The Top 5 Ways I Procrastinate When I Want to Be Writing

Before I go to bed each night, I make the next day’s to-do list. It’s usually a laughably ambitious one, like “write three blog posts + a poem + do research + catch up on reading everything in my newsfeed + clean the whole house + go to the laundromat + see the doctor + grocery shop + read a book."

The to-do list is an essential exercise nonetheless. It’s how I stay on top of my full-time writing job.

What often happens the next morning, though? I procrastinate. And la dee da, it’s 10 a.m., and I haven't started writing yet.

My most productive writing hours are in the morning, when my brain is fresh. (I also can write in the late evening, but that’s a post for another day.)

BUT, sometimes little ol’ perfectionist me gets scared by the more daunting tasks in my writing life: prewriting or writing my work-in-progress. Research. Ripping up the shitty first draft and diving into draft two. Writing good blog posts. Writing pitches and proposals for new projects.

It’s all quite terrifying. What if I mess up? So I procrastinate. Like so:

1. I putz around in my kitchen, washing counters, planning meals or dumping out the coffee grounds and starting a new cuppa joe. Hum dee dum, this is fun.

2. I ignore the priority list and start doing little tasks at the bottom of the list. Promote or re-promote my latest blog post? Yeah, that’s easy! Of course I'll do that first.

3. I get sidetracked with paying bills. Yikes, the license plate tabs need renewing! Yikes, my doctor bill is almost due! I HAVE TO PAY BILLS NOW! Even though I don’t.

4. I start tidying up the living room. This book stack should be organized better. My hubs folded the couch blanket the wrong way after we watched a show last night; let me fix that. I know. Like I said. Perfectionist.

5. I listen to that shiny new folk-rock album I ordered last week. What? This is research for my next music review blog post, riiiiiiight? Yes, but it doesn't have to be done right now.

Share your thoughts

Do any of you fellow creative types struggle with procrastination? If so, I'd love to hear your funny stories or tips for getting back on track. 

I'll share my own tips in a follow-up blog post next Friday.

Because redirection is essential if we're going to write the next Great American Novel. ;)

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Unknown said...

I do something similar. My work-in-progress is painful to write and I fear I'll fail so both of those things keep me from really buckling down. I need to just write it already because in reality, so what if it is crap? At the very least, I'll bet getting it out and on paper (or screen) and it will be very cathartic. P.S. Thanks for the reminder that I need to renew my plates! ;)

Rachel E. Watson said...

As Anne Lamott says in "Bird by Bird," all good writers write "shitty first drafts. ... This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts."

Her advice takes you a step beyond viewing your writing as mere catharsis, and getting you to see that once you've written subsequent drafts, it might actually transform into something publishable. :)

I would love it if you kept plugging away, because I want to read your memoir someday.

Rachel E. Watson said...

Oh, and you're welcome for the license plate renewal reminder. Our birthdays must be relatively close together. (Mine's June 13.)

E.E. Rawls said...

Nice list. :D
Let's see, my procrastination usually involves research I'm doing for whatever book/story I'm writing. And I like making story outlines and then filling in the details. But I need to actually start writing the book instead of keep planning for it, lol! If I have a good book to read, that is another good procrastination excuse: "I'm reading so that I can write later. It's 'writing research'." ;)

Rachel E. Watson said...

Hey, E. Rawls, or Rawls E., thanks for stopping by my blog. It's nice to have a Blondewritemore fan come visit me. (Lucy and I have decided on Twitter that we are "kindred spirits" born across the pond from each other. :)

Anyway, thanks for the feedback/stories about what procrastination looks like for you. I think I can learn from this. It all sounds/feels familiar to my own struggles. I.e., it is much, MUCH easier and less painful to avoid THE ACTUAL WRITING in a project and do ANY of the other related tasks in order to work up courage for the "real" work. Which is the B.I.C. (Butt in Chair) method that Chad Allen talks about over at

His point: You can't write if your squirming around the house doing other things besides SITTING with your BUTT in a CHAIR. Lol. It's so hard to remember!

Rachel E. Watson said...

Oh geez. You can't write if YOU'RE squirming. Now I'm squirming at my typo! Ha ha. :)