Procrastination, a Writer’s Tool

Procrastination is my middle name. Okay, not really. Some people would say I have writer’s block. I disagree. Procrastination is a writer’s tool. Or it can be.

Image of a street sign "procrastination" atop a stop sign.

Writer’s Block vs Tool

About a year ago I wrote a post about writer’s block and how its individual. Each writer who experiences it gets their own individual flavor. I thought that procrastination was a symptom of writer’s block. That’s one way to describe it, but I think it’s a negative way to describe it.

Wrong Turn

Writing is part cerebral and part dreaming. One part can freeze up while the other part keeps marching onward. The words pile up on the page and are a cerebral work or fragments of dream-like images that have no interconnectedness. You read back the words and don’t have any idea where you were headed. When this happens to me, it’s a sign that I’ve turned down a one-way, dead-end street. Most of the time I don’t recognize it. There are no street signs that warn me.

That’s when procrastination is a tool. Procrastination is my writing tool, whether or not I want it to be.

Procrastination 

If you do a Google search, “Is Procrastination bad” you’ll get more than nine million results. Articles will tell you procrastination is bad, good, a potential sig of a health problem, and everything in between. 

PsychCentral provides a balanced list of ten reasons it’s bad and ten reasons it’s good.

Is Procrastination a Habit

Being a caregiver, my days are irregular. Caregiving happens in snatches of activity throughout the day. I usually get an hour or two at a time during which I can work.

Most days I can sit down at my desk and turn on the words. My burst of creativity is relatively short. An hour or two or maybe half a day. Occasionally, it can be quite a bit longer—but not as a routine.

image of a desktop with an open book, an open laptop  and a cup of coffee
wish my desk were this neat

Some days, maybe even most days, include a little bit of procrastination. That would include looking at some numbers, getting my desk set up just so, and drinking a cup or two of coffee. So yes, some of it is probably a habit. But there’s a time when it’s also a tool.

When Procrastination Hits

On the days I’ve hit the dead end, my attention span is that of a gnat. I can’t seem to focus—on anything.

Today I watched America’s Got Talent (AGT) videos on YouTube. A single piece of music and a story of someone actively working on their dream often gets me writing. Today, after the AGT video finished, the next video that played was unusual. I watched John Edwards do psychic readings of audience members. Screech. Full stop. What did I do?

Do I Believe in Psychics? 

Yes and no. I’m skeptical but not cynical. I believe rare people have special talents. Are they psychic? Hm. That’s a discussion for another day. I need to get back to writing.

What does a psychic reading have to do with writing? Does it mean I should add a psychic to my story? Don’t worry—I’m not going there in this story. 

What Good is Procrastination?

So what did I get from watching two unique types of things? People’s story. Snippets of real people’s lives—their grief, their hopes and joy, and their pain. And that’s what stories are made of. No, I won’t use any of those people’s stories in the second book of the Fellowship Dystopia. But both AGT and the psychic readings reminded me of things people do when they have hope and what they do when they have pain. People who go to a psychic go because they need to work through their grief. They think (or hope) if their loved one is okay, that they’ll be okay. It’s usually not that simple. Perhaps that’s what my subconscious (some would say my muse) wanted me to remember. Life isn’t simple.

Did Procrastination Work?

I may never know exactly why I needed to watch those two things today. But I know that when my inner writer had heard enough, the video got turned off, and the words started coming.

As a writer, I’ve learned to listen to my subconscious. Procrastination is a tool, a writer’s tool for me. Procrastination can work, but you can’t let it distract you so much that you get nothing done. Will it work for you? I don’t know. But if you’re a creative, listen to your subconscious. It will tell you what you need.

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