I’ve been meaning to write this entry about procrastination and the role it plays in our lives as writers. But I keep putting it off.
Okay, it’s been four days.
Six days now and I’m starting this for sure.
I knew a guy in Hollywood who wrote screenplays and sold everything he wrote. He told me he did laundry every day. Once he felt he just had to shampoo all of his carpets before he could sit and write. And he had deadlines!
Deadlines do help. I find the self-imposed ones don’t work for me. I can tell myself all day and through Tuesday that I must write X amount of pages or X amount of words by this time or that. I never accomplish it. Maybe I make my goals unattainable. Maybe I don’t even like myself telling me what to do. One thing I do know is that having a writers’ group helps. That is a deadline I find hard to ignore. We encourage each other to write, to bring pages to read and critique. So, in my group, you can only procrastinate for so long. It helps to know on Thrusday that I have to bring in a chapter on Friday. Amazing how the muse will find you when you really need her.
Procrastination does seem to come with the territory and I believe it serves a purpose. We should allow it sometimes and wallow in it. Mine usually takes the form of housecleaning. Or reading, which we all know can only improve our writing. Maybe while procrastinating our subconscious is working out plot points or coming up with surprising twists or character definition. When I’m procrastinating, I’m also percolating.
If you’re going to put off sitting down to that next chapter, that blank screen staring at you, daring you to be brilliant, there are some constructive ways to do it.
Cleaning, of course. As I finally sit down to edit my book, Alex Bullied, at least I know there is not a dirty towel in the house and company could eat off my floors.
Read. Better than zoning out in front of the TV or Youtube.
Exercise. Go walk the dog. Go take a swim. Play with the kids. Do something physical. This is good for the body and good for the brain.
Socialize. Antoher way I love to procrastinate — planning a party or small dinner. It works my creative muscles. And I get to talk about my book, if my friends let me. I’ve always loved a comic from years ago, two people talking at a cocktail party. One of them says, “Enough about me. Let’s talk about my book.” It’s almost too true to be funny.
Travel. Try to take a research trip for your book. But even it it has nothing to do with anything you’re writing, the time away will help clear your head, give you new ideas and refresh you. Bring a notebook!
So if you worship at the feet of Swami Procrastinada, as I do, do not despair. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be a real writer. In fact, it proves you are just that.