I have long been a major advocate of putting off work. I’d always get it done, and on time, but pen wouldn’t hit paper (or finger hit keypad) until the last possible minute.
In middle and high school, I almost never started a paper or project – no matter how large – until the night before it was due. I then ascended to the level of Master Procrastinator during my first semester of college by regularly beginning papers for one English seminar about 1-2 hours before the class started. Nor did I stop procrastinating once I left the cozy confines of academia. Bills get paid on the last possible day. The litter box isn’t cleaned until it stinks to high heaven.1 Hell, just two weeks ago, I uploaded my 10 Top 10s for 10/10 post with under 10 minutes to spare.2
My thinking has always been this: If the deadline isn’t looming, I can be doing something more fun. That could mean watching a DVD, playing an online game, taking the dog for a walk, or any of a hundred and sixteen other possibilities. The best distractions are always the ones that have nothing to do with the task at hand. So, imagine my surprise last week when I realized that for the past two months, and for the first time in my life, I had begun practicing Productive Procrastination.
It wasn’t that I was mowing the lawn or doing laundry as my procrastinatory activity. Yes, such tasks would indeed be considered productive (particularly by my fiancée), but it was more than that. Somewhere along the way, I began choosing diversions that would undoubtedly have a positive impact on the very thing that I was delaying.
In this case, I am delaying writing my novel. Coming up with the ideas is fun. Having written entertaining material is fun. However, the actual process of getting the words on the page can be quite difficult, and at times disheartening. In the past, I would find solace in activities similar to those I mentioned earlier: movies, games, and the like. Yet, since I started this blog back in August, such instances have become rare.
Sometimes, to procrastinate from my writing, I write. It’s not fiction and it’s not for my novel, but by composing posts for this blog I am now writing more often than I did previously. In doing so, I’m honing my craft (and if anyone other than friends and family were reading this, I’d also be developing a fan base).
Sometimes, instead of writing, I read… about writing. For my birthday, I received a subscription to Writer’s Digest, and I’m also currently delving through Stephen King’s On Writing and Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Through these and other sources, I’m collecting copious tips to improve my plot, characters, pacing, etc., as well as gaining insight into how to best undertake my eventual search for an agent. At some point, I might even learn how to be concise.3
So what if I’m not writing my novel at this very instant? It’s all part of my master plan to improve as a writer, which will be readily apparent when you get to read my final manuscript. I’ve always been a procrastinator: I can’t change that. But I can change how I procrastinate. Why not let it work for me?
1 As opposed to low heaven. I have absolutely no qualms about offending the olfactory senses of the lesser gods.
2 Yes, I’m fully aware that if you look at the time stamp, it appears I had 22 minutes to spare. I’m not sure if Blogger records the time when it first auto-saves, or if its clock is simply off by 15 minutes. Either way, I hit “Post Now” at 11:53pm. So there.