Thursday, December 8

11 Ways to Procrastinate from Writing

Procrastination plagues all writers.

Writing is something we enjoy, so why do we find so many reasons to avoid it? Isn't the goal to turn something you love into something that works for you? Well, of course - but you still have to work to make it happen. Work, work, work. It's a horrid word.

It is easy to be lured away by the appeal of something else when you are stuck with your writing or lacking motivation. Here are eleven procrastinating methods that writers are prone to fall into. Avoid them at all costs.

1. Internet

I see you there, procrastinating your life away on the internet. How many tabs do you have open? Are you reading multiple blogs? Caught up on the social networking of Facebook, Google+ and Twitter? Do you have an unhealthy obsession with Tumblr?

Perhaps you like to visit funny websites or watch YouTube videos. The internet allows us to contact our long-distance friends and network with others online that share our interests. Perhaps you're writing a blog post about writing instead of working on the rewrite of your novel.

The internet is the biggest pool of procrastination there is. It is an endless supply of everything you could ever need to be distracted by. All you need to do is disconnect from the internet. Just...disconnect. How hard could it be? Well, I have yet to manage it.

2. Television

When did television get so good? Okay, I'm not saying that there aren't plenty of shows that I look at and go, 'Eurgh, I would never watch that,' but there seems to be an endless amount of television shows that I can get addicted to...and of course, since it is a series, the episodes just keep coming and coming.

This is also applicable for movies. Whether in the cinema or DVDs that I own, there are so many films that pop to mind that I can dive into instead of working on my own film script that I could be writing. Even if I tell myself it's all in the name of research, it's a lie.

For me, I get caught up by American and British television series, plenty of films, anime shows, Korean dramas and more. Too much time getting hooked on TV, not enough writing.

3. Music

Plenty of people listen to music while they write. I have never been one of them. I find it far too distracting. I do listen to my iPod a lot to brainstorm new scenarios for stories. All too often I find myself just swept off in a world of my own, forgetting to focus on my planning and just having fun to music.

Regardless of what your preference is when it comes to music, I'm sure you like to indulge in a favourite song or two. I can go on dancing around to music for hours on end... Often I don't stop until the battery on my iPod dies and I'm forced to do something else. Yikes!

4. Games

I have never been a huge gamer. Whether it is computer games or console games, such as on Playstation, Xbox or Nintendo, perhaps even an addictive round of Monopoly with friends, you can get sucked in for hours on end.

The same goes for all the games you can find on Facebook and there are plenty of websites devoted to game playing. Let's not forget to mention the ones hardwired into your computer, like Solitaire. From the simplest to the most elaborate games, it is easy and fun to sit around and be caught up in something without having to invent the story and the characters for yourself.

I may not play a lot of games but when I do, I get addicted. In the past I have only ever had Playstation and Playstation2 gaming consoles. I had to leave them both behind in New Zealand because the volt difference would cause them to explode in the USA. I just got a Nintendo Wii. I am already being pulled back into the world of gaming. I have never even played a Zelda game before. What will happen when I start? I will be doomed. DOOMED.

I forgot to mention Angry Birds. How could I forget that one? I used to go to write-ins back in Wellington, confiscate my fellow writers' phones and just sit there playing Angry Birds the entire time. Talk about the opposite of being productive!

5. Talking

Talking on the phone, texting, chatting on IM... We can pass away so much of our time conversing with others.

Why not? It's great fun to socialise. You know that you are procrastinating when your topic of conversation becomes a series of links (if you're online) and impressions or a lazy loop where you don't contribute much to the conversation at all but you keep talking and texing and typing because otherwise you would have to get back to your writing.

I love to chat online with my friends. I have a lot of fellow writer friends, so we'll be instant messaging each other, perhaps talking about how we should be writing and I will just sit there, with my writing document open. It just sits there, ignored.

6. Drawing

Okay, so not all writers can or do draw. Drawing is not how I procrastinate my time away but plenty of writers are drawn to other creative outlets. Whether it is painting, crochet, sewing, bookmark marking, photography or coding your own games - writers like to be creative.

The problem with writing, it is isn't really something that opens itself up to multitasking. Sure, you can knit and watch television at the same time. You can play Angry Birds while you are listening to an audio book. You cannot focus on writing and build a life-sized model of the TARDIS at the same time...can you?

Well, if we could travel through time, I'm sure it would just open up an endless run of procrastination, since we would always tell ourselves that we could go back and do it later. Add that to a future procrastinating methods list.

7. Wallowing

I know I'm not the only one who can spend plenty of time lolling about, mooning over the fact that I should be writing but doing nothing to rectifying it. Of course, it may have nothing to do with writing at all. Just a feeling in general or something else that has been sucktastic.

Sometimes the mood to write is just lacking. Sure, writing is meant to be an escape into the imagination, away from everything but it can still feel like work. The trick is to make it not feel that way. The problem with writing when you're lacking the literary mood or stuck in a bad mood, is that it seeps into your writing. However, these things can always be edited out later and it is good to get your feelings out through written word. You never know, by encouraging yourself to write through the rut, you may just come up with something unexpected and genius.

8. Reading

Wait, reading shouldn't be on this list. After all, if you want to be a good writer, you have to read a lot.

This is true. Reading is important. You should read as much as you can. However, if your goal is to become a better writer, you need to make sure that you're not devoting all of your writing time to reading. It is important to remember that you want to end up like these published authors you are reading the works of. Remember that and put aside their story long enough to become immersed in your own.

Balance is good. Throw some words on the writing part of the scale to balance out all those books and other materials you're reading.

9. Sleeping

I was up late last night procrastinating, so I slept in today.

I was up late last night catching up on the work I meant to do while I was procrastinating and now I'm sleepy.

I have finally got this perfect opportunity to write with no distractions. I think I'll have a nap.

Stop it.

10. Cleaning

This is not one of my personal methods for procrastinating but I have heard from a lot of fellow writers that in order to get away from their writing, they will go so far as to clean, tidy and reorganise.

Meant to get that kitchen floor cleaned? Well, forget writing - go do it! Is your bedroom a complete mess? Well, you need to get that sorted. Is your desk covered in papers and toys? Well, you can't be expected to write when your workspace if so out of order.

Do the laundry, vacuum the carpet, wash the dog, take out the garbage, redecorate the house, tack up those posters, take your phone in to get fixed, take your dog in to get fixed...

When did writing become such a chore that we will do all our chores to avoid it? On one hand, you could argue that this is not procrastination at all. It seems to be quite beneficial to getting tasks done. If you are so bad of a need to get away from your writing - the thing you are supposed to love doing - that you are willing to do all the things that you would otherwise put off, it is time to reevaluate the situation.

Find an outlook that will encourage your writing. Perhaps you are just not as devoted to the premise of the story or the characters as you want to be. It is in your power to change it for the better. Clean up your story and you won't have to clean up your house. Well, you still should...I guess.

11. Writing

All right, we've entered Crazy Town. It isn't possible to procrastinate from writing by writing. If you are writing, then you aren't procrastinating.

Oh but you can and you are.

Haven't you ever had Shiny New Idea Syndrome? It's where you are meant to be working on one story and another one pops into your mind that is even more alluring. Instead of sticking with the story you are meant to be writing, you flit to another project...and then another...and then another. Soon, you have nothing but a whole lots of unfinished writing.

Shiny New Idea Syndrome. It's a real threat to writers. Just like procrastination. Don't give in to it.

What are your preferred ways of procrastinating from writing? How do you define procrastinating as opposed to being productive in a different area?


Michael said...

This is one reason I write by hand: when you're away from the computer there are far fewer distractions. Not that there are none, of course. Unless you write alone in a featureless room (and I think that would drive anyone mad) there are always distractions. But a certain modicum of distraction can be a good thing. When you're really stuck on how to put the thought that's come to you into the right words, doing something else for a moment or do can be a lot more productive than sitting there thinking "I'm stuck. I wish I wasn't stuck." The difficulty is to make sure the distraction takes the form of something you can do for less than a minute -- for instance, saying hi to the person at the next table in the café, showing them where you've got up to (which has the bonus of making you feel better, and somehow that always helps). If you're in a situation where you *have* to find a distraction and the nearest one at hand is TVTropes... the writing is probably going to suffer :)

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