On Procrastination in Writing

procrastinationA huge portion of my “writing process” is procrastinating. If I have something really big due, I basically have to build in time to put it off. I clean, I organize, I work on other stuff that isn’t as pressing. Then, finally, when I absolutely must, and/or when I have run out of all other things to do, I write.

This is bizarre behavior. But it is not uncommon among writers.

Megan McArdle wrote a piece for The Atlantic showing how common this is among professional writers. Though she theorizes that it’s a fear of failure that drives us to procrastinate, which doesn’t totally ring true to me. That’s never really been a thing for me. I have plenty of hangups, but that’s just not one of them. In fact, my 20s are a testament to my willingness to wallow in failure.

I don’t think there’s a concrete explanation beyond this: Writing is hard. Writing a first draft of anything is hard. You start with a blank page, and then you have to make something of it. We tend to put off complicated tasks in favor of easier ones. Cleaning the apartment doesn’t look that great when compared with watching another episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. But it looks great compared with writing an entire chapter. We know it doesn’t even end with writing the chapter, because first drafts suck. There will still be revision and editing.

If you’re feeling badly about your own procrastination, and/or need a way to procrastinate right now, enjoy this list of weird stuff some authors throughout history have done to procrastinate. Then get to work already.

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11 comments

  1. I tend to write (blog posts mainly) in spurts, have several good ideas/inspirations (I think) that I write about, then schedule them to post every second day or so. Then I can go for a few weeks when nothing inspires me.

  2. Reblogged this on rvluckyorwhat and commented:
    Oooh yes. Yes, yes, yes. As a freelancer, I always have a clean house before I absolutely must write. From my years in publishing, I confirm it was a common joke that the editor-in-chief’s “desk” or magazine editorial opener would have a deadline every month that was on the calendar, but the column wouldn’t appear until five minutes before the issue was sent to the printer. 🙂

  3. I believe that while procrastinating, your brain has not forgotten about the writing task at hand…it needs time for things to marinate thus the laundry list of things to do instead of sitting down to write. At least that’s what I tell myself. Happy procrastinating!

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