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Some Wayward Thoughts on Procrastination from an Inveterate Procrastinating Criminal

by Jennifer on May 13, 2010

By Katheryn Rivas

OK, so, like most of you who read this blog, I, too, am a procrastinator. And I am also a writer. The more I’ve ventured into the world of writing, the more I think that the two categories are one.

The division between the writer and the procrastinator is fictitious. It almost has to be the case, considering the number of writers I know who have the chronic it-can-wait-till-tomorrow syndrome.

Since my procrastination more or less cripples me (or at least when I allow it to, which is often) I can offer no solid “tips and tricks” for anyone that would be even remotely helpful. All the good, concrete tips have been written about before, and they no longer interest me as much as they used to.

Instead, I can only offer my personal reflections on procrastination and how I wrestle with these time-frittering demons.

Where to begin?

Perhaps at the beginning. Beginnings are always the toughest part of anything, and writing is the one activity that lends itself most to the false-start blues.

Here’s a gem from the noted German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke: “It is a tremendous act of violence to begin anything. I am not able to begin. I simply skip what should be the beginning.”

OK, then, so let’s skip it.

There will be times when you can’t write. You simply can’t. And I don’t think it is fair or right or in any way reasonable to assume that a blank Word doc page with its blinking cursor screaming at us to just write is a bad thing.

The physical act of writing—although sure, it is an integral piece of the puzzle, since you can’t really call yourself a writer if you haven’t written anything—is far from being the only step in the whole process.

There is a lot of thinking involved, a lot of drafting (even if you aren’t putting it all down on paper), and there’s also, most importantly, the step in the writing process that soars above all others—reading. Serious reading.

So for those of you who struggle with procrastination, learn to embrace it. Learn to understand that procrastination can sometimes be your friend (even though it can quickly turn completely unproductive and ugly).

Procrastination only works when you are doing fruitful things procrastinating, like some of the other things I mentioned—reading, thinking, and perhaps even exploring other art forms, like music, from which to draw inspiration.

Only a couple of days ago, I learned so much about the creative process from an unlikely source: Boris Berezovsky, a Russian piano virtuoso. The documentary I watched on YouTube about Berezovsky can certainly be labeled “procrastination.”

But one thing I learned, I simply can’t get over.

Berezovsky said, “Before one can play like a virtuoso, one must listen like a virtuoso.”

This one sentence underscored for me the importance of two things for the proper development of my craft: reading and observing the outside world.

You can call that procrastination. I call that listening. And that’s what every writer needs to learn, before “beginning” anything.

About the Author: Katheryn Rivas writes on the topics of online universities. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Saf May 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Lovely post.Thanks.

2 Andrew Toynbee June 17, 2010 at 7:26 am

So many thruths…
I think procrastination can be such a grey area. We are all driven these days to produce something, whether it be something simple like getting the ironing finished or the dishes washed or a more momentous event such as finishing that darn novel.
One person’s procrastination is another person’s thinking time.
I have often found joy in the simple act of gazing at a river (anyone else find that relaxing?). What could easily be mistaken for procrastination by an observer is me allowing my Muse some relaxation time – and it rewards me by throwing up new ideas like a leaping salmon.
I may be in a minority in that I don’t agree with NaNoWriMo. Or at least it doesn’t suit my style of writing. The pace of NaNoWriMo is too intense and has the writer’ speedboat thundering past ideas that pop up to the surface, begging to be incorporated.
Maybe I’m a slow writer, but I prefer to build in plenty of thinking (and observing) time to my project.
Or is that just another form of procrastination?

3 jennifer blanchard June 17, 2010 at 9:47 am

@Andrew Toynbee Something I tend to do a lot, too, is sit and stare. I especially do this when I’m at work because I have an amazing view of downtown Houston from my office window. I think that each writer’s writing process is different and that’s a good thing. If we all did everything the same way we’d never have anyone to learn from. So if your writing process requires plenty of thinking, that’s great. Build that time in. And in your case, I don’t think it’s another form of procrastination because you’re writing almost 500 words a day in your novel. Progress is what’s important.

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