Ink-Stained Scribe


Procrastination just seems so much more efficient when you have a British accent.

Charlie brings up a good point when he said creating videos for YouTube used to be what he did to avoid his real job, but now that making YouTube videos is his job, making videos has become the thing he avoids rather than the method of avoidance. That's generally true for me when I'm faced with "having to do" something, even if it's something I usually like doing. I love reading, but it was hard to make myself do assigned reading. While I was unemployed, I decided to try writing as if I were a full-time writer, but had neither the pressure of a time-constraint nor the accountability to help facilitate the process. I was suddenly faced with a seemingly-interminable span of time in which to complete something, so it was really easy to put it off for another hour while I "woke up more" or "caught up on email".

I'm ADD, and so the "I should take a nap - ooh, a chocolate-chip cookie!" part of my brain is pretty loud and tireless. To make matters worse, a lot of my methods of procrastination is masquerading as productivity, like Charlie's taxes.

Procrastination-Methods Masquerading as Productive [PMMP...that's a horrible acronym]

Sleep in late, even when I've had plenty of sleep

Make tea or coffee.

"Research" (camels, eco-systems in tide-pools, windmills, wheelbarrows, irrigation, slate quarries) for details that amount to less than a sentence or two the text.

(From Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh)
Procrastination Methods that Ain't Even Trying [PMAET]
Dr. Who (and other TV Shows)
Facebook (the whole thing)
Stumble Upon
Watching DIY Videos...without the whole DI part.

Charlie explained the biological reason we procrastinate, which actually helped me to understand something about the relationship between work and satisfaction when you're writing a novel. The satisfaction of completing a novel or a novel revision is enormous, but there's a ton of work that goes into reaching that one big goal. If we as writers allow ourselves to think only of the satisfaction (or validation) we will feel when the entire thing is finished, the limbic system is going to win out pretty easily with "Hey, don't you want to go feed your virtual cows?"

I suppose this is why some writers set daily word-goals - to make the satisfaction more immediate. Unfortunately, that usually caused me to stop writing once I reached that word-count, no matter where I was in the scene, so the satisfaction wasn't as high as when I completed a scene. The satisfaction of finishing a scene is enough to drive me past the point of procrastination. Of course, I may reward myself with an episode or two of Dr. Who before I move on...but that's a "natural break" in my productivity.

Because I'm ADD, removing distractions rarely works for me, since I'll just make new ones of my own. One brilliant thing about having a deficit of attention is that you can always find something new to do. If I'm at home, I tend to choose whatever will provide me with the most satisfaction at that moment. Sometimes that's writing, sometimes it's cooking or watching Veronica Mars or making throw-pillows for my new apartment or looking for pictures of steampunk wedding cakes, even though I don't even have a boyfriend...

Which is why I tend not to write at home. Certain rooms are primed for certain kinds of behavior, and when I'm in those rooms, I have a harder time resisting Neil Patrick Harris's dulcet tones.

If I'm in public, surrounded by people, I'm less likely to let myself get distracted because I know that people could be watching. I don't usually think they are, but they could be, which gives me a pretty good reason not to sit in Starbucks with my headphones in, squealing over Bradley James in full-plate armor.

What are your favorite ways to procrastinate? How can you make writing more satisfying in short-term ways? What other methods have you found to beat distraction?