When “Useful” Procrastination Isn’t

One of my greatest and arguably most detrimental skills is procrastination. Not to brag or anything, but I am truly gifted in this department. I’m so good that I’ll very often trick myself into useful procrastination, so it’s easier to justify. Don’t want to do that one thing? No worries, self, you should really be cleaning the kitchen anyway! Also, you haven’t vacuumed since yesterday, so that means there’s at least enough dog hair in the living room to construct a St. Bernard. You should definitely vacuum before you do that thing.

I’ve expanded my definition of “useful” lately, it seems. I’m making a concerted effort to put more energy & brain power into my creative endeavors — in my case, this means mostly fiction writing. This also means that I can classify reading as a more important task, because, well, reading is important. It’s also fun, which makes me feel guilty about it sometimes. Especially just swanning off and reading in the afternoon, but I am trying to be not so hard on myself about doing that now and then. Anyway, that’s a different flavor in my personal bag of crazyflakes, so we’re just going to move on.

What I’m getting at is that it’s becoming easier for me to think, well, I can’t work on my own thing, because I need to think about it more and I really want to watch that movie that is sort of similar to see how they did a few things. Also, I want to finish reading that book because I need to know how it all comes together. These thoughts, while they have legitimacy, are still sneaky ways my brain gets me to put off writing. It’s all This qualifies as being nice to yourself and giving stress a rest! It’s sort of research and I need Inspiration!

Sure, yes, inspiration is important. But so is you know, ACTUALLY WRITING, you stupid brain. I’m finding ways to trick me into writing and out of procrastinating, which is key. Honestly, just having the luxury of my own office in the house is helpful. Virginia Woolf wasn’t kidding. I can’t see the mess of the rest of the house, the dogs can’t sit on me and though I’m surrounded by them, I’m not going to pickup a book and start reading it at my desk.

I’ve also realized the best thing for me to do in the morning is come straight to my desk and just start writing. My old habit was to putz around Twitter and Facebook while I had my coffee, and then theoretically I would start writing once the caffeine kicked in. Except, you know, Twitter’s a magic rabbit hole filled with ever-multiplying magic baby rabbits to look at. And I’d chat online with the husband and a friend or two. And then it’s almost noon and I’m hungry and I have not written one damn word.

A great trick I discovered accidentally is to leave a document open, so the first thing I see when I open my laptop is the last thing I wrote yesterday. It’s instinct to read it and then want to continue the story. And in a not-so-subtle way, I’m reminding myself that this is the thing that’s important. This is the thing I should be spending my time with. The internet will be there later. My husband and my friends will, too, and they will still love me. And it turns out, trying to make sense of words wakes me up pretty quickly, even without coffee. I am basically a golden god, is what I’m saying.

What I’m also saying is creatives are a weird lot. We have strange and baffling hang-ups and will devote a ton of creative energy to getting in our own way. I’m finally trying to get out of my way, which means channeling that creative energy into the things I want to make and ways to force myself to do it. Because just doing it would be too easy, apparently. If I didn’t have to work so hard at convincing myself to do things I want to do, I could probably take over the world or something.

Anyway. Here’s to giving myself more freedom for creativity and fun, but knowing when and how to tighten my own leash. Feel free to comment about your own tricks and tools and superstitions, they might work for someone else.



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