In Praise of Procrastination

View from the window - an invitation to procrastinate

View from the window – an invitation to procrastinate

I am a procrastinator par excellence. My motto is, “Why do something today if you can put it off until tomorrow?” I wrote my university essays at midnight, fuelled by industrial-strength coffee; I submit my competition entries at the last minute; and I’m often to be found tapping away frantically with a client’s deadline looming only hours away.

The world is divided into procrastinators and non-procrastinators. It’s probably no good trying to change if you fall into the former camp (although if you have any tips, let me know).

A lot of ink has been expended on procrastination and writing – and, of course, why it’s such a bad thing. I freely admit that surfing the internet in the interests of “research” is one of my worst habits. What I am really doing is looking at my book’s Amazon rankings, fiddling about on Facebook, reading “useful” blog posts, etc. – displacement activity.

But is procrastination so bad? Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, I can see ways in which it might be helpful to writers to indulge in it a bit. It can actually be part of the writing process.

I believe that some of my creative writing is better for being produced at the last minute. I feel it has greater freshness and spontaneity. That’s not to say that it shouldn’t be re-drafted and edited (although there might be precious little time for that) – more that the initial inspiration comes when I’m up against it and not when I have oodles of time to think about it.

Procrastinating doesn’t always mean that nothing is going on beneath the surface. You might sit in front of a blank screen/page and inspiration or the right idea will refuse to appear. So you put it aside, get on with something easier and think, “I’ll do it tomorrow, instead.” Or you might not even get as far as the stage of the blank screen/page.

Discouraging though this is, your brain continues to work on it and then the answer pops out without warning. This has happened to me often enough to realise that the old grey matter is ticking away subconsciously.

Going right up to the wire is, of course, a nerve-racking process. It allows no margin for error or for other eventualities. I don’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t already a serial procrastinator. However, I feel writers who are can turn it to their advantage. It isn’t all bad, perhaps.

You might also like:

Seven Suggestions on How to Find Inspiration
Milestones or millstones? Or how to stop beating yourself up when your writing goals elude you
NaNo or NoNo? How to Survive National Novel Writing Month

Copyright © Vanessa Couchman 2016. All rights reserved.

9 thoughts on “In Praise of Procrastination

  1. Pingback: Write Despite – Procrastination | Vanessa Couchman, author

  2. How’s this for procrastination. When I first heard you had also written a novel about Corsica, I was determined to buy and read it. That seemed like eons ago. Today, as I plan for a week on my own (the children and grandchildren with whom I live are off to Disneyland and a snow trip), I finally downloaded The House at Zaronza this morning and will spend my free time this week reading it. Downloading is a start!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved reading this. Thank you on behalf of all displacement activists everywhere. Alas, I too am a chronic procrastinator. I try to hide the fact by showing promising initial progress with things but, as soon as the first difficulty appears over the horizon, I quickly down tools while I square up to the problem and decide how to overcome it. At least that’s how my self-talk rationalises things. In fact, I confess it’s the problem solving I like best. It’s a personal indulgence I can’t resist. Which means I spend inordinate amounts of time identifying and understanding the issue, and finding the largest possible number of ways to resolve it – some of them (my favourites, as a rule) ranging from barely practical to impossibly off-the-wall. Then there’s the cost/benefit analysis, including the inevitable anxiety about whether quality can be assured while meeting cost and time constraints and, if not, which of those three task masters will have to be disappointed this time (or if more than one, in equal shares, as I believe it says somewhere in my Will). Dare I mention also some sort of risk assessment? I thought not. With any luck, my next project will have gone live and reached its initial wave of problems long before I actually have to implement anything to progress its predecessor. It’s a never ending round of starting things and not finishing them. Enough – I’m sure there are things I should be doing, even now!

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    • This resonates with me – and sorry to take so long to respond, but I’ve been procrastinating in the interim! I think I’m with you in that the problem solving is the intellectually most satisfying part of the issue. After that, I lose interest…

      Like

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