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A Post for Procrastinators

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Some writers are blessed with the extraordinary gift of sitting down and writing things out in an organised way until they are finished. And some writers put things off a little bit. Just a little bit. They make themselves cups of coffee that they don’t really need, they tidy a couple of things on their desks. Then they start writing.

And then there are the procrastinatory Olympians. The ones who effortlessly make whole days disappear. One minute they sit down thinking they’ll check the internet. They will start writing, after that. Honestly. But several hours later, they’ll notice that they’re still on the internet, alternating between reading an article about star signs, even though they don’t actually believe in star signs, and looking at Facebook profiles of people they haven’t seen for ten years. So. They drag themselves off the internet. Then they’ll have just one round of Solitaire. After that it will definitely be time to start writing. Six rounds later, they’ll make themselves stop. There was that writing. But also, they need to play Sims 3. Just for fifteen minutes. More or less. And then, after a while, they look at the clock and realise six and a half hours have passed, and at least five different Sims have fallen in love with each other. One of them has even written a novel.

And maybe some days, those of us in that last group look at ourselves and wonder how on earth we will ever finish anything unless someone holds us at gunpoint, and even then we would probably need to do several last things before we started writing. Hovering between life and death, we would need at least one full round of Hearts, and maybe also some Pinball, in order to shake off the nerves. And then we would probably finally start writing. In a bit.

And then after thinking about this a while, we sigh, and go find some furniture that needs rearranging, because we’ll be ready to write very soon, but we don’t want to start just yet. And the guilt chases us around, all the stories calling out to be told, the characters dying of neglect. And also the blog posts that need to be written. And we wonder if we will ever, ever manage.

But procrastinators, never fear! Your characters don’t have to die of neglect! Try following these simple steps:

1. Identify your holy grail, the procrastination device that brings you more joy and more wasted hours than any other.

2. Think about it for a while: the Sim houses you will build, the DVD commentary of the extra extended director’s cut edition of Lord of the Rings you’re going to sit down with, the model railway that you urgently need to change the track alignments on. Whatever it is, think about it long enough that you start salivating.

3. Right, you have that extremely urgent procrastination device glowing in your head? Is it making you itch with anticipation? Excellent. Now, set yourself an achievable goal, like, say, typing a thousand words of your novel, or finishing a blog post about procrastination. And deny yourself that glorious holy grail until it is done. This part of the process is ugly. If you’re anything like me, your brain will be screaming, No! Give me Hearts and Spider Solitaire and Sims! I must make my Sims sleep and go to work and come home from work and procrastinate writing their novels! If you don’t let me, I will DIE. Etc.

4. Start working. You can hear that procrastination calling to you in all its glory. And you gently ask your brain to help you work out which scene to write next, and how it starts. If it says no, remind it politely that it won’t get its holy grail until it has given you your thousand words. Rub your forehead. Stare miserably out of the window. Notice that you’ve only written ten words. Write a few more.

5. Watch the flow kick in. You know, once you’ve gotten past the first stumbling paragraphs and suddenly you start seeing your characters unbelievably clearly as they argue about how to fight the psychotic moose invasion. And maybe one of them does something that you weren’t quite expecting, and then you’re fascinated, and you’re weary and your hands are getting slightly sore but you can’t stop writing just yet, even if you have your thousand words, because it is too interesting. Let yourself think, hey. Isn’t this just as good as that DVD commentary?

6. Notice that you’ve achieved your target. You feel amazing, don’t you? You could totally keep going right now. Why not? Procrastinate procrastinating! After all, you are a pro. See if you can come up with another thousand words! Write a blog post for tomorrow as well! Because seriously, no one can procrastinate like you. You are a champion, remember? Just put off stopping for a bit, just for the sake of it, just to see what happens.

7. A long while later, notice that the words are starting to blur in front of you. Gently remove the pen from your clenched up hand, or unpeel your fingers from the keyboard. Take one moment to look back and survey your wondrous productiveness.

8. Now, without any guilt, go play with your model railway.
Leila Austin

Leila lives in Middle Earth, also known as New Zealand, and writes YA fantasy.

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14 comments:

  1. A post about me. Woah, I'm famous.

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  2. Procrastinating procrastination. That's genius.

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  3. When I find a new show that's fabulous (looking at you, Bones!), I wind up marathoning it in the evenings, and work on my WIP grinds to a halt. Unfortunately, so far the only way I've found to get past it is to finish the show!

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  4. Uhm, you did it again. You broke into my head and stole my thoughts. If only you could get an award for that.

    And while I totally agree with what you said, it still reminds me of this one quote from the wonderful Ellen DeGeneres, "Don't put it off, procrastinate now!" Even if that does go against everything you just said.

    Procrastinate procrastinating -- my new mantra.

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  5. We writers are a fickle lot- how can we work so hard at putting off the thing that drives us? Well, I don't mean how, really, because I am versed in many, many ways. Speaking of, I should really get back to checking blogs. I, er, mean brainstorming my WIP. Right.
    - Sophia.

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  6. Thankfully, I'm not a procrastinator when it comes to writing. The problem is that I'll procrastinate doing other things by writing. It sounds like a good thing, but that's just because you haven't seen my laundry pile.

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  7. I love when you post Leila! And the Sims finishing their novels first made me LOL.

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  8. Why do have to call me out like that? So rude. :P

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  9. Love this post. Absolutely brilliant. I was getting odd looks because of my hysterical giggling.

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  10. hehe AWESOME :)
    funny story... i once procrastinated by writing a post about more ways to procrastinate. at least I'm writing?.. xD

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  11. My heart is so full of love for this post that I might ask it to marry me.

    Whoa.

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  12. This is brilliant. (I also cracked up at the Sim writing a novel!)

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  13. Wow, this is like, exactly me. I'll watch six episodes of Bones on the weekends, and then go back and watch them with the commentaries; play The Sims 3, because yes, I'm addicted and my Sim. She is supposed to be me, and she's written five novels in, like, two weeks. AND she juggles three kids! And I play for hours on end, then go play Freecell, and look up articles on abortion and religion and motherhood, and go on parenting forums--even though I'm not a mom yet because I am fourteen but I want fourteen kids. So I look up mother-of-many forums, and homeschooling forums, because that's what I plan to do. And I read Vampire Academy and other books waiting to be read by me. And then, eventually, I write. Sometimes I take three-week "vacations" (really it's just me procrastinating but I call it a well-needed vacation).

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Item Reviewed: A Post for Procrastinators Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Leila Austin