Monday, August 9, 2010

Positive Procrastination

ROBERTA: I feel a little bit bad bringing this subject up when we're in the middle of our "Write First" challenge, but here goes anyway. Okay, so it's early in the day and I've got my 1000 word goal set--which shouldn't be so hard right? After all, Laura Lippman can write 2500 words a day--I saw it on Facebook. (And by the way, she's coming to visit us here next Saturday, so you can ask her yourself.) Anyway, then I decide I better check the crops in the garden before it gets too hot. And I find that the cucumber vines have gone crazy. So before I know it, I have a big batch of sweet pickles underway because the words can wait but the vegetables can't. And I don't feel entirely bad about all this, because the end product is so satisfying.

I can't afford TOO many days like this, but you have to make room for life once in a while, don't you think?

HALLIE: If only my procrastination involved pickles. I happen to have tasted your pickles. For me, the most "positive" my procrastination gets is weeds or laundry.

But don't you think the more you have to do, the more you get done? I am incredibly productive when deadlines loom; not so much when it feels like I've got all the time in the world.

RO: Very little can stop me when I want to be interrupted. It can be an owl outside my window or the certainty that a tomato plant half a football field away needs to be watered. Even now, I know I should be doing something else. Yes, we do have to stop and smell the roses but I'm not sure we always have to get dressed and take a five minute walk to get to them.

RHYS: I'm in the middle of the first phase of a book, so I'm doing five pages a day. That's about 1500 words, which is the amount that works for me. Sometimes I do more, but I'm not But I also find that I need down time to let things simmer and think things through. I wander through the garden, I throw in loads of laundry, I drive to the market in the car and all the while my subconscious is cleverly working out the next scene. So there is such a thing as positive procrastination. I think it's like being pregnant. The creation has to develop at its own pace and you can't rush it. So if you feel like smelling roses, smell them!

HANK: I don't call it procrastination. I call it--planning. Before you hoot, hear me out. My to-do list, like all of yours, I'm sure, is immense and impossible. My first thought--okay, my second thought, after: OH MY GOSH THERE IS NO WAY--is: isn't this great? Who'd have thought there would be all these wonderful things I'm supposed to do?
But of course, some of them are more fun than others. Some--are incredibly daunting and seem too hard.
So I plan. I think: I'll worry about the XYZ interview three days before it's due, but not before. So, see, that's not procrastination, that's putting it off until a specific time. Then I've imposed my own deadline. Because without a deadline, kids, I'm doing NOTHIN'.
And, like Rhys, my brain knows when it's the time to think of something. And it won't do it before that time.

ROBERTA: Ro, I think an owl would be well worth stopping for--and even watering that tomato sounds good! Rhys, love your attitude: we are all pregnant with our books even when it looks like nothing is happening! And Hank, you're the most positive of the positive:).

How about you guys--is your procrastination positive?

And by the way, if reading JRW is one of your procrastination techniques, we have four amazing women lined up this week. Alex Sokoloff will be here on Wednesday to talk about screenwriting tricks for writers. Then on Thursday, visit with life coach Jill Crossland to get her views on managing procrastination. And wowie, SJ Rozan will stop in on Friday and Laura Lippman on Saturday. And then on Sunday--time to fess up during the Jungle Red "Write First" challenge!

Follow the Writers Challenge on Twitter. Search: #Jrwritefirst


  1. Because somehow we haven't talked about checking email as phony-positive-procrastination. Because you can tell yourelf--there maybe something I NEED to know right now..

    How often is that true?

  2. JRW is, in fact, one of my procrastination techniques. But, because you all write in the genre I love best I call it work rather than procrastination. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

  3. I like your story Susan:). And I do think we need to build in rewards for all our hard work!

    But Hank, I'm totally with you--email is a killer. and facebook...and my precious listservs...

    Isn't it a wonder how we get anything done???

  4. Hi Roberta,
    My entry into the blog yesterday got overwritten in that weird way of blogger.

    THere are so many ways to procrastinate, so little time. I always wished I loved gardening because I think that would be inspirational.

    My most positive procrastination is going for a three mile walk. I always solve at least one story problem along the way. I used to think that picking up the guitar and playing a song was wasteful. But now I understand that it gets my "voice" chakra going (at least that's the new theory I'm going with)

    But most of my procrastinations, not surprisingly, slow me down. LIKE EMAIL. LIKE Facebook. LIKE checking the blog.

    None of this stuff feels so wasteful though, now that I'm writing FIRST

  5. Almost never on the emails...

    And Jan...I know it's only been two days but you have changed MY LIFE!!

  6. I agree with the 'positive procrastination'. Headwriting is writing, as far as I'm concerned. Although since we moved recently, to an entirely different environment, I find watching the deer, or the hummingbirds fighting at the feeder a bit distracting.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  7. I also solve writing dilemmas while running. I do this without trying. My creativity flows when I run. Great for the heart and soul! I always feel better afterward.