Procrastinator’s Guide to Writing

19 Procrastinator-tested Writing Procrastination Techniques

Procrastination is a lifestyle for me. I have honed my craft as a procrastinator since childhood. I still owe a snail-mail letter to a girl from Girl Scout camp in the 80’s and probably have her letter somewhere to prove it. This Procrastinator’s Guide to Writing is a work in progress, based on actual experience and a bunch of tips I jotted down on grocery shopping list over a year ago. Subscribe to the site or RSS to receive irregular updates of tips and techniques you can use to avoid writing.

Maybe I Like Procrastinating Writing My Novel – Procrastinator Pride

Writing Procrastinator in Space
Manned spaceflights to Mars must have some parallel with my novel’s Ancient Near Eastern setting.

A Google search of “writing” and “procrastination turns up numerous articles and tips about why writers procrastinate and how to overcome it. What if you are a proud procrastinator and want to improve your procrastination techniques? Otherwise, you might actually finish that novel and then you have to go through that whole platform-building thing, marketing, finding an agent or self-publishing and on and on and before you know it, there are actually people you’ve never met reading your ever-forthcoming tome. Yikes! Coming up with effective ways to procrastinate your writing is a team effort. Try some of mine or make some of your own well-tested suggestions.

Experienced Writing Procrastinators Make the Best Coaches

I am currently somewhere between the first and second draft of my fabulously epic (or epically long) historical novel charting the rise and fall of the only queen of Ancient Judah, Athaliah bat Ahab, “A Certain Shade of Light” (working title). Although the first draft took four years to write and six months to review with my wheezing red roller ball pen, I harbor ambitions of finishing my unmistakably brilliant second draft in Summer 2017. That’s nearly two years after completing the first draft and a year later than I had in the first draft of this post. I haven’t figured out the whole elevator pitch and query business yet but I have plans to get around to it really soon.

Ironically, my own expertise in procrastination made me a good project manager. Kind of like when I taught at a Catholic high school, having attended an all-girls Catholic high school myself. I could spot a rolled-up skirt across the schoolyard. Similarly, I am so well-versed in the fine art of procrastination that I know when others are doing it and can encourage, nudge or hound others to complete their tasks in a timely manner.

The Powerful Cycle of Writing Procrastination and Guilt

Powerful cycle of writing procrastination and guilt
Vicious circle or powerful cycle? Procrastination causes guilt, and guilt causes more procrastination. Graphic by EB Miceli

Having said that, avoiding hypocrisy is another good reason to procrastinate. If I procrastinate reading other writers’ blogs and books, I can’t finish my own and expect those other writers to read mine, right? The resulting guilt from years of procrastination also helps me procrastinate more. It’s a powerful cycle. I feel guilty for procrastinating, which makes me procrastinate even more, which then increases my guilt, and on it goes. This cycle is highly effective for preventing me from getting addicted to social media or from completing my writing.

Maybe my novel will finish itself, but I know it really won’t, and I know there are folks who said they would like to read it, so I feel guilty about not finishing and I have some excellent reasons why I haven’t progressed beyond writing half of my second draft in nearly two years. You might call it a vicious circle, but I say, if ain’t broke, why fix it?

But enough about me. The 19 tips below form the proverbial tip of the iceberg (all pun intended). Send me your tips. I’ll add the best ones, and if you’ve managed to start a blog yourself, I’ll even add a link to it. When I get around to it…

 19 Procrastinator-tested Writing Procrastination Techniques

  1. Create an Access database for all your notes and characters, even though you used Access twice 15 years ago. Give up and make equally useless Excel spreadsheets instead.
  2. Organize your ballpoint pen collection by country of origin and hotel chain.
  3. Find old stuff in the garage and inventory it for sale. Etsy is calling you – someday, when you finish your novel – because you can’t sacrifice your art for Etsy.

    Lanier Theological Library - a favorite procrastination zone
    Research libraries like Lanier in Houston, TX, make great places to act like significantly contributing to your book without writing a thing.
  4. Research more. Don’t read the books, just gather them. Library books are great, because you have to go back and renew them every few weeks. I can’t miss an opportunity for more research now I’m here, right? Eventually, scanned them in, which took a few hours that I could have spent actually writing my novel.
  5. Facebook for any reason whatsoever. Someday, I’ll get around to learning Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram. I just don’t want it to get in the way of my novel writing.
  6. Go to Starbucks to “observe” people (good writers observe).
  7. Advocate for residents to HOA and County. Write impassioned letters no one asked you to write. All the folks on will thank you, and you’ve practiced your writing skills.

    Texas-sized petit fours for Texas-sized procrastination
    That chapter driving you nuts? Bake! I baked Texas-sized petit fours entirely from scratch for an Oscars party, which left me no time to waste on that frustrating chapter. Photo by EB Miceli
  8. Bake Make your sweetheart an elaborate, romantic dinner. It’s inspiration, right?
  9. Apply for jobs you’ll never get. Consider it training for future rejection letters from agents and publishers.
  10. Write a blog. Oh, wait. That can be construed as “building your platform.” Think about writing a blog. Better.
  11. Call your mother. Do I even have to explain this one?
  12. Escort your cat around the garden. My cat and I inspect the vegetable garden sometimes two or three times a day because it’s important bonding time and you never know if one of those green tomatoes has turned green in the past several hours.
  13. Scour for anti-itch cream when you live somewhere with no bugs. This one is courtesy of London-based, published writer and generally remarkable human being, Elizabeth Kiem. I didn’t get it at first because I live in Houston, where garden spiders jump at you, cockroaches fly and skeeters carry life-threatening diseases with foreign names.
  14. Research Oxford comma usage. The Oxford comma (which Brits generally don’t use anymore) is that comma placed before “and” in a list. That is, “apples, oranges, AND bananas” or “apples, oranges and bananas.” Grammarians can spend hours on this subject. I have changed it back and forth in my LONG manuscript a few times now. Very time-consuming and so much more important than editing all those verbose sentences.
  15. Experiment with “sun coffee.” Don’t lose the energy-saving benefits of sun-brewed coffee. You can get at least 15 minutes of procrastination in by grinding the coffee, turning the filter into a teabag, filling the jar with water and determining the best sun-catching spot to place it in the yard.
  16. Thrift shopping. This one is thanks to award-winning filmmaker Ray Haddad. Take a trip to goodwill and browse a lamp. Every writer needs a good collection of vintage thrift store lamps.
  17. Trip planning. Do you have an upcoming trip? To find the right hotel online at the right price takes hours, hours you should be spending writing. I know. I’ve been doing that for the past three days for an upcoming trip to Russia. Has spared me completing my goal of editing a rather large section of my novel by Friday.
  18. Complain to a foreign call center. Why spend time writing when you can make several calls to completely useless customer “care” representatives in foreign countries and, after all the frustration, not have your problem resolved? I’m thinking of you, Orbitz!
  19. Get a full-time job. This one has worked splendidly for me for nearly a year. Nothing 12-hour days, including a vicious commute, dealing with recalcitrant engineers (or customers, clients, coworkers, whatever), and your eyes bouncing between three monitors all day to exhaust you enough to make you flop into your recliner and avoid writing altogether.

Looking forward to your additions to the list!


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