Procrastination

When I first started wandering over to the grown-up side of the Port Charlotte Public Library, I read, among other things, as many histories of Hollywood as I could get my hands on. One of the stories that stuck with me concerned an anonymous screenwriter who had a script due the next day and a great deal of work to do on same. To help him out, his wife took the kids out for the day, throwing herself on the driving-with-small-children-before-the-era-of-portable-DVD players grenade, leaving him alone so he could work without interruption or distraction. That evening, she returned home exhausted, and opened the door just in time to see her deadline-pressed husband polish the last piece of their silverware service for twelve. Instead of working, he had cleaned every piece of silver they owned.

This story has stayed with me for close to forty years. Since I’ve been actively writing for only a third of that time, I think my backbrain knew something I didn’t. It knew the Real Me years before the conscious part of me did. It knew a procrastinator when it saw one.

I am writer. Watch me stall.

Did you know that “hang fire” is a synonym for “procrastinate”? I always wondered what the term meant. I looked it up while I was writing this. Even when one has made for damn sure and certain that the internet access remains confined to the other end of the house and that there are some places where one can work without encountering that particular temptation, there’s still the dictionary and thesaurus that came loaded with the word processor. I mean, many of us who later embarked upon the writing life used to while away the hours reading the dictionary. The nested links and .wav files are just a bonus.

Excuse me for a few minutes—there are a couple dishes in the sink I want to take care of. There are just a few and when they’re done, I’ll have a clean sink. Then I can sit and concentrate.

Isn’t this the day I’m supposed to give the dogs their heartworm meds? Let me check…

The thing is, I love to write. I enjoy the process, the unfolding of the story. That moment when I type a throwaway line that upon closer examination ties up a plot thread and weaves a new one. It’s my perfect job. Being paid to make things up is the best thing in the world. So why do I fiddle about? Why do I set aside the laptop and sort through the catalogs on the coffee table, then dump them in the trashcan only to find that the bag is too full and I need to change it, then take the full bag outside to the big trash can only to find that there are weeds popping up between the cracks in the driveway that badly need slaughtering…

You know, a cup of tea would taste good right now. It’ll just take a couple of minutes to make. This post isn’t due until Friday—I have time. In fact, I’ll have you know that it’s Monday, which means that I’m actually finishing this up a few days, no, almost a week early.

And it’s a darned good thing I wrapped this up. Because there’s this synopsis with sample chapters that I should be working on…

So, when you procrastinate–don’t tell me you don’t, because if that were true, you probably wouldn’t be here–what do you find yourself falling into? Besides blogging, that is.

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  1. 1. Laura

    Without a doubt, my favorite procrastination is reading. Reading about writing, reading up on the genre, reading author biographies, reading how-to books… I think the very first piece advice I ever heard after deciding that I wanted to write was that a writer must read. I’ve taken it to heart. Sometimes I’d like to hit whoever it was that said that and make them take it back. What they should have said was that a writer must WRITE.

  2. 2. Patricia Bray

    Besides the usual (web surfing, reading, catching up on TV shows I taped weeks ago), research is my biggest trap–it’s easy to decide that I can’t start writing because I haven’t yet learned everything I need to know. The internet can be deadly here.

    Recently I cleaned and rearranged my writing room–something that hasn’t happened for nearly two years, just so I didn’t have to start working on a new chapter.

    As a matter of fact, I’m supposed to be writing right now (I even took a vacation day from work to finish something up). Guess it’s time to stop being an example and actually get to work.

    Right after I make a fresh cup of coffee.

  3. 3. Amanda Kelly

    Heh, busted XD Yep, guess what I’m supposed to be doing right now? I have opened quotation marks, the little blinky line – and oh, what’s that? A spider on the wall? Why, if I don’t immediately clean up my immediate workspace, that’ll just create the most perfect haven for it, no? Don’t want to get bitten, best do it now – the book can wait a little longer.

    I admittedly fall into the same trap as Patricia – Research.
    I’m a veritable information junkie – I start looking up one little thing of relevance, and it snowballs, and then two hours later I’m reading about something that while very interesting, doesn’t actually have anything to do with my topic. Like now! *laughs*

    Occasionally I decide that I’ve had enough of painting pictures with words and I want to wind down my hand with a pencil and my sketchbook.

    And then I start procrastinating that, too!

    *sigh* I suppose we’re all a bundle of chronic procrastinators, no? well, nothing for it, I better take the little blinky line a few more paragraphs at least before bed.

    Oh. After I finish surfing eBay, of course.

  4. 4. Simon Haynes

    I look at time spent procrastinating as my brain-rest. Nobody writes during every waking hour.

    Having said that, sometimes I do get very annoyed with myself when the house is quiet and empty from 9-3, and I finally sit down to write something at 2:30.

  5. 5. Elizabeth Moon

    Photography and land. Digital photography has taken over as the number one procrastination activity, even more hours than blogging and emailing friends and surfing. Well…almost more. I go out, spend a few hours taking 50-100 shots–and it’s *important*, it’s *research,* then of course I have to go through them, right then. Decide which to discard. Try different crops on the others. Play with all the tools that seem to fit–histogram adjustment, sharpening, etc. Resize some, convert them back to jpegs, send them to friends or post them at LJ or my website. And of course look up what I was taking a picture of, which is frequently some plant, insect, spider, bird, etc. that I don’t recognize. All in the name of science, you understand.

  6. 6. Elizabeth Donald

    And here I am, reading your excellent post about procrastination instead of working. Because I don’t procrastinate – I RESEARCH! Is there coffee yet? I better go make some.

  7. 7. S.C. Butler

    The computer is the greatest invention in the history of writing.

    And the worst.

  8. 8. Cameron Lowe

    Having wireless Internet service hooked up at my house was the worst writing decision I’ve ever made. It has led to more Youtube and Wikipedia surfing than any actual real research. Not to mention gaming – don’t get me started on Yahoo’s Bookworm.

  9. 9. Kristine Smith

    Cameron–that’s the major reason why I have not tried to set up my wireless network. I have the Airport Extreme router. I have the cards. I’ve even installed the card in my iBook. But I don’t want to take those final steps because I know that as soon as I can surf from anywhere in the house, I will surf from anywhere in the house.

  10. 10. Kristine Smith

    Elizabeth Moon–yard work on beautiful days. No one should like weeding and lawnmowing, but on a sunny-but-cool autumn day…

    I want to be outside so badly right now I want to cry. Of course, I’m at the day job–bad Kris–and that makes it even worse.

  11. 11. Kristine Smith

    Mmmmmm…fresh coffee…

  12. 12. Simon Haynes

    Cameron – I bought a laptop with no inbuilt wireless. I eventually gave in and bought a plug-in wireless card for it, but when I’m writing I pop it out and leave it in another room of the house. No quick email or website checks for me!

  13. 13. Kate Elliott

    this made me laugh, in a mildly hysterical way, because we are surely related

    These days I’m really finding that the internet is a problem because it makes it TOO easy to procrastinate, whereas there was a limit even for me back in the day when chores were my main form of hardcore stalling (reading is always an issue, but reading is a form of work, right?)

  14. 14. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    That’s me! That’s me! Watch me procrastinate right now! I’m down to the last ten minutes of available time . . . what should I do? Surf some more? get caught up on trivia form the day job? Clean the bathroom?

Author Information

Kristine Smith

I'm a scientist by day, spec fic writer by nights and weekends. Author of the Jani Kilian SF series. Owned by two overgrown puppies. Visit site.

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