Procrastination Tips for Writers

I was going to write this post months ago, but I kept putting it off. True story.

Most writers don’t need much help procrastinating. Many of us will do almost anything to avoid the actual task of writing. It’s amazing how many things can distract us from our WIP (work-in-progress) or our WMNP (work-making-no-progress). Still, there may be someone out there in Writerland who needs a few suggestions, so here’s a list of things that will help you avoid writing for a while:

  • Read a SteveLaube.com blog post. (Congratulations! You nailed it.)
  • Check email ONE MORE TIME.
  • Clip your fingernails (bonus points for toenails).
  • Cruise Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (lather, rinse, repeat).
  • Research something unrelated to your WIP. (Hey, it may come in handy someday.)
  • Clean out the kitty litter.
  • Shop online for fun sticky notes.
  • Clean the refrigerator.
  • Call a friend you haven’t talked to in years.
  • Straighten all of your paper clips.
  • Order new paper clips since you ruined the ones you had.
  • Rearrange your office furniture.
  • Recreate a whole new filing system.
  • Play with the dog. Or cat. Or dust bunnies under your desk.

Seriously, try a few. They work every time. In fact, you may have already done some of these. You may even have better go-to procrastination occupations (such as making up phrases like “procrastination occupations”); if you do, please share them in the comments.

However, since this blog is supposed to help people write and publish, I suppose I could also offer some “positive procrastination” tips. Because there are ways to avoid your WIP that nonetheless move you forward as a writer, stoking your creativity and getting you back to the keyboard refreshed and ready to write. I can think of seven that work for me:

Take a walk

W. Somerset Maugham was once greeted by a friend who saw him ambling in the countryside near his home: “Maugham! I thought you’d be writing.” Maugham replied, “I am.”

Grab a nap

Sometimes my thoughts (not to mention my eyes, though I just did, didn’t I?) get scrambled as I write. A short nap sometimes not only unscrambles things but also leads me to fresh insight or inspiration upon awaking.  

Listen to the music

Listening—or singing along—to ten or fifteen minutes of Dvořák or Dylan can lift my spirits and recalibrate my heartbeat. Okay, so it’s hard to sing along to Dvořák, but you get the idea.

Doodle or mind map something

I work well on a keyboard but sometimes a pencil, marker, or fountain pen in hand provides a helpful distraction or valuable breakthrough.

Watch an online writers-conference session

Writers today have many online options to be inspired and instructed, such as the Christian Writers Institute, which offers excellent audio and video courses, books, and podcasts.

Find silence and solitude

For decades, I’ve taken an extended prayer retreat every year, and I’m always amazed at the creativity and productivity that flow from that silence and solitude. Try it, even for an hour or two; get alone and see what silence and freedom from external stimuli can coax from you.

Pray

I forget from time to time how much prayer does for my productivity. It doesn’t even have to be prayer about my writing, though it often is—and it always makes me wonder why I would ever try to write without having prayed.

I think these seven procrastination tips are much better than the previous list. How about you? Do you procrastinate? Do you have a few go-to “procrastination occupations?” Do you practice “positive procrastination?” Tell us all about it in the comments.

23 Responses to Procrastination Tips for Writers

  1. Avatar
    Shirlee Abbott April 28, 2021 at 4:16 am #

    For 20 years, I commuted an hour to work and an hour home. Two hours filled with prayer and pondering — many a writing logjam was resolved in my car. Now semi-retired, I work fewer hours and closer to home. And sometimes, when I need to jumpstart my writing, I get in the car and drive.

  2. Avatar
    Kristen Joy Wilks April 28, 2021 at 5:45 am #

    Since I have three teenage sons, all that I need to do to find procrastination tips is to wake them all up. But for positive procrastination I have found that working on the book proposal helps me get back on track as it uses a different part of my brain and helps me to look at the story differently and even find more focus for my tail.

  3. Avatar
    Amy Lively April 28, 2021 at 6:15 am #

    My “best” procrastination occupation is reworking every word I’ve ever written to death, making minor adjustments and major edits to create the illusion of productivity. #amnotreallywriting

  4. Avatar
    Lois Kennis April 28, 2021 at 6:20 am #

    It makes me happy to offer constructive feedback and encouragement to another writer. That sense of joy propels me to write more.

    Writing critique groups spark my writing. I can write a new scene, knowing a fellow writer will offer feedback next week or next month. Covid halted the in-person groups, but critique exchanges can happen online, too. I miss the in-person groups of anywhere from three to a dozen writers meeting monthly or in some cases, weekly. There’s nothing like a good critique group to end a writer’s procrastination.

  5. Avatar
    Toni Wilbarger April 28, 2021 at 6:34 am #

    One of my procrastination occupations is to clean closets or sort and pitch paperwork. But my favorite is to check the expiration date on the Kohl’s cash coupon. If it’s coming up, I’m out the door!

  6. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 28, 2021 at 7:03 am #

    If you get it done today,
    you’ll have more work tomorrow,
    for that is just the evil way
    the world is gonna borrow
    the time you should have spent a-doze
    or drinking Miller beer
    while watching music videos
    of heavy metal cheer.
    But you really should be Ernest,
    for that will take you far,
    so stoke creative furnace
    by lighting a cigar,
    and Googling which bar’s the best
    down in Hemingway’s Key West.

    • Avatar
      Paula Geister April 28, 2021 at 8:42 am #

      Once again, Andrew, love the poem. But I’ll be switching the Miller for a Guinness. (And it still keeps with the meter)
      You’re a genius.

      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 28, 2021 at 9:53 am #

        Paula, that would be a definite improvement…and a friend of mine, the aviation historian Jay Stout, had the call sign ‘Guinness’ when he was a Marine fighter pilot.

    • Avatar
      Paula Geister April 28, 2021 at 8:43 am #

      Guinness stout, specifically. And that keeps the meter intact too. *smile*

  7. Avatar
    Tina Radcliffe April 28, 2021 at 8:02 am #

    I resemble these remarks!!!!

  8. Avatar
    Paula Geister April 28, 2021 at 8:40 am #

    I like to putter in the kitchen, so I go bake something or cook up a batch of soup. My friends and neighbors appreciate that because I can never (well, I COULD) eat all those cookies and I share with them.

    **you should taste my “famous spaghetti sauce.”

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 28, 2021 at 10:05 am #

      Paula, I couldn’t resist…can’t play golf any more, but used to be fanatical.

      I like to putter in the kitchen,
      wield the 1-iron in the hall,
      and you know that I am itchin’
      to tee up and hit the ball,
      see if drywall’s got the strength
      to resist my hardest swing
      ever since I boosted length
      with metal driver bought from Ping.
      We have a whirlpool bedroom spa
      which I could fill up with sand
      as a practice trap to awe
      fellow golfers through the land,
      and improve performance on the course
      after my well-earned divorce.

  9. Avatar
    Stacy Simmons April 28, 2021 at 8:43 am #

    When I wander around my home doing mindless tasks, one (or more) of my family will ask me if I’m procrastinating, instead of writing.

    Thank you for writing this post, now I can show them that it’s part of the “creative process.” : )

  10. Avatar
    Jody Evans April 28, 2021 at 10:19 am #

    I’m inspired and conflicted! Should I write a comment about how this inspires me to get right to work? Or would commenting show the opposite as I would, in fact, be delaying my writing work by commenting? Maybe if I just make it short. And don’t worry about whether my grammar and spellings is prefect? Yep. That’s what I’ll do. Thanks, I’m off to do some righting, now : )

  11. Avatar
    Teresa Krager April 28, 2021 at 1:43 pm #

    I cannot reply. I need to get back to editing my PB MS!

  12. Avatar
    Richard Aban April 28, 2021 at 1:45 pm #

    Interesting tips, and i did go for the later. Thanks allot.

  13. Avatar
    Marilyn Turk April 28, 2021 at 1:45 pm #

    Bob, I was going to read this earlier, but first I had to check my other email, Facebook, twitter and blog hits. I’ve done most of these ways to procrastinate, but you left out laundry! There’s always laundry to do. And when I take a walk, I call a friend or listen to another book which has nothing to do with my WIP. Thanks for the other suggestions!

  14. Avatar
    Robby Kautz April 28, 2021 at 2:10 pm #

    This was a timely article for me. Thank you.

  15. Avatar
    Michele April 28, 2021 at 7:49 pm #

    My answer to your questions are yes, yes, and yes. I did go for a walk today and had a chat with a charming cardinal. I do need to take breaks like that more often as it refocuses my thoughts.

  16. Avatar
    Joyce Erfert April 29, 2021 at 11:08 am #

    I will do some mindless housekeeping chore like vacuuming that I can do while I think about what I’m writing. By the way, I love your prayer blog. I have printed out few that I can read once in a while, like the one you just did on April 25. I needed that particular prayer that day. Thank you for responding to God.

  17. Avatar
    Kathy May 1, 2021 at 2:51 pm #

    These hit way too close to home!! Seriously, I find, if I stick to my schedule, I can usually stay on task. One thing I always try to do is decide specifically what I’ll work on the next day before I quit and then have all I need out and ready to go.

  18. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. May 2, 2021 at 8:15 am #

    Bob, I thought it only appropriate to wait a few days to read your blog posting, given the subject at hand…..but I digress.

  19. Avatar
    Diana Derringer May 3, 2021 at 9:27 am #

    Exercise is my most productive positive procrastination plan. I usually need a nearby notebook, paper or digital. Otherwise, I must rush back to my laptop to continue.

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