A Novel Idea

Archive for the ‘Procrastination’ Category

Productive procrastination.

I grant you, it doesn’t have quite the fatuous flair of its oxymoronic cousin ‘Doing Nothing’. It does have some value, at least for me.

In today’s post I’m going to share three guilt-free activities to escape temporarily from your writing which actually make you a better writer.

I’m not going to cheat by including Reading as one of those activities. If you fancy yourself a writer and you rarely read, I’d hazard you’re not much of a writer.

I’m even going to exclude web browsing (we all know glam and gossip can be edifying in their own ways).

I’m not entirely productive when I do procrastinate. I discussed bad procrastination in my previous post:


I’m also not talking about getting up to make your fourth cup of tea or coffee which you then sip once after realising you cannot stomach another of those today. I classify that under mild leg and arm stretching, not procrastination.

Procrastination is a mental affliction preventing the physical form from coherent key tapping.

Time well spent? Picture courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/rctaylorphotography/3025951136/

If the bottom glue just isn’t working on a writing day, rather than chastise myself, I try to something vaguely useful to the overall goal.

Here are my favourites:

  1. Enter ’25 words or less’ competitions
    A lot of companies run competitions (sometimes with fabulous prizes on offer) designed to ‘engage’ the customer and increase their loyalty. As a break from serious writing, I like to challenge myself to pen pithy answers to questions like ‘Which Aerosmith song changed your life and why?’

    It gets my mind thinking along a different track (pardon the pun), and my prize haul to date includes a backstage meet & greet with a musician, a bottle of perfume and hundreds of dollars worth of books.

  2. Walk the dog
    Sadly I do not have a furry companion at the moment, but if I did, my little puppy would not have a chance to plump up. We’d be round the block, down at the park with the frisbee, sniffing the wonders of the local bakery. Actually it’s probably a good thing I don’t have a dog right now. The next best thing to walking with a mate is of course walking somewhere picturesque. How can you not be inspired to write after some lovely fresh air?
  3. Bookshop Crawl
    Like a pub crawl, the aim of a bookshop crawl is to soak up the atmosphere at one shop after another. You stop when either a) You are seized by the need to write and see your book on the shelves b) You’ve bought more books than you can read in the next year c) You’re starting to feel word sick.

    The Bookshop Crawl has the pleasant side effect that you can spy on customers and see what people pick up and take home.


So what are you doing when you should be writing?

Don’t ‘Do Nothing’. Engage in Productive Procrastination.

Maybe it’ll catch on? Maybe not.

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

For me, there are two types of procrastination from writing: good or bad.

Bad procrastination includes any activity that not only detracts from your word count or the quality of your work, it actually makes you less likely to write that day.

Bad procrastination includes activities such as:

  • Housework
    One load of washing spirals into a spring cleaning epic. I’m too tuckered out to type afterwards.
  • Socialising (Virtual)
    A Facebook friend announces a birth, death or marriage. I’m obliged to congratulate or condole accordingly.
  • Socialising (Actual)
    If my writing like a hermit hasn’t deterred a friend by now and I’m actually having a live, in-person conversation with them, they care enough to know that I am writing and will inevitably ask ‘so how’s the book going?’. If I’m socialising in writing time, I’m just going to feel bad about it.

Do you engage in bad procrastination?

Hamlet has long been identified as a literary procrastinator. I adore the play and am intrigued by the character. However I am aware that some audience members may have felt like hurling abuse along the lines of ‘Would you just GET ON WITH IT!’

Perhaps our family members also feel like saying this to us at times?

In the tradition of Shakespeare – an aside:

Here is Brendan Cowell, terrific Australian actor, as Hamlet in the Bell Shakespeare production last year. The performance I saw at the Sydney Opera House was the most enjoyable Hamlet I have seen to date.

Picture courtesy of http://www.theage.com.au/news/arts/wrestling-hamlet/2008/06/26/1214472670857.html

Slaying Claudius is akin to writing a novel. Not that writing is a murderous occupation, but it does involve pain and contemplation.

Good (or tolerable) procrastination may reduce your word count for the day, but it somehow helps in the overall journey to finishing the manuscript.

I’m putting off the rest of this post for now…

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

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  • Violet: Thanks Alannah :) Apologies for not replying sooner: I'm finally catching my breath and the year is almost over!
  • Alannah Murphy: I remember your first post, way back when I had my old Here Be Dragons blog, and I am glad you are still writing. We all find out, sooner or later, ho
  • Violet: Good to hear that Aaron. Good Luck with your work.