Procrastination has a bad reputation. Writers should snap out of it. But wait! There are benefits worth knowing. In this article, we’ll show you how to make procrastination work for you to write even better. Procrastinate with pride!
What Procrastination Can Do For You
What Exactly Is Procrastination Again?
For writers, it’s an occupational hazard. It’s not writer’s block; it’s more like a mind-warp that makes us put off writing. Some clean the house instead; some simply sit and stare at the dust-bunnies.
Writers hate it when it happens. They want to beat it as soon as possible. Hold your horses, writers. You might miss out on something important.
The Importance Of Procrastination
Be logical: if writers procrastinate so often, there must be some secret to this.
- Procrastination gives you an energy boost. There’s nothing like a looming deadline to make you finally apply the seat of your pants to a chair and write. However, the energy comes from fear. The fear of missing a deadline releases adrenaline, a natural painkiller, enabling us to address tasks we find tedious or difficult.
- Procrastination increases focus. The final lack of time will ward off any distractions. You won’t get side-tracked.
- Procrastination makes us work faster. It’s like maths: energy + focus = speed. So, if you tend to be a slowcoach, then procrastination can work for you.
- Procrastination gets tons of other things done. Most people always concentrate on the one thing that gets procrastinated. What about all the other things on your to-do list that get done while you procrastinate? They do get scratched off that list. This works only for active procrastinators (the ones that clean the house).
- Procrastination makes you lower your expectations. It’s the old 80:20-rule. If you do things in only 20% of the time, you only get 80% of the possible quality. It’s a great remedy against perfectionism.
In the end, procrastination really can help with tasks where quality doesn’t matter. That’s usually the case with routine tasks, daily chores, admin. We’ve done all of these so many times we could do them in our sleep. Procrastination can motivate you to do all these boring things.
There’s A Downside
However, procrastination releases adrenaline. But that hormone doesn’t last forever. Once the adrenaline wears off, we usually feel drained. Procrastinating right before a major project is a really bad idea.
If you’re a chronic procrastinator, your behaviour creates a pattern that will make your body release adrenaline again and again. You go from one deadline to the next. Getting projects done will be tied to that fear we talked about earlier. Yet is fear the principle you want to live by? Where’s the joy, where are the endorphins? You need to learn how to ride a dragon.
How To Harness The Dragon Of Procrastination
Procrastination is like a fierce dragon ready to devour you. What if you could learn to ride it? Let’s do some reframing. Try to see procrastination as something positive, even necessary. Where does that lead us? Here are some ideas:
- We can’t stop thinking about writing. Procrastination is a substitute activity: we don’t write, but we think about it all the time. It’s like riding a bike with the training-wheels on. It’s a safe way to think about writing. We can’t fail. But by delaying it, we become guilt-ridden. Why do we go on putting it off? Probably because there’s an inner need.
- We give extra time to our project to germinate and grow inside us until we’re about to pop. And still, we procrastinate. Why? Because there might be something else that needs time, too.
- We need to take our time to work out ideas. These ideas are in our subconscious. Sometimes they just can’t be hurried. They take time to mature, just like wine. When they’re ready, they’ll show up on the page. Maybe you won’t need procrastination, maybe it’s faster to get them out into the open and actively work through them. Don’t fear the skeletons in your closet. They’re yours, after all!
- We’re scared of the aftermath. Sometimes a story resonates. It hits home, it scares you. Procrastination has led us to a touchy-feely spot in our souls. Naturally, we want to avoid it. But that’s also what will captivate the reader. As writers, we could use our talents to work out that conflict.
Reframing has led us to understand that procrastination sets off alarm bells. If you notice them, you can deal with underlying problems. You will eventually become a better writer.
Does that change your view? Then you are ready to ride that dragon. Here are some more practical tips:
How To Ride Your Dragon
Whenever you feel like putting off your writing, ask yourself these questions:
- Why do I not want to write? If you can answer this one right away, you’re in luck. Otherwise, read on.
- Am I uncomfortable with the activity? Is there a physical reason? Please see a doctor. Or is it more psychological? Read on.
- Have I done my homework? Do I need to do more research? Careful, doing research is another popular substitute activity for writing…
- Am I uncomfortable with the literary form? Would it help to change that? Give it a try! Choose the right tool for the job. It’s no more than that.
- Am I uncomfortable with the topic? Why? What’s my underlying issue? Don’t run away from it, rather explain it to the reader. These are the juicy bits. You have arrived at the heart of the story. Go write it down. Now.
These questions can serve as your compass to steer you through the procrastination process. Address the issues they raise. Try to reframe deadlines into goals. Replace fear of the deadline and the adrenaline it releases with endorphins from the joy of accomplishing a goal (if you need additional tips, read this article). Now, which way would you have it? Don’t think too long. You have some writing to do.
The Last Word
I hope this article has helped you to understand procrastination better. I use deadlines, too. But I’m not afraid of them. I look forward to them. Deadlines are simply the dates when I can release my joy about writing with all the endorphins I can come up with. So, don’t freak out over procrastination. It wants to be your friend. Now write. Really.
By Susanne Bennett. Susanne is a German-American writer who is a journalist by trade and a writer by heart. After years of working at German public radio and an online news portal, she has decided to accept challenges by Deadlines for Writers. Currently she is writing her first novel with them. She is known for overweight purses and carrying a novel everywhere. Follow her on Facebook.
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