Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Procrastination Station

Ah, procrastination. The life blood of writers, the bane of writers. At the same time.

I've always been a procrastinator, but I always get things in on deadline. How? Wait, wait, wait, dawdle, dawdle...think...GO! Write like a fiend, edit edit edit, proof, done!

Crazy, right? In college I would outline a paper ahead, but I would never start it until at least 6 PM the night before it was due. For some reason, that was just enough pressure so I could devote myself to it wholeheartedly. I'd be printing it out at 3 AM sometimes, sure--and I did have at least one panicky night when the printer stopped working--but I always got it done, and I always got an A.

Fast-forward {cough} years. That kind of procrastination doesn't work while writing a novel on your own time, does it? I don't have anybody setting me deadlines. It's just me, my brain, and my keyboard. So, now I have a new kind. I still get things done, just with a different way of fooling myself.

Yep, blogs again. And other internet time-wasters.

--Open current draft of TMT. Find where I am, read a bit. Drag out the printed copy I did some edits on, incorporate if there are any changes. Read again.

--Go look at Google Reader, see if any of my blogs have been updated. Read half of one.

--Go back to TMT. Get an idea, fiddle with the scene. Add in some new text. Get really happy with adding new text, but realize there needs to be more.

--Get up and wander around, get some coffee.

--Come back and add the new thoughts. Fiddle. Re-read the whole scene, make a few changes.

--Go back and read the second half of the blog.

--Lather, rinse, repeat.

Another writer was asking if this kind of thing was normal, and apparently for a lot of us it is. I'm not sure what the trick is there, really, but it seems to HELP my productivity. It's like a conscious mind break, to give the subconscious a chance to process. I'm still writing, in the sense that I'm thinking about it even while I'm distracting myself, and I almost inevitably come back from a "blog break" with more ideas, or fresher, or with a different perspective.

Blogs as a healthy procrastination tool. Who knew?

Medieval Word of the Day: ignotum per ignotius: An attempt to explain what is obscure by something which is more obscure, leading to ‘confusion worse confounded’.


Anonymous said...

Dear Susan:
Yes. Yes, yes. I was fiddling with this idea yesterday after reading your post, asking myself why I do read these blogs. Part of it is to touch base with other writers, because my day-to-day life doesn't have any other writing support. But sometimes I stop writing to go check a blog. It's a compulsion, or maybe a reflex. My mind withdraws from the work, I bail out for a few minutes, read a blog (or fold a load of clothes) and go back.

Unfortunately, this habit doesn't go very well with the fact that I'm not feeling very motivated or inspired lately, so sometimes I don't make it back that day, so I can't say it helps my productivity all the time. Sometimes it does.

~ Cindy

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy I'm writing in the internet era. I can procrastinate without leaving the computer. I wonder what distractions pre-computer writers used most often to take a mental break?


Susan Adrian said...


[But sometimes I stop writing to go check a blog. It's a compulsion, or maybe a reflex. My mind withdraws from the work, I bail out for a few minutes, read a blog (or fold a load of clothes) and go back.]

Exactly. And usually for me it works; I DO go back. But then I know I really only have an hour a day to work with, which helps. (Deadline pressure? hmmmm)


Susan Adrian said...


Yes, TG for the Internet. I imagine there were all sorts of tricks for pre-Internet writers, though. Go read and sort through your letters (I'm picturing Jane Austen, here). Go sit in the garden for a bit. Take the dog for a walk. The usual. {g}


JK said...


And somehow, I managed to do a little bit of Internet procrastination, as well as in-person [g]. Of course, having that one-hour deadline helps you out, I'm sure [g].


Anonymous said...


Geez-Louise, girl. You procrastinate that much and _still_ manage to get so much done?

It's official: I _will_ have to hurt you... [g]


Susan Adrian said...


This would be why I laughed when you said you wanted to learn time management from me. {g}


Beth said...

And here I am procrastinating, catching up on your blog archives. [g] You've done a good job here.

Those "breaks" can be useful, but for me, it has to be something mindless, like housework. If I do something that requires mental engagement at all, such as surfing blogs, reading e-mail, answering messages on the writers' forum, my sub-conscious completely disengages from The Work.

So if I do go wandering out onto the 'net when I'm supposed to be writing--I can just about kiss the writing good-bye for that session.

I also find that editing and revising is completely absorbing and I take few breaks, whereas creating new material comes in little fits and starts and necessitates frequent, short sessions, with time in between to mull things over.