How do I procrastinate? Let me count the ways
Any amateur can slack off, but fine procrastination is an art. Social networking, blogging, family visits, and housecleaning are obvious slacker favorites. Pausing to do laundry because your lucky writing shirt—the only one that can possibly be worn for the next scene—is in the hamper? Coming up with something like that requires a little more thought. It’s incumbent on us as professionals to hold a higher standard of work avoidance.
I always draft my plots on large pieces of newsprint. I can say with some pride that I successfully wasted at least an hour wrestling the roll out from the back of an overpacked closet. The fact that my cat was helping accounted for twenty of those minutes. Pets are some of the best procrastination tools ever, and I’m not too proud to employ every strategic advantage.
And then there’s the research excuses—every so often a chapter can’t possibly progress until you ferret some obscure fact out of the ether. When things aren’t going well, those occasions usually become too numerous to mention. I mean, I really needed to know every how many buttons an eighteen-century infantry captain’s coat had, right?
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this especially when we can’t afford the time?
Elaborate procrastination schemes can be part of writer’s block, or caused by something as simple as a bout of laziness. More often than not, I find it’s due to being a) tired and bored or b) the story’s stuck. Discipline can solve the first. The second is most often a symptom of sloppy thinking. The story gets vague and hard to manage, and I’m not quite sure why. When that happens, there’s usually something I haven’t thought through—either character or plot. That’s when it’s time to back off and do some basic writerly homework. A solid ten minutes of diagnosis and repair can prevent days of dancing around the problem.
Unless, of course, a vacation is the point. When that happens, I think it’s better to just admit you’re going AWOL and ditch the guilt.
What are your best procrastination techniques? How do you break through them?