Procrastination can be very frustrating. You have a mountain of work to do, you’ve cleared the time to actually be able to do it, and suddenly you can’t think about your novel for wanting to dig that old DVD box set out and watch.
One of the most important things I’ve learned as a writer is that procrastination is part of the process and usually a sign of something else. By now, I’m sure you all know that in order to write, you need to read. I don’t think we need to go into that here, it’s pretty obvious why, and if not, the interverse has millions of blog posts on it. But as a writer I think you have to also ‘feed’ your creativity, and that can encompass other art forms than just books.
I’ve come to think of creativity as some form of battery, and you have to keep it charged up. Some people go on about their muse, and how their muse has left them. I don’t think it’s that (mainly as it sounds a little pompous to me), so much as the battery being flat.
For me personally, I realise that every so often I need to emerge myself in another world, get my mind so lost in somebody’s creation that I’m almost in a dream-like state, and that coming out of it is like returning home from a holiday. Typically, it’s a large body of work which I can devour. In the past it’s been entire seasons of my favourite shows, MMOs and video games, comic books runs and yes, of course, books. And they don’t even have to be related to what I’m writing at the time. Submersing myself in those things, consuming them with the compulsion of a starving man, charges up my creative batteries like nothing else.
I suspect that everyone is different; some people top their batteries up as they go along, others are like me and run them flat and then charge them to full again. The important thing is that by getting an understanding what your creative mind needs, it’s easier to understand your procrastination and not let it become a roadblock to your project.
I find at the end of “a good feed”, ideas come more easily. Actually ideas are rarely a problem, but I do find myself having a better quality of idea. My dreams are also much more coherent.
There is always a danger that with this attitude, a true procrastinater can always find an excuse for lack of progress, but I think once you say to yourself that it’s OK – it’s your project, you can procrastinate for years if you want – you stop beating yourself up over it, and start finding your own creative process. By all means, sit there and wait for the muse to strike if that’s what takes you!
It took me a long time to realise that writing isn’t something I can do solidly for six hours a night, and that what I filled the rest of the time with, was important not wasted. Yes, there are times when even doing the dishes is more appealing than a hard bit of editing or writing, but that’s now become easier to spot. Writing’s hard, don’t let anyone tell you any different (Yes, it’s just putting words down on paper, but what words and in which order) but knowing whether you’re procrastinating because you’re on a genuine creative low or because it’s a tough section of work you just need to plough on through, makes it easier to overcome.
As with all creative process, there’s no right or wrong. There’s only your process. Finding it can be a a voyage of discovery, but that’s half the fun of writing.