Procrastination as Art

Okay, here’s the deal, I have an addiction.  My name’s James and I’m a procrastinator.

“Hello, James,” says a choir of similarly afflicted souls.  If only there were a 12 step group for my addiction.  I procrastinate when I write, when I edit and especially when I’m planning a new project. When it comes to procrastination, my skills are so highly developed, if procrastination were an art form, I’d be named a veritable Grand Master.

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image courtesy of mojo40.com

I enjoy writing, creating a character and putting that fictional protagonist through the wringer.  My time at the keyboard and notebook are something that I look forward to every day.  So why procrastinate? Writer’s block?  Nope, I know what I want to put on the page.  With a bit of wordsmithing, the plot lines fill in and the characters scheme, transform and come to life.  Creating a backstory, or an intricate web of lies, passion and danger aren’t the problem.  I manage to find reasons to push away from the desk.

Bargaining with the Writing Devil – that’s what it seems like to me.  I come up with bargains to “earn” my time back at the keyboard. I need to mow the lawn, dogs need a walk, I need to build a table, or  like this morning, rose bushes needed transplanting.  Need, need, need, always something to pull my attention away from writing.  Then, and only then, can I put my butt in the chair and turn all the words loose.   Don’t get me wrong, I get a kick out of working the dogs, tending to the lawn and crafting furniture, but if I try to write with these things left unattended, a dark little spider web of distraction grows in the far nether reaches of my mind.

OCD, you say? Possibly.  Every writer possesses a degree of obsession.   If you’re not invested and truly obsessed about what you’re writing about, it shows.  So, why do I  feel like a meth-addicted ferret, twitching until every fire of distraction is extinguished?

In part, I need to give my writer-self “permission” to write.  With all obligations, chores and errands out of the path, my mind clears and I can settle in for a few hours worth of wordplay.  There is always that internal self-editor chirping away at every keystroke, belittling your word choices and whispering a sweet siren’s song of procrastination.  “Stop wasting your time.  Go outside and relax.  This – this story you’re writing, it will be here when you get back.”

There are days when the self editor’s voice becomes obnoxious and my self discipline starts to crumble.  Before I succumb to its promise of shiny distraction, I have to grab it by the throat, tie it up, shove a ball gag in its beak and toss it down the basement stairs.  (Metaphorically speaking, as I have neither a basement, nor a collection of ball gags)

A schedule does help channel the distraction and keep the temptation of procrastination at bay.  I try to keep my writing time protected, but as a Grand Master of Procrastination, I decide it’s time to check out what’s happening on Twitter, or clean up my unread e-mail.  That’s where the schedule comes into play and reminds me that I have time – later – to play with all the toys that compete for a share of my writing time.

For me, there are certain times that trigger bouts of procrastination. The first step in overcoming your addiction is admitting you have a problem. When I’m drafting the last chapters of a novel, or outlining a new story, the pull is especially strong.  Then again, when its sunny out, a hockey game is on, or when the dogs tell me they want a walk, I have to take a moment, find some balance, and make it all fit.

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How can you say no to these guys?

In a strange way procrastination forces me to strike a balance in the everyday. In a former bureaucratic life, I didn’t have much balance. I’m fortunate now, to do the things I enjoy and I’ve turned procrastination into my muse, to make sure I don’t miss out on all the good things around me. Instead of overcoming procrastination, I embrace it. It has become a pressure release valve to ensure I don’t take myself, or anything that I do, too seriously.

I manage to put in my daily writing time and hit my 1,000 word target most of the time. I don’t beat myself up when I fall short of the word count, and I keep the self-editing voice bound and gagged in the basement. With attention to the things that demand time, each in their turn, I can write without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else.

So, with all the shiny, pretty, time-suckers put away, I now sneak away to my desk with “permission” to write.

Thanks for stopping by. What’s your source of procrastination? I’d love to hear what stops you from keeping your butt in the writing chair.

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3 comments

  1. I am entirely the same way, especially right now. I feel guilty writing: I have to give myself permission as well because there’s always something “productive” I should be doing. It’s a problem!!! I’m going through a slump too (as you know from my blog) and it happens to us all. We will power through! 🙂

  2. I think we’ve had this discussion before, James. But, for anyone else reading your comments to this blog let me say: I’ve used, since Jan. 1st of this year the “Don’t Break The Chain Calendar.” I commit to two hours a day, every day, no exception! I’ve included the link here. It’s free, so why not? If it isn’t a hot link, then it can be pasted to your browser. Here it is: http://www.writersstore.com/dont-break-the-chain-calendar/.

    Now, let me say a word about the quality of your post. You have a powerful writing style, James, that lets me know you’ve not been procrastinating so much as not to have developed the craft of writing. Your post is a joy to read. I think I’ve already subscribed. If not, I have now!

    Jay

    1. Jay,
      Thanks very much for your kind and generous comments about the blog. Now the heat is on to keep earning your support. *gulp*

      I Appreciate the link on the Don’t Break The Chain Calendar. I recall seeing that calendar somewhere, but I’d completely forgotten about the tool. Such a simple concept, but it does work – keep writing every day.

      Thank you

      J

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