In Praise of Procrastination

Apparently, from worldwide surveys asking people what their worst fault is, procrastination is said to be the thing they most regret. We all have a tendency to put off until tomorrow (or maybe the day after) what we don’t want to do today.

I once had a girlfriend who gently pointed out my laggardness by buying me a coffee mug with the saying printed on it: “What the wise do in the beginning, the fool does in the end.”

As authors, we’re commonly advised to avoid procrastination, to manage our time better and to get on with things…aiming for a daily word count by staying away from the temptation of the internet. Striving to perfect our skills, it’s easy to become neurotic.

I’m laid back in my approach to life and to writing. I did go a bit berserk when I returned to creative writing in 2013, after a long lay off, but churning out 5,000 words daily was counterproductive as it took ages editing out the crap.

At the moment, I’m at a crossroads (which I’m trying not to see as an impasse), for I’ve completed my fifth novel and am torn between querying and returning to self-publishing. Fretting a bit that it was a delaying tactic, I re-read my novels at the start of 2019. My justification for doing so was that I wanted to know them inside out, so I can sell them effectively.

Then, this morning I spent 90 minutes following up on links posted on a Cornish Witch’s website. Was that a waste of time, I wondered…probably not, as I found useful information for a novella I’ve started featuring a benign hedge witch. I’ve touched on white witches in my novels, as well as black magick and Druidry, but intend to explore how folklore and superstition motivate criminals. Worse still, I found the witchy site via the excellent Cornish Bird blog—which I recommend to anyone interested in the county or if you’re contemplating starting your own blog.

My point is, there’s more to being an author than just writing words. Investigating blogs is research, reading email newsletters about publishing might help me out, posting on my writers’ forum the Colony is reassuring and reading novels borrowed from the library is a free way of broadening my understanding of how storytelling works. Even thinking about writing is writing!

Some anonymous wag once said: “Procrastination— A hardening of the oughteries” But I don’t feel that I ought to be doing anything else if I’m not writing, for I’m always ‘one’ having ideas about what needs editing and planning unwritten stories.

I certainly miss creating fresh pages, but I need to recharge my batteries while learning how to be a blogger and turning myself into a supplicant worthy of the attention of literary agents. I did a word count of all of the stories and poems I’ve written in the last five years, coming up with 1,300,000. If I’d put that many miles on a car engine, it would have needed regular maintenance and might benefit from time off resting in the garage.

How do you handle the sin of prevarication?

Do you feel guilty if you don’t hit a daily word count?

Or, are you relaxed…in touch with your muse and ready to respond, writing when you’re inspired?

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