NaNo Tip No. 14: Procrastination can be Your Friend

Yes, it’s time for some more vaguely contradictory advice. So first a word on that. Here’s why this tip is not contradictory. No one technique or strategy works for every writer. They don’t even work for one writer all the time. There are times when the only way I can get any writing done is to cut off from all external stimuli, most especially the internet. Sometimes I can’t write if there’s music on. But other times I need music and I need the internet.

Sometimes my procrastination feeds my writing.

That’s right, sometimes procrastination is your friend.

Yes, I know I just told you to turn the internet off. Well, now I’m telling you to turn it back on again. Or to go clean the bathroom. Or crochet or knit. Shoot some hoops. Take a shower. Or do some other urgent-ish thing that is calling to you rather than writing. Yes, even if it involves hacking off zombie heads.

My biggest form of procrastination is IMing with friends. I have been known to spend 8 hours straight doing so. (Hello, Alaya!) I find five convos1 at the same time no problem.2 I can’t tell you how many times those conversations have given me ideas, solved plot problems, made me realise something about my writing I never realised before.

To be clear we mostly don’t talk about each other’s writing directly. What we do is talk about many other things including shows, books, movies we love (or hate) and what did (or didn’t) work about them. Ever since Diana Peterfreund first nudged me towards watching Avatar we’ve been talking about it. I think writing a convincing and likable Chosen One is incredibly hard. I tend to dislike fiction that centres around one. Yet Aang in Avatar is just about pitch perfect. Our Avatar conversations have sparked off a million and one ideas that have gone into various projects of mine.

So, yes, it’s procrastinating. But it’s also feeding into my work in awesomely productive ways. I think everything I experience feeds into my writing. Which is why I believe procrastination is necessary.

Sometimes you need to be alone with your work. But no one can create without stimulus from the outside world. The key is balancing the two.

  1. More than five, though, and I’m lost. What can I tell you? I’m old. []
  2. While also reading blogs etc. []

16 comments

  1. Michelle on #

    Well, that’s good news, as I’ve been procrastinating for about 48 hours straight.

    Also… Avatar is AMAZING. I LOVE that show. :D

  2. Addy-la on #

    Awesome! Thanks for the tip! Keep them coming!! Both of you guys tips are the highlight of my day!

  3. Augusta on #

    Not that I needed an excuse, but I do love procrastination and this helps me to see the value in all that chatting, surfing, yea even reading books I’ve been doing for the past 2 days. Thanks for another great tip. Now back to my email…The novel is stuck and needs more thinking and dreaming.

  4. wandering-dreamer on #

    Lol, I JUST got my basketball re-inflated and have been procrastinating on all my stuff by just shooting hoops (or attempting too anyway). But I did manage to think of more stuff for my NaNo (like another 500 words which is quiet a bit) so I think I’ll stick with this.
    Also, Avatar is god, pillow beatings to those who blasphemes against it!

  5. Sam on #

    Totally agree that procrastinating by having a shower is a great way to go. I don’t know what it is, but I do some of my best thinking in there.

    And watching Avatar is never procrastinating!

  6. Lizzy-wa on #

    procrastination is NOT my friend hehehe

    -Lizzy-wa

  7. mb on #

    Embarrassing but true: I have solved many a plot problem while playing Spider Solitaire on the computer.

  8. DWongster on #

    Okay, so I’ve been procrastinating for about 15 years, since that was when my friend and I first laid down the plot for the story I’m currently writing.

    Make that 15 years and 10 minutes — back to work! :-)

  9. Fiona on #

    Great advice, Justine :) Though sometimes I really hate myself for procrastinating, but I know that if I force myself to write, a load of crap will come out and I’ll hate it and have restart again, so it’s a coin toss as to whether I want to get crap done, or not at all. But on the other side of this, when you really WANT to write or are in the mood for it, you can get some amazing stuff done. So sometimes procrastination can be good, from my experience anyway. Oh and Avatar owns, what a brilliant show! You have good taste :)

  10. Kethry on #

    Hmm thats intresting. My teachers always tell me not to procrastinate but I do anyway. It seems sometimes procrastinating is the only way to get my wotk done. Thanks for the tips.

  11. andrea rosero on #

    Hi, I have you in my favorites but i never read you, today I start to do it. And is a great sorprise, I like what you write and the way you do it. Thanks for the tips, I twitted you.. ! :)

    Sorry for my english I am not a native speaker/writer. I try always to improve my englisth, reading books and blogs like yours.

  12. andrea rosero on #

    Hey.. I hope you donĀ“t have problems if I mention you on my blog ? http://reflectionsfictitious.blogspot.com/ I have notes day by day about my NanoWriMo Journey… in spanish obviously and i like to comment today that i find you :)

    Take care. !

  13. Tori on #

    I know I’m late, but I found this while searching about NaNo! I must say, watching Airbender is NEVER procrastinating! It is needed! In fact, it inspired my NaNo novel which I have been holding onto for a year specificaly for this purpose. I wholley believe my little acrobat Jin would never have came to life it weren’t for Aang and Ty lee. Go Avatar!!!!!!!

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