Why Procrastination Can Make You a Better Writer
By Kristy Cambron
You read that right.
Procrastination – the process of favoring one task over another after having weighed the importance or urgency of each, usually “putting-off” an assigned task until the last moment before a deadline.
How, we might ask, can this possibly be a good thing?
Oh how I know we’re stirring the pot with this topic. But I wonder if procrastination has been branded with an unjust reputation. (Hey - even Forbes has gone on the record to say it’s not all bad.) There’s the perception that it causes stress. That it labels you unreliable if it’s a common practice. Or that it can leave you feeling ill-prepared if you wait until the last moment to practice before a big event. In fact, my grandmother used to say that practice does indeed make perfect. I’m not in the business of questioning my wise old Granny’s idioms, but I do have to step out in defense of this topic – at least enough to say that something good can come of a situation in which last-minute action must take place.
I confess that procrastination helped me through many writing assignments in college. I’m not talking about the research part. (I took extensive my time with that.) I’m zoning in on the actual pen-to-paper side of writing because procrastinating can actually make you better. Here’s why:
1. You learn effective time management skills. – This truth about procrastination surprised me when I became a full-time writer. Our days won’t be spent solely on writing the next story (no matter how much we might like them to be). As an author, you’ll have far more to focus on than simply putting words down on paper. There’s marketing for the books you’ve released. You’ll want to engage with your reader community on social media. There are industry trends to track, the writing craft to stay sharp on, book signings and speaking appearances to attend. All of these things will have to be prioritized against your deadlines. What needs your immediate attention may be something other than writing, and that’s okay.
2. You plot. A lot. – Even up to a few months ago, I was working a full-time corporate career with a daily commute through some serious traffic. I used that time in the car to get to know my characters and their story. By the time I sat down to write late at night, I’d already visited the story in my head so much that the words flooded the page. Even if you’re not a self-professed plotter, you’ll get to spend extra time with your characters when you procrastinate. Whether that’s in your head or mapping out your novel in a storyboard fashion, you’ll find that it can actually help give you breathing room to work out your plot.
3. You tune out distraction. – Social media can be a major distraction for writers. The lure of checking out what’s trending on Twitter or being posted to Instagram can draw our attention away from the story craft. It’s fun to engage on social media, but when you’re on a deadline it can be downright dangerous. Getting serious and when you write will force the responsible deadline-aware part of your persona to trump the fun social media butterfly every time. Sign off and tune in to your story.
4. You immerse yourself in research. – I may be dating myself with this one, but I remember spending hours in the library, digging through endless stacks of periodicals and encyclopedias to write a high school term paper. Research then didn’t have nearly the reach that it does now. We have access to an endless amount of information to feed our stories – all at the touch of a mobile screen. Use it! If you’re not ready to write, you can be researching for when you will be.
5. You write with passion. – As Mr. Hemingway would suggest, we should be able to sit down at the typewriter and let our fingers do the bleeding. But if we’re up against a deadline and we sit in front of a keyboard, it infuses us with an added urgency to produce. That urgency – a truly centered focus – can work to remind us what we loved about writing in the first place. We revisit the pure interaction of writer and story that God has engraved upon our hearts. If you try to write and realize you’re doing it without His guidance, step away for a while. Procrastinate on it. Spend that time in prayer and communion with Him, then come back to a place where passion meets the words head on. You’ll find your story when the walk is in tune with Him.
All this being said – be professional. Never miss a deadline because you’re caught up in waiting for “your story”. Have a due date? Start on it early. Don’t procrastinate just because there’s time baked in the calendar. Give yourself breathing room but still take it seriously. This is your dream and with care (even with a little procrastinating), you’ll get to ‘The End’ in the right time.
Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her debut historical novel, The Butterfly and the Violin (Thomas Nelson, 2014), was named to Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014, Family Fiction’s Top Ten Novels of 2014, and received nominations for RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards Best Inspirational Novel of 2014 and the 2015 INSPY Awards for Best Debut Novel. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin (Thomas Nelson, April 2015), was named Library Journal’s Reviews’ Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction, February 2015) and a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews.
Kristy is an Art/Design Manager at TheGROVEstory.com and holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.
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