Writers: Productive Ways to Procrastinate (Hint: Writing this Blog Post Was One)

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It is physiologically impossible for me to write 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

But that doesn’t stop me from thinking, “I should be writing right now” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and so on.

There’s probably a condition in the DSM-IV for this obsessive sense of obligation to the craft. Existential Writer’s Guilt, or some such.

Assuming that the goal is to put time into the completion of our main projects, almost anything we do in the day to day can feel like “procrastination,” a condition further exacerbated when the true form of certifiable procrastination hits – the opportunity to write is there, but we choose not to take it.

In order to stay productive and “in the zone” in between writing sessions, here are ways I procrastinate that still feed the well springs.

Chores – They won’t do themselves.

My favorite Agatha Christie quote is, “The best time to plan a book is while doing the dishes.” Anyone else agree wholeheartedly? I will often imagine scenarios, feel out conflicts, and problem-solve plots wearing yellow dish gloves up to my elbows.

A little audio stimulation helps, too. Listening to music that could be on your book’s soundtrack once it’s made into a movie does wonders for the imagination. But if your brain is tired of thinking about your own work, library audiobooks are priceless. Whether it’s a novel like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, read by Sherman Alexie himself, or a craft memoir like On Writing, read by Stephen King himself, you’re likely to feel the writing spark, even as you mop floors.

Lazy-Bones Down Time

Who doesn’t need to veg out every once in a while? For a relaxing yet productive mental check-out session:

  1. Read a book off your TBR (To Be Read) list. It feels like you’re getting something done while hopefully gaining insight about how other authors handle similar subject matter or techniques. When I wrote a novel in 1st person present tense, I read a stack of novels written in the same tense, regardless of genre or substance. It proved an invaluable way to be “lazy.”
  2. Flip through magazines like Poets & Writers or Writer’s Digest or trade magazines related to your subject matter. Cuz, why not?
  3. Watch a movie or show related to your project. We like to call this “research.” And it can be. If used wisely. For example, watching The Runaways was a definite must while writing my “punk girl gone good” novel. It was. Really. As were the Swedish versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies.

Off-Project Writing

Or, as I like to call it, my unabashed infidelity to the WIP (Work In Progress). There’s the long-term project and then there’s the instant gratification of writing something fresh, off-topic. For me that means flash fiction & short stories, as well as blog post articles. Quick and tidy, ready for the presses in a fraction of the time. You can hardly call this procrastination (as your novel weeps into her pillow).

Social Hour

Twitter. Facebook. G+. Goodreads. Forums… necessary evils to some, boundless source of community & entertainment for others. Though social media can oh so easily lead to truly un-productive procrastination, it can also present opportunities, like when you learn about a magazine looking for a blogger and you apply and you get to contribute. Ahem.

Sandman Calling

This is coming from a near-insomniac, but let me say, there are times to sacrifice sleep for your book, like when an agent wants to see your manuscript and you want to make sure every one of your 99k words are necessary before pressing “send.” And then there’s sleeping on it.

Many a plot solution or whole novel ideas have been fabled to appear in dreams. Just think if Stephenie Meyer forwent sleep the night she dreamt of a vampire and teen-aged girl lying in a meadow. Enough said.


Whatever the justifications for procrastination (and there are many valid ones) there are also limitless ways to stay connected to our work while nurturing our writerly sensibilities.

What are your favorite ways to “procrastinate?”
Have you ever been grateful that you waited to write because a brilliant idea struck you while doing dishes?
How about tips, do you know of another great way to stay productive between writing sessions?






Syl DeLeon lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and writes edgy literary fiction with a commercial bent. She also bakes delicious cookies and coaches kids’ soccer. Read more at www.SylDeLeon.com or follow @SylDeLeon.

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