• Procrastination–An Unlikely Friend?

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments No comments

    Oh, to be able to feel like this before a due date.

    Many writers consider procrastination their Achilles’ heel.  I know I did for a long time.  I remember staying home from school as a preteen and writing papers that were days overdue.  Luckily, I had a Mom who lent me her editing expertise and bailed me out with excuse notes.  Now, of course, I can’t send my editor a letter saying, “Please excuse Jenna Cooper for her late article submission.  She is a procrastinator.”

    So what’s a procrastinator to do? Especially if the adrenaline rush of working like a maniac fuels your writing?  You can easily find books and articles that address how to “fix” your problem, but there’s one alternative that I haven’t found in a book and it’s worked for me: acceptance.  It’s counterintuitive and against puritanical notions of productivity, but it works if you temper acceptance with a solid work ethic and adherence to due dates.  This is my take on how allowing yourself to procrastinate may help you get more writing done.

    When people write about dealing with procrastination, they typically enumerate tips on how to change your ways and strive for a “Type A” writing style.  As a veteran reader of such how-to literature, I’m grateful for the suggestions, but I’m afraid the Muse doesn’t come to me unless I’m in a time crunch.  Additionally, forcing yourself to be something you’re not often stifles creativity because―let’s face it―unyielding self-discipline takes uber mental energy.  If you feel guilty for not starting a project immediately, you can take the path of least resistance and brainstorm or research.  The two thing that all (I hope) writers have in common is that they love to read and toy with ideas.  What often saved me in undergrad, back when I was trying so hard to be a Type A writer, was that I did a lot of thinking before I wrote anything.

    However, unless you have excess leisure time, sometimes you can’t technically finish a piece at the last minute. For writers with flexible schedules and without family obligations, losing a night of sleep to finish a manuscript isn’t a big deal.  But if you’ve got an unfathomable to-do list, you can have a cut-off time for your “last-minute” work.  For instance, if you work all day Monday and have something due at 6 PM that day, think of Sunday night and Monday as nonexistent.  Scrambling to write something acceptable during your lunch hour can make your day job stressful unless your day job is writing―then you may have some leeway.  Typically, if I have a full schedule on a due date, I pressure myself to finish one to two days before the due date.  Imposing an earlier due date for yourself has a placebo effect because you can trick yourself into believing that your due date is the one that matters.  Plus, if you get behind due to unforeseen circumstances, you still have extra time.

    Most importantly, if you’re a procrastinator, remember to be kind to yourself.  Beating yourself up is self-defeating and only leads to painful self-consciousness.  Also, writing with the mindset that you’re doing a chore will only compound any anxiety you feel over your work.  Instead, set up a comfortable space to write and allow yourself some vices that get you going.  Nothing inspires me more at the last-minute than a big cup of coffee and a glass of wine.

    As a final note, I have to add a disclaimer.  Just as getting the hang of any new routine takes practice, so does learning how to effectively procrastinate.  I came around to accepting that I’m a procrastinator a few months ago, and I’m doing a much better job meeting deadlines than I ever did in the past.  I’m not 100% there yet, but I’m a lot happier now that I’ve embraced my “problem.”


    In addition to writing for WriteByNight’s blog, Jenna Cooper writes for BE Mag and a blog called FemThreads.  Aside from writing, Jenna served as an AmeriCorps Member from 2008-2010 and will start her M.S. in Information Studies in Fall 2012.  She graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in English from the University of Texas.



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