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Is There Any Value In Procrastinating?

by Jennifer on February 16, 2011

Everywhere you look people are blogging about productivity. It’s about getting things done. It’s about being as productive as possible.

When you feel like you have to be productive, it makes you want to procrastinate. And when you procrastinate, you never get anything done… do you?

Is it possible that there’s value in procrastinating? Is it possible that skipping your writing session to wash dishes and watch Seinfeld re-runs could actually help you be a better writer in the end?

Possibilities of Procrastination
When you procrastinate, you put things off until the last minute and then work furiously to get it all done by the deadline. Doing this can be extremely overwhelming and can cause you a lot more stress than necessary.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing. At least when it comes to your writing.

While procrastinating does bring about some negative things, like stress and anxiety, it can also bring about a lot of really good things, such as:

  • Better ideas–When you wait ’til the last minute to start your writing project, suddenly you’ll notice you have all kinds of ideas. Why? Possibly because your brain knows you’re close to failure and so it squeezes out every ounce of creativity it has left and shoots you a winner.
  • Tighter, more concise writing–Since you’re writing at the last minute, you know you’re going to have to pull out the big guns to get the job done. So your brain suddenly starts forming sentences in a concise fashion.
  • Writing on steroids–When I wait ’til the last minute to start my freelance writing projects, I find my writing is on steroids (so to speak). I’m able to write like I’ve never written before in my life. I feel brilliant and witty. I never feel that way when I work on a project a little at at time.
  • Feel clear and focused–Since you have such a short amount of time to complete the writing, your brain seems to almost zero-in on what’s important. Suddenly you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to make this happen, because it just starts happening.
  • Stamina for long writing sessions–If you wait ’til the last minute, you know you’re in for a marathon writing session. But you know you can handle it because you’ve done it before… And you’ll do it again.

Problems with Procrastination
As with everything in life, there’s a flip side to procrastination, and it ain’t pretty.

When you procrastinate, one or more of the following can happen:

  • You’ll cut corners–possibly causing you to miss something really, really important
  • You’ll be stressed out–sweating, pounding heart and oh-my-God-why-did-I-wait-til-the-last-minute-again freak out moments
  • You’ll do a poor job–while it is possible to complete a writing assignment in a short amount of time and do a decent job, chances are you won’t do as good a job as you would if you gave it more time

At the end of the day, you have a choice. You get to choose when you write and when you procrastinate. While there are pros and cons to both, the final decision lies in your hands.

What value do you see in procrastinating? How does it help you get your writing done?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of Procrastinating Writers. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits Challenge. For more great writing tips, tools and advice, be sure to follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris February 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm

For me, it really depends on the subject matter. Writing about something I know becomes even easier when I have put it off. I keep it short and don’t “overthink” the details.
Also, even though I might be procrastinating, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been processing the idea/wording in my head for days or even weeks. That extra time might be just what I needed to get out a quality article.

2 Jennifer February 16, 2011 at 2:20 pm

@Chris You’re absolutely right. Just because you’re procrastinating doesn’t mean you’re not constantly thinking about your writing. And maybe all that thinking-while-procrastinating is what helps make your writing that much better when you do finally sit down and put words on the page.

3 Texanne February 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Holly’s course on motivation could be a life-saver for writers who procrastinate. For me, when I was freelancing–nope, even now–I turn in projects at the last possible moment because I never quite feel they’re good enough. My husband, who manages engineers, says this is a problem for them, too. That’s why Peter invented deadlines. :)TX

Good thinking in your post, by the way.

4 Reagan February 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I have Chronic Procrastination!! I am in the 10th month of my 1 year novel completion goal and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the book or its completion!! I think procrastinating doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. Some people simply work better at the last minute as the article states, but it starts to get bad when you are like me and you wait and wait and wait and then start to give up on your project because everyday is the same stem of procrastination..*super sad face*

5 Dianna Zaragoza February 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm

There’s definitely some good to procrastination, but it can be stressful to work this way.

If anyone’s interested, I’ve written my own article with some helps for those who are chronic procrastinators (present company included, of course): http://www.creative-writing-life-coach.com/procrastination.html.

Love your posts. Keep up the good work.

6 Cindy February 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm

As for the brain suddenly bursting with ideas, it’s actually sort of “waking up.” Ever notice how you learn something new, then the next day it makes more sense? The brain takes that time to assimilate, sort, categorize, catalog, etc., the information and processes it “behind your back.” So, after procrastinating awhile, the ideas that have been percolating bubble up to the surface when you “wake yourself up.” It’s awesome when it happens, but not a good idea to plan on it as a habit. There will be those times (trust me – first hand knowledge here) that you haven’t learned enough for your brain to make up its mind. 😉

7 Jennifer February 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm

@Dianna Thanks for the link!

8 Vincent February 17, 2011 at 11:30 pm

I have really missed a lot of writing stuff :S almost half of 2010. Although I know I can’t cry over the pas – I can certainly make my present better. That’s why I have started reading blog posts daily to invent something new in me, even if not invent I can always read them and grasp writing tips that keeps motivating one.

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