I’ve always been quite adept at procrastinating. I know I’m not alone in this, but it’s a club to which I would rather not belong. It’s not that I don’t get things done, eventually; it’s more that I seem to spend an inordinate amount of energy whipping myself toward the point of beginning.
When I lived at home my mother, bless her heart, had the task of urging me on. After leaving the nest I must have managed somehow, for I had no disasters due to late work. Since starting to write, however, I seem to have become even more prone to putting things off. At the same time I have become much more aware of when and how I avoid doing what I should be doing (i.e. writing).
As I was putting off the creation of this blog entry, I jotted down a few of my avoidance techniques. Some things here might be familiar to you; others not so much. What I can say without question is that they are all effective, and they’re not just for writers.
- Prepare your tools or equipment. – I’m a little old fashioned. I like to revise by hand, using a pencil, preferably a mechanical pencil . You don’t of course have to sharpen those, but it does take time to find a new lead, pry the worn down eraser out of the end, and finally click the lead into place. If you’re not an ever-sharp person, have a good look around your home for any stray pencils. Chances are they need some attention. On a really good day, you’ll discover that you don’t own a pencil sharpener so you’ll have to make a trip to Staples, or spend just as long whittling the darn things to a point with your Swiss Army knife.
- Eat. – This is especially important if you are about to undertake a task in which you use your brain, particularly if the task is of a creative nature such as writing a novel. After years of experimenting in this area, I can unequivocally confirm that the degree of benefit to the brain corresponds directly to food preparation time. If you’re not much of a cook and can’t imagine putting together a five course meal, don’t despair. A trip to your favourite restaurant will work just as well.
- Do long-overdue household tasks. – *This only works if it’s not the tasks themselves over which you are procrastinating.* You all know that little odd jobs mount up. When I’m at home writing, I’m surrounded by things that I’ve been meaning to do for, well, forever. On a productive day (i.e. a day when my writing flows without much effort) I ignore them rather successfully, but if the job of attacking my manuscript is more than I can bear I find myself with a screwdriver in hand. I should mention here that of all my procrastination techniques, my wife favours this one. Last weekend when I should have been working I replaced the windshield wipers on the car and the seat on the toilet. They won’t win me a Giller Prize, but we can see where we’re going in a storm and carry out certain of life’s necessities in comfort.
- Access the Internet. – (Yes, this should have been #1, but I’m trying to downplay it.) As it happens, my writing life coincided with increased computer/Internet use. As well as researching and typing up my manuscripts I do spend some time, all right a lot of time using my computer for other things. Although I didn’t start using social media until after the publication of my first book, that usage has progressed from being primarily promotional to being predominantly personal. There are always emails to write, chess games to play, and contests to take on Facebook.
I could go on with this list until the cows come home, but then of course it would be turning into . . . you got it, a way of putting off what I should be doing. I have a pile of revisions sitting beside me just waiting to be typed into my manuscript, and I can say, “I’ll get to it,” with conviction only so many times.
If you need to procrastinate for any reason, please feel free to visit my website.