The Art and Importance of Procrastination

Up until this very point, as I am writing this post, I had *no* idea what I was going to write for this week’s blog post. I’d been just feeling very “meh” and very “bleh” all day. I barely wrote a handful of words, and there is that voice in the back of my mind going: why aren’t you writing, dammit?!

I’d actually felt worse after I reminded myself of the 25k words I’d written the week before. That was half a NaNo in 1 week! Double damn.

And then, I remembered the years before I began writing full time. In my past life, I was a grad student, working in a lab for longer hours than most people do and getting shitty pay.

What kept me sane? Procrastination.

As a student, I was the master of procrastination. It wasn’t that I don’t get things done, it was that after a while, I began to realize how important it is to know when to break–to know when to take a step back and just chill.

Procrastination is not laziness. Quite the contrary. Procrastination is about changes in your mind set. I see this in science a lot: you get stuck trying to solve a problem, and you’re hitting all the dead-ends and getting absolutely nowhere. A lot of times when that happen, you say “God, I must be the stupidest person on the planet, because I’m sure the other guy in the lab would’ve figured it out by now.” In your head, you think that if you just try two more things, maybe one of them will work this time, but your heart tells you “Stop.”

I used to listen to my head. I’d be in the lab until wee hours and still not getting it. And then I learned. I learned to listen to my heart and go for a walk, grab a coffee. Go home, cook dinner, and just let it all go. I learned to turn it off for a brief while and do something–anything–else and just stop worrying about the problem.

In short, I procrastinate. I’m doing something else “fun” rather than plugging away at something and getting absolutely nowhere.

Guess what? Sometimes, it just clicks after that break. Maybe it was realizing an error you didn’t notice before, or realizing that you’re looking at the problem in the wrong way, or simply inspired by something else you’ve read/seen/heard that led you to a surprising solution. Our brains are constantly working, even if you’re not focused on the problem right at the moment. Sometimes, when it gets stuck, you just needed to add some fresh inputs, to jog it a bit, turn your thinking on its head.

So, don’t fret if you suddenly have a bad day when the words just doesn’t flow. Maybe you just need a break. Maybe you just need to procrastinate a bit–read that book you’ve said you were going to read all week, go out for a drink with friends, watch a movie with your kids… And then it’ll come to you.

Happy Smutting,

A. D. Cooper

adcooperbooks (10 Posts)


6 comments

  1. mikey2ct says:

    AD, I think that unfortunately procrastination can lead to laziness, if one is not careful.

    • A. D. Cooper says:

      True, which is why it’s an art ;)

      I think the important thing is giving yourself distance, more than anything. When I say procrastinate, I don’t mean the aimless wandering of doing nothing. I give myself a timeframe, and say “go do something else”. I’ll put things off, knowing that it simply isn’t in me to do it right at this moment. It’s realizing that just working at it won’t do anything other than waste another hour/morning/day with no real results.

      It all comes down to knowing you’re procrastinating for a purpose. There is a Chinese saying that goes something along the lines of “resting, is so that you can go further.” I think there is a kernel of truth in it =)

      • cherryallen says:

        I wish it worked that way for me. For me, procrastination is a destructive force that I have to fight every day. I’ve read books, worked methods and techniques to stop doing it, because I will procrastinate everything from minor putting off paying a bill (even though I have the money) to the last day before turn-off, to life-damaging major things that no one in her right mind would put off. It’s a psychological problem area for me that’s a real sticking point in my life. And I’m still far, far away from being anywhere *near* conquering it.

        I think it’s a bit like alcohol. Some people drink occasionally and enjoy it, while others have to just say no. :) (I’m kind of the same way with things like, oh, cake.)

        You might enjoy this: http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/

  2. A. D. Cooper says:

    lol Cherry, thanks for the article. That is exactly what I was talking about. I guess for some people it works, for others, not so much. There is no one way to do things, but *if* one is capable of “structured procrastination” it might indeed be a very powerful thing.

  3. Kitty Fine says:

    Great post, Addy. Insightful and creative perspective on the art of procrastination. I totally agree – sometimes the creative brain needs a break once in a while to look at things in a new light. Rest and intuition are important.

    So procrastination is not always a bad thing. Especially if you’re juggling multiple projects. But then you don’t want to put things off too much. It’s all a balance.

  4. I think that as creatives, we pull from a supply of energy and ideas in our own heads. Sometimes that supply runs dry, at least for me, and that’s when I find myself procrastinating. I have to put more material into it before I can continue, so I people-watch, chat with a friend, or do something else that brings me into contact with ideas other than my own. My brain then creates a sort of soup and I have to let it simmer. Only then do new ideas and story directions start popping up and I can go back to play..er, work.

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