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.
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