With or without deadlines, I’m a professional procrastinator. As a writer (an amateur one), I find lollygagging on a blank document is a natural thing to do. Before all the words poured out and the sentences are stringed, I often stay idle or aimlessly shift from page to page on my web browser. It’s become a mandatory step to get any writing done. Almost like a ritual, I purposely plan to procrastinate.
The good side of being distracted from my daily tasks is the likelihood of the eureka-moments to happen. Because I can’t wait for ideas to hit me, reading and digesting materials somehow make writing less overwhelming. The art of procrastination is a part of ideas generation and it also fuels my productivity as the day goes. To other people, this doesn’t make sense. But the mechanism behind dawdling through words is just fascinating. I always struggle to think of an introduction to my story, or even worse, not having any clue of where it leads to. To create something out of nothing requires collective moments of observation and ideation. Hence, I treat procrastination as a logical momentum before diving into any assignment, especially when I work from home. It’s okay to postpone doing something, but a rule of thumb is to never put it off.
It’s hard to fight against the writer’s block and oftentimes, I feel frustrated to translate the initial thoughts about my topic to a completely blank page because they are inadequate. So reading up on different blog posts and articles help to squeeze the creative juice out of my dried out system more effective than passive brainstorming. This can be mistaken as researching, but procrastination is really anything but focusing on my priorities. Which means I have to make sure that whatever I read or do during the allowed delaying period will steer the writing wheel right back to where it’s left off.
I once handled more than 10 articles of various topics (approx. 1000 words each) in a week. It was a hazard. As the deadline crept closer, I managed to get the researching part done, and only until the very last minute, everything fell into place. I then realized that procrastination with a deadline is an entirely different story than free writing. Yes, I can delay updating my own blog, but my clients wouldn’t want to spend their money on my “creative pilgrimage”, would they?
To master the art of procrastination is to take control of both motivation and time.
“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
What mood is that?
― Bill Watterson
Knowing where ideas come from is essential to any procrastinator. As for me, I need to see my notebooks filled with extracts from my favorite stories or articles. I like to collect words that resonate with my present state, hence reading is a joy that makes procrastination purposeful. I set a strict schedule for myself to consume only a certain amount of materials in order to meet my deadlines. It often goes like this: Write down the topic to write – Read today’s news – Read my other bookmarks – Write down interesting stuffs to my notebook – Start researching on the topic – Draft the points – Keep researching – Start writing. In between the written words, I also watch a few YouTube videos as well, mostly from Ted Talks (it is where ideas are shared after all).
While working on the first few sentences of the story, motivation is the most important catalyst because it is what keeps the machine running. Writing is an art that entails not only creativity but also discipline, and it is a challenge to harmonize both. But as long as I get the introduction to the story out of my brain, the rest of it becomes easier. The flow of words is now more consistent and the influence of the earlier reading starts to kick in as well. From this moment onward, there shouldn’t be any procrastination any more.
Successful people are those who get things done without any problems, but the majority of us (myself included) are held back because of negative procrastination. So I urge everyone to learn to transform our working habits today for new opportunities to break in. It’s as easy as planning ahead what activity would bring more benefits as we shift our focus outside of the writing task. Once we have adapted our mind-set towards a “structured procrastination” by sticking to a schedule, we will be able to achieve our writing goals.