Recently I was asked to speak to a group of undergraduate students about my freelancing job as a writer and editor, answering the usual “How did you get your first project?” and “When did you know you wanted to write?” sort of questions. Those are easy to answer–my first project was for a friend, and I figured out I wanted to write as a career in 2014–but harder to do was create an actionable piece of advice. In the audience were students of diverse backgrounds and work experience. Some were in their 30’s; others were not long out of high school. Some wanted to work in creative fields and others didn’t.
What could I say that might help all of them?
Procrastinating is easy, especially when something is difficult or time-consuming. We let ourselves off the hook now by promising to do the work later. I always tell myself that I’ll get around to it tomorrow — but sometimes, tomorrow doesn’t end up being tomorrow, or the day after, or even the day after that. Sometimes weeks go by before I get to something, because doing a little something isn’t worth it. No time to run a 5K? Then I’ll run tomorrow. No time to write a full chapter of my novel? I’ll write tomorrow instead. Starting and finishing an activity on separate days made me feel like I wasn’t giving it my full attention.
Never mind productivity, that insisting on completion might mean I wouldn’t write a blog post for three months, or that because I wasn’t running at all, I’d gain weight — anything less than complete was partial credit. It wasn’t worth my time.