A Habit to Break?

A Habit to Break?

by Beth Kozan

Tax time

It was in high school that I developed the habit of Waiting Till the Last Minute to write an assignment.  It became entrenched in college, when I’d stay up all night in the dorm to finish a term paper that I’d known about literally since the beginning of the semester.

I don’t know that I would have ever finished my first book if I hadn’t had an event – The 2015 Tucson Festival of Books – to aim for. Even now, I’ll put off writing my once-a-month blog piece until the last minute.

Why?  I tell myself I do my best writing under stress. But do I? I tell myself I’ll ‘mess with it less’ if I leave writing it to the end. But is that even true?

I remember once when I moved from an office I’d used for several years, I found a draft of a brochure that was designed when final drafts were prepared on the typewriter. I kept this reminder of “the old way” in case I forgot how hard it was to prepare a document before computers. The text that ended up as four paragraphs on two pages of a pink paper brochure covered, in longhand, five pages front and back. There were circles and edit marks where I’d rewritten the text. Need a better word? Cross-out the old and write above it the new. Whole paragraphs were lined out and rewritten, with the final version circled. A long arrow wrapped around the side of the page to its new location.

What to do about my problem, which by now I’ve learned to call “procrastination”?  Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, recommends writing longhand, at least when doing once-a-day journal work. “It’s in writing cursive,” she says, “that we first learn and then reinforce our moral code.” So tonight I tried long hand.

It takes too long, and it’s messy with its arrows and cross-outs.

I’m meditating these days. In my meditations, I am working on healing myself. Today’s message was to view myself as both the healer and the healed. Can I, in my dotage, accept that this is my way? Can I decide not to beat myself up about it anymore? Until I find a more effective way, I’ll wait until the last minute.  But I just might set an artificial date, so my editor won’t hate me!

Beth Kozan is the author of the book
Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Beth KozanHelping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.

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3 Responses to A Habit to Break?

  1. Marcie Brock says:

    I can SOOOOO relate – but I’m not giving up on trying to adjust my behavior. I know from the few experiences I’ve had with getting things done early what a relief that is, and I want more of it. But I agree heartily with the not-beating-myself-up-when-I-don’t part. Thanks for an honest, moving post.
    Marcie (LO)


  2. Beth, this is really interesting. I am definitely oriented to events as opportunities to bring my work and business cards and table displays up a level. In my writing, I do a lovely job fast for a deadline, but if I can wait a day, I see afresh quick edits that will greatly improve a piece. So I try to get the writing done a full day or two before it would have to be submitted, so it can breathe and I can touch it up before submittal. Thanks for a great post.


  3. bchatzkel says:

    Yes, I procrastinate, but not til the last moment — mine is a procrastination that creates uncertainty because I haven’t thought about what needs to be done. If I have that “bake” time to let it roll around my head, then the less than a week time I leave myself works OK. It felt like you were writing about me.


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