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How Essay Contest Winner, Sara Lambert, Overcame Her Procrastination in 2009

by Jennifer on March 3, 2010

By Sara Lambert

I have always been a writer.

From the time I could reach my grandmother’s typewriter, I’ve pounded away at the keys, unleashing the stories in my head. When no typewriters or, later, computers were available, I’d scratch words out on paper until my hand ached too bad to continue. When even paper was unavailable, I told them to myself out loud, which would often cause embarrassment when one of my brothers would catch me.

I never shared anything I wrote. A delicate self-esteem told me it wasn’t good enough, and I certainly didn’t want to have someone patronizing me by claiming they liked it when they really didn’t.

Because of this, I never finished anything. I started two novels at the tender age of twelve, wrote pages and pages, and because I was afraid, I never finished either of them, and certainly never let anyone read them.

But I always wanted to be a published novelist, and to be a published novelist, you must first be a novelist, which means you have to finish a novel. Beginning, middle, end.

Over the years, I’ve created hundreds of beginnings, significantly fewer middles and absolutely zero endings. I really thought I couldn’t do it. I wanted to—more than anything—but I used my procrastination as an excuse, and who was there to keep me accountable? No one, because I refused to share.

Last March, my job situation changed so that I would be working from home, and there was an idea in my head that was interesting to me, so I wrote a few pages. Usually, that is enough to satisfy my inner writer, but this time the characters kept talking. I had about 10,000 words written that first week.

And then I had this friend, someone I trust, someone I don’t have to look in the eye every day, ask me if she could take a look at it. I was on the verge of hyperventilation by the time I clicked “send,” and I may have had a stroke while she read it.

But she liked it, and encouraged me to write more. Day after day, chapter after chapter, she responded with a resounding positive, offering advice when I asked for it, support when I needed it, a shoulder to cry on when I was overwhelmed and a swift kick in the pants when I tried to give up. I never realized the importance of moral support, whether it’s from a friend or a peer, until I allowed someone else to be that for me.

Three months, a lot of headaches, a few tears and 100,000 words later, I had finished my very first novel.

That, combined with my first foray into NaNoWriMo (which I won!), brought my total word count for 2009 somewhere in the neighborhood of 175,000 words, and really, even if none of those words ever make it to the shelf at your local bookstore, I am still extremely proud of myself for sticking with it.

Sara Lambert is the winner of the 2009 Procrastinating Writers essay contest. SARA–I’ve been trying to contact you for a week! Please e-mail me ASAP to claim your prizes: jennifer@procrastinatingwriters.com.

The second place winner is Alanna Klapp.

The third place winner is Karin Englund.

The second and third place essays will be published on Procrastinating Writers next week.

Thank you to all who entered the contest!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linda March 3, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Sara, thank you for writing this! I have a friend similar to yours, and I could not have near the number of words completed without that “cheerleader in the background”.

You are such an inspiration–please keep us posted on your future writing efforts and certainly announce when you are published 😉

2 Tony McFadden March 4, 2010 at 7:36 am

Ah, NaNoWriMo. When I first say that hashtag on Twitter I thought it had to do with comic-con, or so something equally esoteric.

It was MY kick-start. I started late (because I had no idea what it was – thanks to @WriteRCastle for point me (us) in the right direction – but won, and started a habit. I’ve got a full time job, so das that I go to the office I get up at 4 and put in at least 90 minutes of writing, or editing, or revising.

Congratulations on the word count, and the efforts. It’s a habit that’s now hard to break, isn’t it?

I’ve got 2 novels (75k each) in the bottom drawer waiting for a final edit (starting this weekend) and a short story ready to go to a publisher this week.

All because I stopped stopping.

3 Tony McFadden March 4, 2010 at 7:39 am

Wow, the typos. I’m a typro.

“…first say that…” = “…first saw that…”


“…so das that I go…” = “…so days that I go…”

4 Alanna Klapp March 4, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Congratulations Sara, on your winning essay! Reading your story (and Tony’s comments) gives me hope! I’ve been sporadically working on a novel since July of 2005, and though I have pages of character bios and plot lines and some scenes written I still have yet to get to the first draft. I’m going to try and find a friend like yours and get up the guts to do Na-No-Wri-Mo! Best of luck to you; when you’re published I’ve love to read your book! Congrats again!

5 Kerrie March 7, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Sounds so familiar…

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