Why Procrastination Is a Writer’s Best Friend

Much has been written about the importance of keeping to a strict writing schedule. That works when you’re in the groove. But when it doesn’t, there’s only one thing to do: procrastinate.

You need an idea, right? A good idea. And often good ideas take a while to arrive from wherever they’re hiding, be it in your deep subconscious or wafting through the air. Or maybe you have an idea and you’re not sure how you want to execute it. Or not sure if you can.

In the meantime, you probably have some laundry to do, right? Or maybe your kitchen sink needs a good scrubbing. There might be some rotting food to throw out in the refrigerator. Or what the heck, why not clean the entire house? Your desk drawer might be crammed with expired coupons, crumpled receipts, cryptic notes, old business cards. Now is as good time a time as any to put that drawer in order. Maybe you’ll find a bill you forgot to pay.

Then of course there’s the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn. News sites. And don’t forget checking email, and Googling yourself and others.

And your toenails. They might need a touch up.

And coffee. Drink a lot of it. Maybe have a snack too.

Follow this practice and eventually the part of yourself that wants to write will get so disgusted and annoyed that you’ll find yourself tapping on a keyboard, like I’m doing now. And you’ll feel much better for it.

Thinking is an essential part of the writing process. Pondering a character’s psychological makeup while you’re driving to the grocery store. Figuring out a solution to a structural problem when you’re in the shower.   

But perhaps it’s a little more complicated than that. As writers, we’re only too aware of the need to write something good. In an article for The Atlantic, Megan McArdle, author of the Upside of Down, speculates that procrastination is a manifestation of fear of failure and a means of managing anxiety. “Most writers manage to get by,” she says, “because, as the deadline creeps closer, their fears of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fears of turning in something terrible.”

There are many tips for overcoming procrastination, but I say that it’s sometimes important to embrace procrastination as part of the process. It could be you’re getting warmed up, preparing to tackle that forbidding blank screen, trying out ideas in your head, or just waiting until you’re ready to unleash your torrent of words.

And if all goes well, you’ll end up writing what you intended to write. And at the end of the day, your laundry and housecleaning will be done.