Writer's moments

Procrastination, Anyone?

I’ve become a world-class procrastinator—I can do something else better than anyone anywhere. I’ve passed amateur status and have just recently gotten my professional standing. Don’t even try to take me on this one, I’ll beat the socks off you every time.

For instance, today, I procrastinated beautifully about doing the rest of the weeding and cutting back the flowers. I found something more important to do (read “work on my novel” here) until it was time to start supper. The to-do list was really pretty short today—yard work, cleaning the two and half bathrooms in my house, doing the last load of laundry, and ironing. Did any of those chores get done? Nope. However, the cleaning supplies are sitting on the vanity in the upstairs hallway bath, the laundry basket made it to the top of the washing machine, and it’s still not too late to iron…hmmmm.

There was a time when I didn’t procrastinate. Unlike a lot of really good procrastinators, I haven’t been this way my whole life. In fact, it’s a fairly recent phenomenon. It wasn’t that many years ago that I got up each morning armed with a plan. My to-do list was extensive and things got checked off as I merrily worked, taking pride in the fact that I could accomplish so much when there were only twenty-four hours in a day.

Beds were made, floors were scrubbed, furniture was dusted, cupboards were filled with healthy food, and the house was always tidy. Husband never came home to a living room cluttered with Son’s toys—nope, we had clean-up time every afternoon at 4:30 pm, complete with a cutesy little song that I used to encourage the kid to help me put away the playthings. Son’s little freckled face was scrubbed, supper was on the table, and I was put together, hair done, make-up applied. All that was missing were the apron and the pearls.

Tonight, when husband came home, I was in the back yard, scrubbing the birdbath, which was nasty beyond words because the last time I’d scrubbed it was…um…a long time ago. I’d happened to notice it when I was out in the yard, not weeding or deadheading, but rather taking a break from my writing. Cleaning the birdbath actually felt kinda virtuous, even though it was the first time I’d stepped away from my keyboard all day, the breakfast dishes were still in the sink, and I hadn’t even thought about supper.

Unshowered, disheveled, hair falling into my face, and clad in the yoga shorts and white tank top I’d had on when the poor guy left for work, I was running dialogue in my head for chapter 13 of the book that’s in revision, while I scraped green goo from the birdbath. And yeah, okay, as he sauntered onto the patio, I was talking to myself—well, I wasn’t actually talking to myself, my characters were talking to each other. And that’s what’s really at the root of the procrastination—the novels.

Lately, it seems that on days I don’t have an editing gig going (I try never to procrastinate about work), everything has taken a back seat to writing—laundry, cleaning, yard work, grocery shopping—all the things I’d taken such pride in once upon a time have been set aside as I release the people in my head. Now, I sit at the computer for hours, forgetting to eat lunch, ignoring the phone, typing furiously as those insistent characters pound at the door of my mind.

So here’s the question, mes amies. Is it okay to blame the need to write for not getting anything else accomplished during the day? Should I wear the badge proudly? Have the t-shirt made: “Writer = Procrastinator”? Tell folks who ask what I’m doing, “I’m writing, as in I’m not doing [fill in the blank here, weeding, cleaning, laundry…}”? Or do I allow myself to feel guilty because the world in my head often takes precedence over the world I actually live in?


  • Linda Hamonou

    I think there are truly things more important than cleaning and laundry and that’s what you are doing so you can be proud. You are achieving something visible for yourself and for everyone to see. Dishes will somehow get done at some point, laundry will get done possibly before you run out of underwear.
    Don’t blame yourself for writing, your dreams have priorities over chores and that’s what your house is yelling at you in the state you left it. Not really a bad thing.

    • Nan

      Things do eventually get done, and Husband is a big help and very encouraging about the writing. Nothing is more urgent right now…except maybe if I do run out of underwear! Thanks for stopping by, Linda!

  • robena grant

    If someone asks what I’m doing stretched out on the couch at noon I now say seriously, “Writing.” Because I am. I’m writing with my eyes closed, working out a scene, writing it in my head. ; )

    The housework will get done. Don’t worry about it.

    • Nan

      Yes, Roben, yes! And the same answer applies when we’re watching a movie or reading a book–“I’m absorbing narrative…” Hugs, baby!

  • Carla Hampton

    Since you asked, here goes……..As I see it; writing is your full time job. From what little I know of it, it has deadlines which makes it somewhat of a priority, does it not? You and I both know that you can not be at work at the computer and clean your house, do laundry, weed your flower beds and tend your yard at the same time unless there are two of you. You can either work at writing or work at the other domestic chores but it is difficult to do it all at the very same time or even cram it all in to one day. When your son was at home and you had your house picked up and dinner on the stove you were not bearing down on the big 6-0 ! (as I currently am speeding toward. ) I’m sure at that age your energy level was probably double what it is today. Another thought is that your domestic stuff will always be around while your creative juices need to be channeled to the page while they have surfaced. Forgive yourself and go on. The dust will still be there tomorrow, so will the dirty laundry.

    • Nan

      Ah, Carla, my friend, you are very wise! And yes, the creativity has to be grasped when it shows up…so I will write and not worry about the small stuff, which may well mean a new book out by the time I actually turn 60!

  • Skye

    Well, I’d say that writing ISN’T procrastinating: writing is DOING. It’s writing. You are working — on novels. Those other tasks just don’t take precedence, once you are writing.

    So wear the badge “Writing IS Doing”, not “Writer = Procrastinator”. It’s just a different perspective.

  • Sandy James

    My problem with procrastination is in the summer months when I’m not at school. Part of me wants to write like crazy, but another part wants to do pretty much NOTHING.

    • Nan

      Hey, Sandy! I think when you get to summer vacation, you’ve earned some time to do pretty much nothing. You work so hard all school year–cut yourself some slack in the summer and write when the spirit moves you. You’re doing great, baby!