Most of us procrastinate. We need to be working towards this or that goal or project, instead we do something else. We procrastinate.
My writing group meets online, in a Facebook group, yep, Facebook, the ultimate procrastination seducer. Procrastination often comes up as a topic. To make us feel better about our procrastination habits we dubbed a good portion of them creative or productive procrastination, or as I also like to think of it guilt-free procrastination.
In contrast author/ illustrator Sylvia Liu has written the twin post on Unproductive Procrastination right here.
What is Productive Procrastination
Productive procrastination is procrastinating SIDEWAYS. You are doing something else to what you are meant to, but you are still sideways working towards your goal.
For example you need to work on draft 22 of your picture book. Instead you are reading Oliver Jeffer's picture book.
It is procrastination where you are still creatively engaged. Part of what you are doing is still furthering your goal. It is a mix and match approach where knowing that all your creative endeavors will slowly accumulate to several finished projects, or will benefit your current project in another way.
There is a lot of information out there on how to overcome procrastination. Why not use procrastination for the better. Mix it up. A bit of procrastination may also provide a bit of sanity.
Forms of Productive Procrastination
Writers need to read; it comes with the job description. I read everything related to children’s writing, though when reading book for adults the unproductiveness is seeping in (though really it is still story telling.) And I love procrastinating with a book ON writing.
I love doodling so much, that I joined Doodle Day last year, which is really a year round, doodle a day community. Doodling helps with my illustrations, but there is much more to it as this short TED talk explains.
As writers and illustrators, especially ones that are not able to make a living from our writing, we need to examine our motivations. Ultimately I go back to writing that dratted 36th draft because I love it. I love telling stories, and getting it just right may see it published one day. The problem is when long term goals are far away, the human mind will discount the benefits, or undergo something called Hyperbolic Discounting. This post by Brain Pickings explains it well, but basically giving yourself regular short-term rewards such as procrastinating works.
As I see it networking, online with my writing friends or and socialising face to face, gives me a reward and a concrete push. They make that long term award more immediate, it clarifies my goal, defines it and gives it shape. I usually write with more vigour after attending someone else’s book launch or a conference, or just having lunch and talking writing.
Writing something else
If you are working on non-fiction, write some poetry. If you have a long novel in progress, mix it up with some micro fiction. If you write for young children, write a blog posts for adults (about procrastination perhaps). You are still practicing your craft and you are still being productive.
Contests and Challenges
You are not actually working on your project directly, but it forces you to work on your craft. And they maybe future projects, they may raise your writer’s platform, you may win a prize, and you could learn something.
Other creative outlets such as cooking, baking, dancing, sewing, photography and scrapbooking may also be productive, but be careful that they serve a specific purpose towards your goal, even if sideways.Those photographs may be used as reference shots for an illustration project you have been working towards. But, though those chocolate muffins may inspire an awesome story, really that would just be a happy everyday-living by-product of doing something else and baking muffins does not usually contribute productively towards your goals. Beware of having too many different creative outlets and unbalancing all your efforts.
Of course, all this insanely productive procrastination has to have a balance.
I really like this article by Paul Graham. He makes sense of procrastination, and if it makes sense, it works for me.
“Most people who write about procrastination write about how to cure it. But this is, strictly speaking, impossible. There are an infinite number of things you could be doing. No matter what you work on, you're not working on everything else. So the question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well.”
See, I told you, makes sense.
What is not Productive Procrastination
Vaccuum cleaning, dusting, sorting laundry, cleaning the toilet, washing the car, mowing the lawn. Whenever those things don’t get done my excuse is: I write, I create, I don’t have time for mundane tasks like that. I am a writing Diva! I usually do household chores with the kids; they learn that the house doesn’t clean itself, hopefully appreciate their mother a bit more and learn some valuable life skills themselves. And do clothes really need to be folded? They'll still fit into the cupboard (if they don't live in the laundry basket).
Be careful not to procrastinate from your Productive Procrastinators, then you'll end up on Sylvia's Liu list of Unproductive Procrastination.
Chu and Choi from Columbia University have identified the difference between active and passive procrastination. Active procrastinators do something productive with their time and enjoy the adrenaline rush of the last minute challenge. While the passive procrastinator lets time slip by and is paralysed by the last minute deadline.
I think that we need to procrastinate, we shouldn't be too scheduled and rigid, stuck in a particular pattern or routine. Let your mind wander, let it of the leash, let it recharge, let it have fun, let it PLAY! Young children learn through play, it doesn't have to end when you are an adult. Don't waste your time, make it count instead.
So, procrastinate productively and in balance. And get rid of that guilt. It is not helping you!
I hope I got you thinking differently about your procrastination habit, maybe you have some Producive Procrastination tips to share. I leave you with these two quotes:
‘Procrastinate now, don’t put it off.’
I do my work at the same time each day - the last minute.
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Children's Writer and Illustrator