Procrastinating to Perfection

My name is Anne and I’m a procrastinator.

I’m also a writer and procrastination is in the job description. It’s the supreme avoidance tactic that many of us – writers or not – use when we really don’t want to tackle something. But writers seem to take the P word to professional levels.

Procrastination feeds on a writer’s fear and insecurities and I’m susceptible.

Yes, I mostly believe in my writing self. And, no, I can’t imagine my life without writing. I work hard at it, I take it seriously and do my very best. I know and accept my writing’s not perfect, but my fear is that it’s so imperfect nobody will want to read it.

And when the fear gets out of control, writer’s block can set in. It can be that I’m scared I’ve literally lost the plot and I don’t know where my story is going, or because there’s that inner voice that says I’m just an impostor – not a ‘real’ writer at all. And then when I’m stalled at the writer’s block red light, then procrastination can just jump in the car beside me and turn off the engine. (Sorry, bit of a dodgy metaphor right there – occupational hazard. Did I say I’m a writer?)

However, I do seem to have got the procrastinating thing down to manageable levels. When I’m writing my novels I follow Stephen King’s wise words: ‘Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work’.  Writing is my job. When my job was primary school teacher, I got up and went to work whether I was in the mood or not. Similarly with writing – I don’t wait for the muse. I just go to the desk and write. Mostly…

I can’t deny that procrastination does sometimes still stalk me.  And, occasionally, it catches up with me, overtakes me and stands in my way. Then, because I’m now only answerable to myself, and not to a boss, I do sometimes give in to it, let it take me by the hand, and let it lead me down the path to where the non-urgent tasks lie.

But you know what, sometimes giving into procrastination works in my favour. Yes, it could wreck my writing life if I let it, but a little bit now and then can be quite reviving and invigorating. Think of it as like being an alcoholic versus just an occasional drinker. (And yes, there goes another metaphor)

There are actually times when I find procrastination quite helpful. By giving into it, by going for a walk, or doing some gardening, or just tidying a cupboard, I often find that whatever is blocking my writing progress disappears. It’s as if by doing something else, by getting away from the screen or notebook, my mind is freed to go off on a ramble of its own. I then return to my desk ready, maybe even inspired, to write.

I think procrastination is part of the writing process. I think it’s probably right that it’s part of the job description. It lets me step away from the manuscript, lets me take time out to mull things over, to allow fresh ideas to form and, yes, maybe to make my writing a little bit closer to perfection.

Do you sometimes succumb to procrastination? What sort of tasks cause it and how do you get round it? Do you think it serves a positive purpose? Please do feel free to comment below.

And on the starboard side you can see Anne hanging out her underwear…


Holland-America cruise liner sails up our loch

I was hanging out the washing yesterday. It was a good, drying day – bright sunshine and a strong breeze. I’d done my usual round of the garden – checked out the new agapanthus plants, watched a couple of tortoiseshell butterflies flitting about on the buddleia, pulled some weeds.

tortoiseshell butterfly on buddleia

Yes I can do outdoor procrastination too! And yes it’s not just writing that brings on the ‘P’ word – certain household chores have the same effect.

Anyhoo after I’d counted the fish in the pond – five, checked out the new calf on next door’s croft – white, female, Highland, cute and watched Sanna and Domino, the horses, doing some sort of necking dance, I got down to pegging out the laundry.

five fine fish

No sooner got focussed when something caught my eye – something moving just above the clifftop at the foot of the croft. Three white pillars seemed to be moving along the loch, close in to shore. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. A few moments later all became clear. The chimneys were the funnels of a great big cruise ship – more and more of the vessel became visible as she progressed up the loch. What a beautiful sight.  I grabbed the binoculars. She was a Holland-America cruise liner according to the writing on her flank.

Highland cattle and a cruise ship in the same shot - what's the chances?

I got back to the washing. As she drew level with the bottom of our garden I could hear a woman’s voice coming from the ship – some sort of tour guide commentary I presume. My guess is it went something like this ‘On the port side ladies and gentlemen you will see the magnificent Trotternish ridge leading all the way down to the  world famous Cuillin mountain range and starboard you’ll see Mrs Stormont hanging out her underwear.’

I  blushed, gave them all a cheery wave and resolved to invest in some new pants.

And back out to sea to who knows where...