So, I’ve finally been inspired for my new story. Have I made progress? Yes, some, but not as much as I could have done. Halfway through week one I contracted a serious case of procrastination—the writer’s equivalent of cooties. In fact, I doubt any conscientious keyboard-monkey will read this post for fear of catching it, but I hope some are brave enough because I also share the cure that worked for me.
Procrastination: The Death of Productivity
My symptoms have been pretty much textbook: finding irrelevant and pointless activities to divert myself with rather than actually buckling down and increasing my word count. Below are some of the physical signs that made it clear to me I was infected:
First, I had to de-fluff and remove fingerprints from my mouse, because I convinced myself I could operate my computer faster, and so write faster.
Then, for reasons of artistic inspiration, I had to replace my old mouse mat with one with a map of Middle Earth—because I was writing fantasy.
It was also vitally important that I admire my collection of Angry Birds toys. This, I was sure, would help me visualise fantasy creatures. I also made sure I pressed each of their foreheads several times—the strange cries and noises would help with the atmosphere of my novel.
Nurturing your inner child while writing is an invaluable aid to creativity. So I played with my Angry Birds catapult.
When these at-my-desk activities failed to increase my word count, I reverted to type and found a game to play. I told myself that the tactical warfare that is pool would enable me to write more realistic battle sequences. It was that, or read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Pool sounded more fun.
Eradicating this particular strain of the disease has been difficult because—in order to stand the best possible chance of finishing this novel (the third I’ve started)—I figured I needed an outline; something to enable me to keep up the momentum of the story during the potentially slower “middle” section where I’ve tended to get bogged down before.
The cure was drastic, but didn’t take very long. I admitted to myself to an isolation ward. No people. No communication devices. In fact, no electronic devices whatsoever. When I’d got over the shock (which took a whole two minutes) I lay down on my hospital bed and thought. I simply let my mind wander over what I already knew about the characters, setting, and the events of the story so far. In under half an hour I had a more satisfying and dramatic ending, subplots for nearly every major character, character development arcs for several more, some ideas for possible themes for the novel, and some clues as to how the subplots were going to weave together to form a coherent whole.
It wasn’t an epiphany, but simply ridding myself of all distractions for a little while, immersing myself in the fantasy world and allowing possibilities to form without judgement or censure, before finally allowing my mind to link them together into a whole, worked wonders.
Simply thinking was my cure. I’ve found my subconscious often writes better stories than I do.
So, what are your most common/most fun symptoms of procrastination? Do you have a cure you want to share? Please leave your medical tips below and disinfect another writer today.