Jacquelyn Smith

Just do it already!

I don’t know about you, but I can think of several times when I’ve been caught up in the trap of working around a big project instead of sucking it up and attacking it directly. I’ll find all kinds of minor, supporting tasks to work on and focus on them, rather than doing what I know I should be doing. This way, I can trick myself into thinking I’m being productive. It also allows my big project to remain perfect, because it doesn’t exist beyond the idealized version in my mind.


Whenever I feel myself backsliding into this habit, I try to remember a conversation I had once on my first day of work at a certain bookstore with a certain co-worker. Let’s call him ‘Binder Guy’. (You’ll see why in a minute.)


Anyway, here’s the gist of how the conversation went:


[I’m sitting in the lunchroom, eating my meal when Binder Guy enters.]


Me: Hi! I’m Jacqui. I just started here today.


BG: Hey, I’m Binder Guy. Are you a writer? I think I heard someone mention you were.


Me: Yeah. There seem to be a few writers working here.


BG: I’m a writer too! Want to see what I’m working on?


Me: Sure!


[Binder Guy rummages around in his backpack and pulls out a big-ass binder. He opens it on the table and starts flipping through it.]


BG: These are all my novel notes. I’ve got my plot line, character sketches… [BG flips some more pages.] And here you can see the pictures of all the actors I’ve casted for each role in the movie adaptation. I’ve even picked out the songs for the soundtrack!


Me: Wow, that’s… a lot of work.


BG: Yeah, but I really want it to be perfect.


Me: I get that. So, how far along are you in writing the novel?


BG: Oh, I haven’t started yet. I still have so much to do!


Me: OK… Is this a new project then? How long have you been working on it?


BG: Let’s see… I think it’s been about seven years now. It’s a really major undertaking.


Me: Um, yeah. I guess so. Well, I really should be getting back to work. My break is over.


BG: See you later!


[I go back to work and another one of my co-workers approaches me.]


Co-worker: So, did Binder Guy show you his binder yet?


Me: Yeah! How did you know?


Co-worker: Oh, man, he shows that thing to everyone



I fell out of touch with Binder Guy. He left for another job shortly after I started. But I often wonder if he ever actually started writing his epic novel masterpiece. Is he still lugging that binder around with him everywhere he goes? If so, has he updated his movie casting? The original actors aren’t going to be around forever…


It’s a little baffling (and frustrating!) when you meet someone who is clearly passionate about something, but they can’t seem to commit to actually doing what it is they’re passionate about. They just dance around the edges of it and play it safe.


I think there’s a little bit of this tendency in all of us. We just need to be aware and keep it in check. Because if you don’t… the next thing you know, you’re the one showing a binder of stuff to everyone you meet to convince yourself how much progress you’ve made. Meanwhile, your real dream goes unfulfilled.



Do you sometimes find yourself creating busywork to avoid starting a major project?

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11 thoughts on “Just do it already!

  1. James Garcia Jr

    Hi, Jacqui. To a very minor degree I can sometimes put off some work, but it’s usually only after I have exhausted myself pushing so hard for days or weeks before. I just read your short story, Unclean. I read that last night. Well done. I liked it. I hope the week has treated you well. I got your Tweet. Yes, I did have a good holiday. Thanks.


    1. Jacquelyn

      Thanks, Jimmy! Glad you liked it. I hope things are going better for you on the publishing front. I’m sure all that hard work will pay off. :)

  2. Scott Niven

    I’ve gotten caught up in details too many times to count, so I love reading articles like this that remind me what my true focus needs to be. Thanks for sharing! :-)

    1. Jacquelyn

      Hi, Scott! LOL, we all need a good kick in the ass from time to time. 😉 Hope your novel is going well!

  3. aniko

    I just found your blog, and saw that Jimmy is your friend! It’s always fun to me when I find a site I like and discover that another online acquaintance hanging out there, too. It makes internet feel cozy!

    Now for something a bit more on topic. I knew a variant of Binder Guy. My ‘BG’ was a girl who had been writing for eight years, was planning to get her MFA in creative writing, and who had attended countless workshops, seminars, etc. I was impressed. I asked her what she she wrote and she said, “A short story.” “A, as in one?” She’d been crafting the same story for eight years – the same one! The incident was a huge wake-up call for me. I decided then that I would rather settle for realistically good than keep striving to write one, perfect gem.

    I try not to procrastinate with my writing. I’ll procrastinate the bleep out of doing yard work. The best thing for me is to disconnect from the internet when I write… as I should probably do now!

    Glad I found your blog!


    1. Jacquelyn

      Hi, Aniko!

      Any friend of Jimmy’s is a friend of mine. 😉

      I can’t imagine spending eight years on a short story. I think I would go crazy… (And I probably don’t have far to go.)

      Now I’m off to check out your blog! (Before I exile myself from the internet for a while. It really is the only way to get things done. :P)

      1. aniko

        In eight years, I really hope to have sixteen novels. Granted, it took about a full year to write my first novel, another six months of agonizing over what to do with it, and another six to produce my e-book… The process taught me a lot, and think that this time around, things will be much smoother. Not having that six-month pause in the middle where I struggle with feeling like I should *want* to be traditionally published will shave off a half year – and a lot of anxiety!


        1. Jacquelyn

          16 novels would be awesome!

          I haven’t published a ton of stuff yet, but I’ve found with each book I put out, my process gets tighter as I learn from each experience. Sounds like you’re on the same track. :)

          1. aniko

            It’s encouraging to know that you learn something new and useful each time you publish. The process felt so bewildering the first time through! It was worthwhile, but certainly not for the easily discouraged. :)

            Happy Writing!

        2. James Garcia Jr

          You ladies really made my day with these exchanges today. It does make the world wide web a cozy place when you have friends out there, doesn’t it? Have a great week. *waves*


          1. Jacquelyn

            Hi Jimmy :)

            I never got an email notification for your comment! Weird… Anyway, I’m glad Aniko and I managed to meet through you. 😀 Very cool!

            *waves back*

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