But if you don’t write you’ll never be able to fulfil your dreams. It’s like a vicious circle. You dream of being a successful writer but fear keeps you a prisoner in your dreams.

Don’t feel guilty about being afraid of the blank page. Don’t think you aren’t a writer if you don’t rush to the computer first thing when you get up in the morning in order to face the empty page. Writing is hard work. Filling up an empty page with your thoughts, your pains, your joys, and your creative ideas takes immense courage.” ~ Rachel Ballon

What you can do to get over the fear:

  • Own up to the fact that you’ve got a fear or fears.
  • Get a blank sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle.
  • Write down all your fears. It doesn’t matter how silly they seem. Write them down. Maybe you think your English isn’t good enough. Or maybe you fear being a failure. Only you know what your fear is.
  • Seeing your fears written down gives you power over them.
  • Read aloud what you’ve written. The next step is to destroy those fears before they destroy your writing career. Burn the paper, screw it up and throw it in a river or cut it into pieces. Take control of your fears.
  • Finally, feel the fear and do it anyway. Each of us has to deal with fear of one kind or another. You’re not alone!

4.  You don’t proofread properly before submitting your work

Proofreading is one of those boring jobs that you give the least time to. You’ve written a fantastic post and can’t wait to submit it. So you skim over it looking for grammar, spelling or punctuation mistakes. Or you rely on spell checker. Those two methods are not good enough for highlighting mistakes. Give as much time to proofreading as you do to writing. That could make all the difference between acceptance or rejection of your work.

This poem is great for reinforcing that relying on your spell checker is a bad idea. It doesn’t identify homophones or words that’s spelled correctly but used in the wrong places.

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

What you can do to proofread properly:

  • Proofread a printed copy of your work. It’s easier to spot mistakes in print than on the computer screen.
  • Reading in your head is not the best way to proofread. Read out loud to yourself or to someone else. You’re more likely to spot unnecessary words, identify sentences that don’t make sense or find punctuation mistakes.
  • Take a break for a few hours or even overnight. Reading with a clear head helps.
  • Ask another writer of a trusted friend to proofread for you. It’s easy for you to miss errors in your writing.

Paul Rudnick summed up the lazy writer syndrome beautifully in this quote.

“As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.”

If you fall into one or all of the categories of a lazy writer, don’t let that habit control your writing future. Like I said earlier, take full control of your writing career. If you don’t, no one else will or can do it for you. You’re in the driving seat. So drive laziness out of your life. Success doesn’t come from dreaming and wishing. It comes from working to turn those dreams and wishes into reality.

I know that I’ve been guilty of being a lazy writer. What about you? What did you do to overcome it? Please share your tips with us. If you found this article useful I would appreciate it if you shared with your friends on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for reading.

June Whittle is a WritersinCharge.com team member, a freelance copywriter and blogger. She writes content that connects with your readers.To find out some more about her check out her main blog MiraculousLadies.com and website DivineCopywriter.com

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  • http://ancadumitru.com Anca Dumitru

    I hear ya, June. Procrastination is such an epidemic. I covered the way I try to control it in this blog post: http://www.ancadumitru.com/self-discipline-when-your-inspiration-runs-low/

    I believe that, before anything else, lack of self-discipline is the one that leads to procrastination and has to be controlled first and foremost.

    And loved your little poem about proofreading. :)

    • June Whittle

      Yes Anca, procrastination is a massive stumbling block. It’s one of ethos things that can control you, rather than you control it. Also, it’s a problem that most people face, not just writers.

      Self-discipline is a great weapon against procrastination. But being disciplined is another story!

      Thanks for commenting. :-)

  • http://www.makealivingwriting.com Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing

    Love this post, June. Lately I have been finding putting some music on is helping me get my drafts written!

    • June Whittle

      Thanks Carol! I love listening to music in the background when I’m writing. It helps me focus and calms my mind. :-)

  • http://www.arbynblog.com Robyn

    Ahh procrastinating about stopping procrastinating. Yup!

    • June Whittle

      I know! It’s deep isn’t it? :-)

  • http://www.writerval.com Valerie

    Great post! I don’t know if “lazy” is the right word – but I can sure relate to procrastination and at times to fear of not being good enough. To get past laziness or procrastination, I believe in the BIC method (butt in chair).

    • June Whittle

      The reason why I included it under lazy is because some people can’t be bothered. So they procrastinate and that becomes a form of laziness.

      I love the BIC method! :-)

  • http://www.pensavvy.net Eva

    Just like Valerie I don’t know if ‘lazy’ is the right word, but I can surely relate to most of these points especially the first point where you talk about procrastinating. Keep Up!

    • June Whittle

      It seems that procrastination is a biggie for a lot of us! But when you want to succeed, you will find ways to make the effort and kick procrastination to the curb. :-)

  • http://www.officekitten.co.uk Alex

    Great points indeed, thank you June. I think everyone’s guilty of lazy writing from time to time, but for some people it’s a constant habit. I think there are few things people can drop, such as tautology (“my own personal”), and the superfluous use of “that” which makes for bad reading. I read The Old Man and the Sea for the first time in 8 years and was shocked by the use of all the “that”s! So even the very best get things wrong.

    • June Whittle

      Thanks for your tips Alex. I’m guilty of using too much ‘that’ in my writing. It’s a bad habit and I’m trying to consciously avoid using it. Proofreading out loud does helps though! :-)

  • http://www,homenotion.com/blog Liz McGee

    Hi June,

    Your point in #2 is well taken. Don’t be reading more than you’re writing. If you’re a writer, you have to write constantly. Certainly setting aside 30-90 minutes every day to write is a worthwhile thing to do. I have to admit I’m not consistent with that :-(

    I don’t like to listen to music when writing because it can be distracting, but I like the idea that ‘relaxing’ music enhances emotion and aids with concentration, so I’ll revisit that and see if it helps.

    Thanks for ALL the great tips!

    Blessings,
    Liz

    • June Whittle

      Hi Liz,

      Reading is good within limit. The best way for me to stick to any sort of routine is to write down my goals for the day. I make a daily timetable and use that as a guideline. It works for me. Then again, maybe it’s a habit. When I was teaching, I had to work to a timetable, so I guess old habits die hard!

      Let me know how you get on with listening to relaxing music as you write. :-)

      Thanks for your comments.

      Have a blessed evening.

      June

  • http://omgtens.com SAJID

    I am a really lazy writer and seldom write on my blog

    • June Whittle

      Sajid that’s OK if you’re writing for fun. But if you want to use your blog to attract clients, you’ll need to think about updating it regularly.

  • http://tamaraepps.co.uk Tamara Epps

    I know I’m terrible when it comes to procrastination. I used to spend all my time and energy on reading about writing to get myself motivated, but ended up not having no energy to actually write at the end of it. I’m glad to say that that is one habit I have broken, but I still procrastinate, just not quite as much.

    • June Whittle

      It’s good to hear that you’ve overcome the reading about writing habit. That’s a hard one to break. I’m sure you’ll control procrastination because it’s clear that you’re more motivated now. :-)

  • http://www.freelancewritingkenya.com Julz

    That is me you have described in that post. I am always planning and organizing and reading tips on how to write. Procastination stops now!

    • June Whittle

      That’s great news Julz. It has to stop or you’ll never move forward. The beat way to start is just start. Don’t put off writing, go for it!

      Sometimes fear will make you feel that you can’t do it. But the only way to overcome fear is to do the thing you fear. You will never know how good you are until you try. Exercise those writing muscles and write everyday. The more you write the better you will get. Good luck! :-)

  • http://chappytwife.com Vicki Terrinoni

    Are you inside my head? This so describes me, especially your second point about reading about writing. I even chuckled and read it out loud to my husband because that is where I am stuck in my process right now. I’m reading and reading and not doing much writing. Thank you for such a great article and great suggestions.

  • June Whittle

    Your comment made me smile Vicki. :-)It’s so easy to get stuck in the reading and not writing trap. I know because I’ve been there. It’s like an addiction. You know you should give it up but it’s hard! I hope you’ll manage to break out of it one day soon.

    Thanks for stopping by. :-)

  • Kaya

    Any tips for English spelling checkers? I have a really good German one, but the English checker, that came with my mac is rubbish.

  • http://vistamediainc.com Freddie

    This post hit home with me. I am a heavy weight procrastinator and I loathe it! Because it’s a weakness that moves most of my cheese to my competitors. Or rather out of my bank account. A lazy writer is surely a poor writer, but guess what — I don’t want to be a poor writer, so I’ll nip it right in the bud and WRITE SOME more…Thanks for this insightful article, I cannot wait to implement these points on my blog. Cheers!

    • June Whittle

      I like that term you used, ‘heavy weight procrastinator!’ But it’s good that you realize it’s a destructive habit. And it will steal money from you if you don’t do something to control it instead of it controlling you.

      I hope that you don’t procrastinate about implementing the tips I shared. :-)

  • http://jeulyanna.wordpress.com jeulyanna

    Procrastination is in me – I’m guilty!! Waaaaaa!! Geez, I’m still lucky. The bad “P” did not penetrate my bloodstream. Woohoo!

    • June Whittle

      Wow! You better kick that procrastination to the kerb. :-) Seriously though, don’t let it take charge of you.