INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)
Every writer wishes their writing was going faster. If only we could spend more time at our desks! Or get more done while we’re there! Why can’t we get more done and be more disciplined?
Oh, the time we waste not writing! But is it really wasted?
First, don’t waste more time beating yourself up for wasting time! Of course I’ve done it myself, but as a writing coach I’ve had to counsel many writers to stop self-flagellating. It does no good and can do irreparable harm because it undermines your confidence. Stop berating and start creating!
But maybe there are actually good reasons for your procrastination. There is a current wave of revisionist theory and research among psychologists and economists, which supports the idea that procrastination can actually be in our best interests. Author Frank Partnoy has come up with a more positive, less pejorative term: ‘managed delay’.
Assuming you aren’t a pathological procrastinator, just the normal, distraction-prone writer (i.e., everyone else), I offer 3 possible arguments for procrastination:
1. You’re giving your subconscious time to work—It’s possible that while ‘you’ are doing other things, your sub-conscious is working on your project on a deeper level. Ultimately, ‘you’ might actually be saving yourself the time and energy it will take to write the wrong version of the project, and subconsciously holding you back until you achieve a new level of clarity.
2. You’re cleansing your palate—Don’t underestimate how draining it is to sustain the mental focus required to write a book or a script. If you have a morning writing session, you might be a little burned out by the afternoon. If you’ve been writing for several days in a row, your brain is definitely getting hot and tired – no matter how excited you are about your project. Maybe an hour on Facebook is just the sorbet you need to relax your mind, so you can get back to writing. Just don’t turn the sorbet into a main course.
3. You can get other things done—Think of this as ‘Constructive Procrastination’. When it’s time to sit down and write, suddenly anything else, even doing your taxes, seems preferable. Well, why not do your taxes? That needs to get done too. Clean your desk. Do some yoga. Take a hike. The important thing is to channel your ‘distracted’ energy into constructive areas. You may find that when you give yourself permission to do other things, suddenly you’re awash in great ideas about your writing project. Now give yourself permission to put aside your taxes and do some writing.
Awesome art by Ellen von Unwerth