I excel at procrastination. Seriously, if it were a college major I would have an honorary degree. The problem is my procrastination is focused. I never procrastinate at my job, paying bills, or doing things for my friends, I only procrastinate writing.
My procrastination never feels justified. I am not someone who can rationalize my way out of the guilt I feel whenever I put writing off. I have a friend, a really talented artist, who regularly spends her time searching for new paints. When I ask her how her work has been coming, she says that she has been busy searching for new ways to express her art so she hasn’t been painting. This is procrastination-rationalization (procrationalization?) at its prime because it makes total sense. But here she is, a painter who doesn’t paint.
I am equally if not more guilty.
I procrastinate by finding problems. I recently moved into a new apartment that has a lot of issues. The linoleum in the bathroom is coming up, the air conditioner doesn’t work, the lock is finicky, the walls are gross, etc. etc. etc. And so for about a week, I haven’t written a thing. I spend my spare time fixing up the apartment, because I tell myself I need to. Honestly? The walls aren’t that dirty. The lock is finicky, but it works. The linoleum should really only take three or four minutes to fix and I can’t fix an air conditioner anyways. Once I cleaned the walls, I noticed that the fan blades were dusty, so I cleaned those. After vacuuming the living room for the third time this week, I noticed that stucco-ceiling had some dust on it, which meant I would need to wipe that off and then vacuum again. I invent problems. These are things that don’t matter, but I use them as an excuse to avoid sitting down and staring at a blank page.
I procrastinate by playing video games. I stopped enjoying video games about two years ago, but I still play. It kills time. It is something to do between the hours of 5-12 when I am not working or sleeping. I tell myself that it is because I am exploring new mediums of writing and storytelling, but to be honest I do not really pay attention to that when I am playing. There are very talented writers who apply their craft to video games, I am not one of them.
I procrastinate by reading about writing. This is, to me, by far my worst procrastination technique because it is so easily justifiable. I still feel just as guilty afterwords, but in the moment it is so easy to convince myself that I am reading to improve my technique. I wrote a blog post a week ago called “Don’t be Stupid” about this exact thing. I pretend I don’t know what I am doing, and so I seek the advice of other authors. Don’t get me wrong, I believe community is important and I also thing that reading about writing and craft is valuable. But after the writing has been done. If you don’t write, there is no reason to read about writing. I spend so many hours a week doing this I can’t even begin to talk about it.
Almost equally as dangerous: I procrastinate by keeping a journal. I write in my journal daily, and I have faithfully for a few years. Whenever I realize I should sit down and write, I tell myself that I already wrote in my journal that day, or that I already did a post for this blog and that those forms of writing should somehow count as my work for the day. It doesn’t.
So what do we do? Something that helps me is setting a goal. I set my desktop background as a white screen with “2000 Words” written on it. 2000 words a day, that is my goal. When I do write and I meet that goal, I feel so much more productive. I feel like I have accomplished something. Nothing else I do feels like procrastination.
What are some ways you procrastinate, and ways you sit down (or stand up, I don’t know what you do) to do you work?