Psst, I’m writing this post at midnight before the deadline
Procrastination and writing seem to go together (though not for all of us. Read on.), and as a result many writers have very clean closets, fridges, and bathrooms, and their friends/family are often nicely outfitted with hand-knit thingies. Staring at a screen or a notebook can be so intimidating, the critic’s voice so snarky, that I, for one, will invent any project to free me from the angst. And I like writing!
So, I asked the Misses if this was a thing for them.
I’m a procrastinator. I mostly engage in what I call “creative procrastinating.” Instead of sitting down to work on my WIP, I’ll do laundry or wash dishes or clean the house, or do something else that needs to be done. However, it doesn’t really need to be done at that particular time. Sometimes my procrastinating isn’t particularly creative. I’ll listen to podcasts or read true crime articles. Maybe I can pass that off as research? Occasionally, when my anxiety is bad and I think I’m the worst writer there ever was and wonder how I ever managed to string two words together, I resort to playing a match-3 game or word game on my phone. Completely unproductive, but the repetitive, mindless nature of the games quiets my brain.
From Emilya: Alexia, that’s why I have a NYT crossword puzzle book at my elbow. I don’t think these games are unproductive. They help our brains calm the eff down!
Tracee de Hahn
Very happy to hear that I am not alone! For example, I’m chiming in here (when technically it’s not a red hot emergency) instead of working on final edits. Hmmm, procrastination or checking other things off the to-do list?
From Emilya: SO not alone…
You’re all pretty impressive procrastinators, but I think I can claim the #1 spot. I actually need a pretty high level of pressure to accomplish a task. Happily, a few other personality quirks help that pressure build. Here’s an example: In college I skipped the class where a major paper was assigned. Then I skipped the class where the professor talked about the paper. I happened to make the class the day before the paper was due. Yikes. I stayed up all night, writing the paper, and my roomies stayed up all night with me, proofing and typing it out (yes this was back in the day). Years ago, a friend gave me a plaque I kept for years near my desk. It said, “I’m dealing with my procrastination issues. Just you wait and see.”
From Emilya: Yes, Connie, you win. Hands down. I bow before your procrastination skills.
Since I’m responding to this on Thursday, it’s quite obvious that I am a procrastinator. Because I’m also a reader and love research, I’ve done quite a bit of reading about procrastination and it’s causes. Most is what I’ve learned is that procrastination is rooted in fear. Often, the fear is about not being or doing something perfect. That would be my case. Either I do it perfectly or not at all. But we all know “perfect” is rarely able to be done, so there you go. Women seem to suffer this more than men. I’m working on being satisfied with a high level of imperfection.
From Emilya: Gasp! That is such a good way to look at it! The Tao of procrastination.
I’m reading this from home. Joy! I am the opposite of whatever a procrastinator is. If I have a deadline, I cannot think of anything else until that deadline is met, so it brings me no joy to delay. Or do procrastinators feel joy? Every week in my class, my students get in manuscripts on Friday and I have until Wednesday to critique them. If I haven’t done that by Sunday, I feel antsy.
From Emilya: I’m speechless, Susan. If you can bottle whatever that is, you’ll be richer than Jeff Bezos.
How do YOU procrastinate? Or, how do you not? I want to know. Really. I really do. No foolin.
Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in A Stranger Comes to Town, edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.
When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.