Friday Fun – Procrastination

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, writing-related question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: It’s not a matter of if but how: we all procrastinate. What do you do to avoid the blank page, circumvent the looming deadline, squirm around the writing assignment? And do you think procrastination is just a waste of time, or is there something to it?

Deborah Lee Luskin: It’s a love/hate thing. I hate procrastinating even though 1) I do it all the time, and 2) I know that “stuff” is percolating in my distracted brain even as I’m playing computer solitaire. I’m working towards getting right down to work – but sometimes, I just have to play one more game. Just one more . . .




Wendy Thomas: I am a HUGE procrastinator in some things (like cleaning the house.) In other ways I’m prepared well before the event (I’m one of those who like to get my Christmas shopping done by the end of November.) I’d say though, that my 6 kids have taught me to be a bit more of a doer than a putter-offer. I make endless lists, and from those lists, I can see my exact progress during each day. As I  hate to not make my daily goals, if its on my list I usually get it done in time and when I don’t it’s the first thing that greets me the next day.

There are a few big personal writing projects that haven’t seen the light of day. In those cases, I don’t know if I’m procrastinating due to fear or not but this is going to be the year of “just do it,” so to get over that procrastination bump, I’ve actually scheduled appointments in my calendar to sit down and work on those projects. We’ll see how that goes.

Jamie Lee Wallace: Ah, procrastination – the demon who whispers in my ear and lures me from my task to spend “just a few minutes” on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. The reasonable voice of “responsibility” that quietly suggests that now might be a good time to sort through my inbox, straighten my desk, or scrub the toilet … in short, ANYthing but put words on the page. I procrastinate all the time. My favorite (and possibly only) cure for my wandering attention is to take my work down to the local coffee shop. Don’t laugh. It works. They don’t have any WiFi there and there’s no reason for me to leave my seat – no dishes to put away or laundry to fold, no tea to make, no snack cupboard to rifle through. All I can do is sit and write, or sit and do nothing which makes me look weird. The funny thing about procrastination is that once I get just one step ahead of it and start to put a few words down, it loses all its power. Almost always, as soon as I start to chip away at the “dreaded” task, I find out it’s not really as bad as all that. Funny how that happens.

Julie Hennrikus: Hands down, the single best procrastination tool I have is my computer and the internet. If I am focused, I check email, read and respond to tweets quickly, check on Facebook and update or respond to posts and then I move on to the task. But if I am dreading what I have to do, I easily get lost following threads, reading blogs, making sure my Google reader is clear. And don’t even get me started on seek and find games or Angry Birds.

That said, I have begun to realize that procrastination is a device I often use to regroup, or give my brain a rest. I get back to the tube, but in my overscheduled life, sometimes investigating Pinterest isn’t such a bad thing.

Susan Nye: Since I love to write, I don’t do a lot of squirming at the keyboard. It usually only happens when I’m not crazy about, even bored with a topic. Sometimes it’s been assigned and I have no choice. Sometimes I’m on a deadline and it’s what I came up with.

What do I do to avoid this tedious work? I allow myself to be distracted. I read and send emails. I peruse Facebook. I visit Twitter. I check my blog stats. I google something.

This avoidance is a waste of time. It takes twice as long to get the project done. It wouldn’t be so bad if I filled the time with useful endeavors like weeding the garden or cleaning the house. When I’m honest about what I’m doing … avoiding work … I go skiing, take a walk, read a book. A much better approach to procrastination.

19 thoughts on “Friday Fun – Procrastination

  1. For me procrastination is a symptom of a bigger problem- whatever I’m trying to write just does not want to be written quite yet. Sometimes I can sidle up to it and just write the parts that don’t make me squirm and other times I have to walk around the block with the dog to get my brain unstuck. I am learning that the TV and the internet are the absolute worst paths for me- I can waste a whole day and not even miss it. My new rule is that I can procrastinate as long as I’m doing something productive- dishes, walking the dog, sorting laundry. Eventually the writing is the most desirable task on the list and my brain says “ok, let’s write now- I really don’t want to wash that pot.”

  2. It’s funny, but I can relate to all of your experiences with procrastination. I’ve long since begun to think of procrastination as an old frienemy. It’s like a constant game of rock-paper-scissors, if I win I find the pressure to be highly motivating and I get this burst of energy and enthusiasm, but when procrastination wins I get lazy and easily distracted even if I push myself to do what I would rather put off. But I’ve found myself losing the game a lot lately so I’m trying to implement a schedule for myself that allows time for distractions and life, so far it’s working, but I’m only on day two…

  3. Procrastination for me is about choosing which task to do while avoiding another–seldom doing nothing at all. So if writing that scene is hard–not coming easily, I will do another task first. Usually I choose an easier task or if feeling stressed I choose one that’s more fun–computer canasta. I try not to look at procrastination as a bad thing. I could use guilt to make me more productive but I don’t respond well to guilt. Lists help–I can choose which one on the list to do, but somedays that list has nothing checked off. I remain philosophical most of the time–if it gets done, great, if not, oh well. If I have a deadline, it gets done, but maybe not until tomorrow.

  4. Oh yeah. Great post. My procrastination falls into two different camps. Sometimes, its the percolating kind. Sometimes spacing out in front of the computer is actually opening space in my head. I’m learning not to be too hard on myself for these times — because I do find that for every morning spent facebooking (and reading and commenting on blogs!) there’s a morning spent writing hard. Sometimes, though, I am not writing because I am in some way triggered. Either I’m unconsciouly upset about something that happened earlier, or I am in some kind of fear about what’s to come. In those time, if I can tap into what’s really going on for me (rather then what I think I should be doing) then I can move through it.

  5. I don’t like to think of it as procrastinating so much as maybe processing, you know, letting the subconscious work it out as long as it can so that when I actually get to the business of whatever it is I am suppose to do, then I don’t have to waste so much time actually ‘doing’ it. That I have the best possible answers, or strategies, or tools in place to get the job done quickly.
    And if you believe that, I have a wonderful piece of real estate in Florida……
    Truth is, I am a horrible, chronic procrastinator. I will wait until situation critical before I actually begin doing what needs done. However, there is an up side; I really do tend to do well under pressure. Maybe I’m an adrenaline junkie. Whatever, I do it and I’ve learned to live with it to some degree. Thankfully things get done and I move on. So far……

  6. My greatest source of procrastination comes from spending time with my husband (children are well-grown and living at some distance happily in their own homes with their own careers and kiddos!) and with my animals. Actually, my best writing comes while speaking outoud lines of poems that come into my head on my current theme over and over while rambling with the doggies, until they are memorize and I can tap them in quickly when going to the computer. I establish in my head how much and when I will write on any given day–and what type of writing task it will be. The only delays come from the critters, for the most part! But they are my main cheerleaders, so what can I do?

  7. Pingback: Little Princess and Procastinating « marisaporter

  8. I have two flavors of procrastination. At this moment, I am procrastinating. There are dirty dishes in the sink. I figure: it’s Friday night, I’ll do them tomorrow. Oh wait! I have to work tomorrow. Maybe later tonight? Putting off a domestic chore is usually not my problem. Typically, I delay tackling the pile of student essays by cleaning the kitchen. I put off writing lesson plans by scrubbing the sinks. I avoid writing the data report by doing laundry. All of these are tactics to delay the unpleasant chore.

    The other procrastination? That’s the one that truly hinders me and stunts my creativity. I’m not avoiding a tedious chore; on the contrary, I’m avoiding doing something I truly want to do. Rather than write the teaching strategies manual that was requested a month ago, I edit old images and sort through photo files in Lightroom. Instead of writing the article I’d promised myself I’d send out, I meander through the Internet, ostensibly doing research but, in reality, simply delaying finishing the article.

    Why do I do this? Fear of failure. Fear that someone will find my words (by extension, me) unworthy. Fear that my writing (I) will be rejected.

  9. Sometimes procrastination is your brain churning away in the background, working on whatever it is you think you’re not working on, until it’s ready to float to the surface and surprise you with how clever, insightful and creative you are. Sometimes. But more often – not.

    Before I got my act together as a writer I’d procrastinate over doing the most basic thing: a random, daily, creative writing exercise. It’s a particularly self-defeating form of writerly avoidance. For a long time I was much better at castigating myself than actually doing something about it. Finally, in an excess of self-directed frustration, I came up with an online, interactive web app. My idea was that writers would have a choice of story snippets, and 1000 characters and 15 minutes in which to continue one of them. What they wrote would then become the next snippet in that story, to be continued by the next writer. Quick, anonymous, no commitment to the story as a whole. An exercise in catch-and-release inspiration. I got hold of some programmers and designers, took a chunk of cash out of my savings account, and we did it. I called it Scriptopus.

    Now, you will say with complete justification, this sounds like an excessively expensive and complicated solution to a simple and common problem. Not to mention an exercise in procrastination in its own right. True enough. But the thing is, it works. Yes, I spent six months or so distracted from everything else, but I had to do a shed-load of writing just to get it off the ground. It made writing a commitment instead of an aspiration, and I keep my commitments. I got into the groove. I’ve since written a novel. And I’ve gotten much better at being able to tell when my procrastination is the creative churn at work. If it’s not – back to the site I go, to take the baton of someone else’s idea and pass it on to the next traveller.

  10. “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” – Mary Heaton Vorse

    Still easier said than done – and so many other temptations now, when sitting in front of a computer.

  11. Procrastination – the greatest sin…I truly believe we procrastinate because there is only so much the brain can process before it speaks in exhaustion and must shut down or take a break. In my experience, when I push past procrastination I don’t do my best work, but when I pay attention to the signals from my body advising me to slow down and take a break, I listen. After a tad bit of rejuvenation, I feel rewarded in my work and am able to move forward. Usually, when I feel procrastination approaching, I read something simple, like a joke for the day; shut the door at my office for a few minutes; eat; listen to soothing music; or as I did tonight, I just slept. Did I have time to sleep? No, of course not, but I feel so much better now that I did. Ha, I’m procrastinating now in this posting…lol…

  12. I was writing daily and on the greatest of high from the time I spent doing it. Then the book dared to end, the characters revolted and informed I had to say enough. I don’t think I am procratinating, I am grieving. I’ve written several children’s books and one YA fictional story…not only am I feeling a sadness at letting go of the characters I had grown to love, I have NO idea what you do when you are done writing!

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