Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Writer’s Guide to Procrastination

Procrastination keeps coming up in the How To Write Fast course I’m teaching, so I thought I’d take it on here. Writers are creative folks, but I’m not sure they’ve exhausted the possible excuses for avoiding their works in progress. I take it as an obligation to provide some help.
Dodging writing before you start
  • Prioritization – Put writing at the top of your to-do list, but make it the last thing you take on in the day. If you do this, you might be so tired that it’s impossible to write.
  • Distractions – The path between you and your notebook, laptop, or journal is strewn with TV shows to watch, phone calls and chats, and especially social media. Don’t pass of any of these. They have the great virtue of making time pass without your noticing.
  • Saying yes – Clever people always have tasks to hand out. That gives them more time to do the things they love. All you have to do is approach them, and you’ll be asked to pitch in. This combines the virtues of giving you a good excuse not to write and generosity.
  • Research – You can always find out more about your subject, and maybe you’ll get the chance to see some great cat videos along the way (see Distractions, above).
  • Rumination – Let’s face it, the story will be so much if you take more time thinking it over. Rumination works best when you are watching cat videos. Yay!
  • Too big a job – You are absolutely prepared to put your time in, but today’s work on your manuscript needs a big block of time. Better put it off until you have enough consecutive hours to do it justice.

Dodging writing when your fingers are poised over the keyboard
  • Adjusting the chair – Or cleaning your computer display. Or straightening up your desk. Or optimizing the lighting. Or changing the thermostat. Something in your environment is out of whack and needs fixing, that’s for sure.
  • I’m hungry – Thirsty. In need of caffeine. Feeling a headache coming on. Worn out (see Prioritization above). Time to get up and get a snack, drink of water, cup of coffee, aspirin or nap. Naps are really good. Time really passes.
  • Bored! – I hate rewriting, proofing, composing, whatever anyway. Maybe another manuscript offers more fun (see Distractions, above).
  • Not ready – I need to fix the last chapter before I move on. I don’t have this thought out (see Rumination above).
  • Need to know more -- I need to do some research first (see Research, above).
  • I need to check on something important – The kids. Email. Dinner. Stock prices. Sports scores. Weather.

There. I'm happy to provide this list as a public service. No need to thank me (unless it’s a good distraction for you). If I’ve left anything out, please let me know. I’m sure you can burn some time thinking of new ways to procrastinate.

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