Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Stacey J. Mitchell – Beware the Procrastination Demons

Beware the Procrastination Demons

by Stacey J. Mitchell

Procrastination. It’s an evil word for any writer. According to Merriam-Webster, procrastination is ‘to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.’ It can happen for all sorts of reasons, but a lot of people link it with writer’s block. When the block happens, procrastination levels skyrocket.

Writer’s block is a tricky thing for me, as I don’t allow myself to believe in it. I think all writers have good and bad days, but it seems to me that as soon as you attribute a bad writing day to writer’s block, you’re paving the way for it to keep happening. It’s not making an excuse, exactly, but the way I see it, if I don’t acknowledge it, it can’t plague me! But that’s not to say I don’t indulge in healthy bouts of procrastination, because of course I do.

Procrastination is a dangerous thing as it can seriously affect productivity. Think about those days when you sit down at the computer and think, “Okay, time to start writing. But I might just check my emails first and then log on to Twitter quickly.” And then you see in your inbox that your blog has received some comments, so you think you had better just reply to them too—it’ll only take five minutes, and you might forget to do it later. And then, after you’ve spent half an hour on Twitter, you realise that you’ve wasted an entire hour (and I’m being conservative with my timings here).

So why do we do it? Considering we love what we do so much (allowing for the days when every word has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, from our minds), how come we allow ourselves to fritter away that precious time? I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but for me procrastination happens for two reasons. Firstly, I genuinely think that what I want to do will take less time that it actually will (and considering I always serve dinner fifteen minutes after I say it’ll be ready, I think this is true across many areas of my life!). I also don’t allow for the fact that I get led from one thing to another very easily. I’m like Dug, the talking dog in Up. He’s talking about something when suddenly, mid-sentence—squirrel!—and then he continues. I’m like that, but with tabs in my internet browser instead of squirrels.

The second reason I procrastinate has to do with tasks that I’m putting off, because I either don’t want to do them (ebook formatting) or because I’m unsure if what I’m doing makes sense (a plot twist or a scene that has turned out differently than I expected). The former is me wasting time instead of just getting on with a tedious task, and the latter has more to do with my insecurity as a writer than anything else. There’s another school of thought that says that any task will expand to fill the time available, so if you only have half an hour to write a blog post one day that’s fine. It’s the day when you have two hours to do the same thing that you’re in trouble, and the procrastination demons can come out to play.

I think to a certain extent we need to embrace procrastination, and accept that we will never be rid of it completely. I can turn the internet off and still find something else to do, other than what I’m supposed to. If there’s a window nearby, whatever is happening on the other side of that will do. If I’m in a public place like the library, people-watching is even better. The only way to stop myself procrastinating would be to shut myself in a small, plain room, with no windows, no internet connection, nothing. And as I’m certainly not about to do that, I just have to accept that I will always procrastinate to some extent. If you fight it, it fights back. Just look at it as a bit of creative downtime for your brain.


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Genre – Contemporary Fantasy

Rating – PG13

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