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.

A Time and Place for Procrastination

Hi. My name is Lynette. I’m a procrastinator. I get high learning new things. Jumping onto the internet for one bit of research and following one link to another link to another is more fun than falling down a rabbit hole. Doing repetitive chores—not so exciting. Chances are, you are a procrastinator also. Will you ever stop being a procrastinator? No. It’s part of human nature. But there are ways to reprogram yourself. Ways to avoid procrastinating what you want and need to get done.

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Research has shown that people who have seen a digitally aged picture of themselves save more money. The theory is that having seen their older self, they can imagine being old. That motivates them to save for that day.

What if you’re already retired or saving for retirement? Visualization can be your path to productivity. Visualize what finishing the task would look and feel like. If you’re an artist, draw that image. If you use Pinterest, find an image that illustrates your success. Take a photograph. Write a description using specific details. Make it real, instead of something vague.

Nothing More than Feelings

Have a task you always put-off? Notice what you are feeling when you procrastinate. Record those feelings and which tasks they revolve around. At the end of a week or a month, look at what you’ve documented. Find the patterns. Identify the feelings you associate with that task. 

Are you tired and can’t concentrate? Perhaps you need to do this task at the time of day when you’re most awake and productive. 

Ask yourself why. Why do you not want to do this thing? Explore your feelings. 

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Gamification turns your boring, dreaded work into a game. Like using a fitness tracker, you earn badges and rewards for each level of accomplishment. The idea is if you consistently reward yourself for the job you put-off you will learn to enjoy the work.

You can use an app to gamify your task. Available apps include Habitica (Apple and Android), Epic Win (Apple and Android), LifeRPG (Android only), Task Hammer (Android only), and SuperBetter (apple & Android). Each app has different features and prices. (I have not used any of these nor am I an affiliate for any of them).

You can also use your own personal way to gamify the task. Use a spreadsheet to track your progress. For example, you achieve x within a certain amount of time, you get 15 minutes of play on your favorite online game. Your rewards increase for increased productivity. 

A Time and Place to Procrastinate

Give yourself permission to procrastinate. But keep it under your control. Use a timer. Schedule a day or half-day for procrastination. Many experts recommend taking procrastination away from your regular work area. So when procrastination overcomes you, go into another room. Train your brain to not associate procrastination with your work. Except when it’s taking out the garbage. That one, you’ll need to gamify the heck out of. 

Procrastination, Procrastination Go Away

No, no matter what techniques you use or how much you gamify your life and work, you won’t stop procrastinating. Forgive yourself. Give a time and place for your procrastination. Find the tools to be productive in spite of the falling into the occasional rabbit hole.

Valentine’s Day: Procrastinator’s Delight

I thought I was the only one who found Valentine’s Day a procrastinator’s delight. There are 141 million Valentine’s Day cards exchanged each year, not including the boxes of cards school-age children exchange.  More than 50% of those cards are bought in the six days immediately preceding Valentine’s Day? That’s a lot of procrastinators!

Did you know that more than 50% of Valentine's Day cards are bought in the six days immediately preceding the holiday? I thought I was the only one who found Valentine's Day a procrastinator's delight. (Not!)

Are you a Valentine’s Day procrastinator desperately needing a gift idea for your sweetie? Have no fear, there are links below to suit anyone’s budget.

Want to know dazzle your sweetheart with more facts about Valentine’s Day?  Go to History.com.

Try making your own card with one of the sweet love quotes Huffington Post found.

Looking for something different?  Here are some ‘non-cheesy’ date ideas on Your Tango. A burlesque show?  If any of you try that one, let me know how it works out.

Cosmopolitan has some great gift ideas for guys. It even tells you how much you should spend on a gift based on how long you’ve been dating.  (What?  Married folk don’t count?!)

Spare no expense, you say?  Well then, CNN has a slideshow of wildly expensive gifts.  Honey, if you’re reading this, I could really go for the 24-karat gold purse.  (Just kidding!)

Someone out there will most likely get a diamond.  I have my diamond ring thanks to my darling husband, but I do love sparkly rings.  Maybe this Valentine’s Day I could have a . . . .

Did you know that more than 50% of Valentine's Day cards are bought in the six days immediately preceding the holiday? I thought I was the only one who found Valentine's Day a procrastinator's delight. (Not!)

Power Ring!

Tell me, do you and your sweetie exchange Valentine’s Day gifts? What’s the best gift or card you’ve ever given or gotten? Did your love purchase it in advance or just a couple of days before the holiday?

Are you a planner (purchase your gifts or cards more than 6 days beforehand) or a procrastinator (purchase gifts and cards 6, or fewer, days ahead)? Is Valentine’s Day your procrastinator’s delight?