How Writers Procrastinate
used to believe that I never procrastinated. Maybe I was better then,
but it’s also true that I think I was blind to the ways I
procrastinated. I didn’t procrastinate the things that other
people did, like doing the dishes or laundry or taking the garbage
out. I didn’t procrastinate those things because I was busy
using those things to procrastinate the things I really hated, like
sitting down and writing the book that was in my soul.
experience is that pretty much every writer I know is good at
procrastinating. And sometimes, to be honest, it makes sense to wait,
because it allows our subconscious time to do some work on our ideas
before we spit them out. That said, I think most of us could use a
lot more help in the direction of getting the work done. And by that,
I do not mean simply sitting in a chair with a computer in front of
you. For one thing, these days, if you’ve got an internet
connection, you can procrastinate all day long every day for years
without typing a single word on your manuscript. For another thing,
just because my hands are typing words into the computer doesn’t
mean I’m actually working on the project I’m supposed to.
me, for instance, right now, writing about procrastination instead of
working on the actual manuscript I need to work on. Two, in fact.
This is easier. And that’s the main reason we procrastinate.
What’s easier for you isn’t necessarily what’s
easier for me, so our methods of procrastination may look very
different from the outside.
are some of the things I see writers doing to procrastinate:
1. I have to get clean the entire house before I can write. A tidy house
means a tidy mind, right?
2. I need to catch up on emails first.
Yeah, and then what? You’ll find something else to do.
3. I need to do RESEARCH. Seriously, this wins the best procrastination
prize. You’ll never be done doing enough research. I guarantee
4. I don’t know how the story ends. So I’m going
to sit and wait until it hits me in the face (or the muse comes down
and whispers it to me). Ha! For most of us, the way to find out how
the story ends is to get to work writing it (and I include outlining
in this, which can be very useful).
5. What if someone steals my
idea? You’d think this is just a crazy fear, and it is. But
it’s also a super handy way to procrastinate. If I spend all my
time worrying about people stealing my ideas and how to prevent that,
then I don’t actually have to do any writing.
terrified I’ll offend my family/someone. Yup, another excuse
not to write. We offend people all the time and seem to be fine with
it, talking, posting stuff on Facebook. But sitting down to write
something? Oh, we can’t do that. You’re not scared of
offending someone. You’re scared of writing and not being good
7. I want it to be perfect the first time through. Welcome
to the club. We all want that, and we will never get it. Yes, there
are writers who write cleaner first drafts than I do (I want to stab
them all). But no one gets it all right the first time. If they think
they do, they’re wrong. Waiting to get every sentence right is
just a way of procrastinating the dirty work of starting.
want to have an agent or some guarantee that this will be published
before I get started. Hahahahahahahahhahah! But seriously, just sit
down and write. There are no guarantees in writing or in life. Maybe
try to remember that you’re practicing to be a better writer.
No one pays a concert pianist for their practice hours, right?
I’m working on book sixteen in my series. I have to have them
all finished before I start revising the first one. Hey, I’m
all for writing, but if you’re using writing to procrastinate
editing and learning, well, that’s pretty clever.
writing this book I think will sell instead of the book that I should
be writing because it’s the book of my heart because I’m
is scared. Want to know why? Because writing is scary. It may be the
hardest thing you’ve ever done. It will make you vulnerable.
You will hurt people. You may hurt yourself as you discover the truth
about who you are through your writing process. You
will never feel like you did it perfectly, and that may always bother
So what? Get to work!
Read more by Mette Ivie Harrison