Three (or more) Ways to Avoid Writing

By Liz, happy to have survived this weekend’s heat wave.

I’ve been working on some projects since I turned my next book in earlier this month. One is a suspense novel that I’ve been working on in some form or another for… well, I’m not going to tell you how long because it would be embarrassing. The other is my new business venture that is hovering just steps away from getting off the ground. And it’s more apparent than ever just how good I am at procrastinating.

I’ve known for most of my life that “Last Minute Lucy” is my alter ego. I remember in high school cramming for a major test the night before, trying to memorize the whole book; writing college papers the day before they were due; and other similar feats of pulling something off right in that window before it becomes a major emergency – or a giant screw-up.

I’ve unfortunately translated that to my writing life too, and I’ve been on a mission to bust through the procrastination blocks. In fact, during the writing of this last book (and the book right before that) I swore it would be the last time I put something important off.

So now, here I am with a project with no real deadline aside from the ones I’ve set (and those can be so easily changed, right?) and I’m watching this terrible habit fight to stay alive. I told myself this weekend that I was going to spend a couple hours working on the outline for this book.

But first, there were a few things I needed to take care of. Here are some of the rabbit holes I fell down trying to get to my computer:

  • Before I could focus on writing, I had to fold the laundry I’d left sitting in the dryer. Then I needed to put it away. But I didn’t like the way the closet was organized, so that meant I had to fix it. Which meant cleaning out all my old T-shirts and tank tops, and starting a Goodwill bag for all the things that no longer brought me joy. It also meant taking inventory of my shorts, since I was now going to need to buy new tops given everything I was getting rid of. Which meant I had to try them all on. Which made me mad because I didn’t fit into some of them, so then I had to go downstairs to the gym for an hour.
  • Once I got back from the gym, I needed a shower. I went to get a towel, and thought those could also be organized differently, including the smaller towels which are in a cabinet in the bathroom. Which then meant I had to clean out and organize the rest of the cabinets, because things could definitely be a lot neater in there, and hey, there’s the eyeliner I haven’t seen in ages! Which made me think I needed to organize my makeup.
  • After all that, I was ready to sit down and write. But it occurred to me that I should do a quick refresher with one of my favorite books, Plot Perfect, since I was trying to re-outline this novel. But when I went to my bookshelf, I couldn’t find it. Which made me realize I was long overdue in organizing and cleaning out my bookshelves. No small task, if you’re like me or, I suspect, any of us reading this blog.
  • Four hours later the shelves were in way better shape, I had two bags of books to donate to the library, and Plot Perfect was in my hands. But then it was dinner time, and how can you write hungry? And since my refrigerator was kind of empty, a trip to the grocery store seemed to be in order…

Readers, what are your favorite ways to procrastinate a task? Tell me in the comments!

27 Thoughts

  1. Laundry is definitely a big one here Also, I use the teens a lot. I’m off during the summer, so I am able to bring them to and from their friends’ houses. So why start revising now? They might need to be picked up and then I’ll be interrupted! So I’ll just watch this Farher Brown instead or flip through this magazine of yummy summer recipes under 30 minutes or stare at the wall until I get their call/text. See! I told you I would have been interrupted if I had sat down to work on my draft!

  2. All of the above. But my favorite way to procrastinate by far is to reread and polish what I’ve already written. I tell myself that I’m just getting back into the story, but before I know it, my writing time is over and I haven’t written one new word.

  3. This made me laugh. Right now I’m fighting the urge to go clean and dust some shelves in my kitchen. They started out displaying my collection of cobalt glass, but have become a spot to put anything that seems to be in the way. It can wait right?

  4. Waaaay too funny. I’m reminded of a TV writing duo that baked cakes when a deadline loomed. Their apartment building neighbors always knew when the ladies were close to those deadlines as the cakes piled up on the concierge desk. As for me? I sort through drawers and shelves. They look especially neat now. 😉

  5. Ooh, boy, did I write this? Liz, this is hilarious! I pray that someday my house will be so perfectly organized and clean that I will have no excuse to avoid writing. I give you credit for tackling your books – that is one task I will never start because it would never end!

  6. That is me!! Lol. If I need to clean the front room, I’ll pick up something to put away in another room and realize that room needs organizing…from one room to the next and so on. Whatever the task may be, I and up doing everything AROUND it. Maybe I don’t like being told what to do, even by me. Lol.

  7. I do procrastinate by cleaning. I procrastinate by surfing the web. Seriously, how did we procrastinate before social media?

    And if you ever need something else to clean and organize, you are always welcome at my condo. I’d promise to make you stop procrastinating, but well, that would be counter productive for my purposes. 🙂

    When it came to school, I was usually fairly disciplined. I can’t stay up all night, so I knew that wasn’t an option. But I am a procrastinator in other things. Why put off until tomorrow what you can put off putting off until the day after tomorrow. For the record, tomorrow I will stop procrastinating.

  8. Back in the days of writing papers or studying for exams, I had it down to a personal science: I knew just how much internal anxiety I needed to generate before I could start. I think I work better under pressure, even if I have to create it myself.

    1. I think that’s true, Sheila. Also I think it comes from being a reporter, in my case. I’m used to doing everything with a clock looming over my head.

  9. Liz, that is some serious procrastination if you are cleaning. 🙂

    I read. And lately I’ve taken to jigsaw puzzles through an app on my iPad (bonus, no lost pieces).

    And there’s reading blogs. 🙂

    1. Right Liz?? Funny, I’d love to procrastinate by reading but that feels too self-indulgent. If I’m doing a task that I can convince myself is awful, I can justify it more…

  10. Let’s see, I’m reading blogs I like right this very minute instead of diving into the Chapter 13 or writing my due on Saturday blog.

    I also find that neatness counts when I sit down to write. I cannot write if anything on my desk is out of place, and that leads to cleaning, and often discovering that special writing prompt scribbled on the back of something or on a sticky note, and that leads to–oh gotta go, there’s something shiny–did you see it?

  11. I’m not a procrastinator, but I can easily be distracted by seeing something that needs to be “neatened up”. And yard work calls me all the time! I’ll do almost anything to avoid vacuuming. 🤪

  12. I am an excellent procrastinator. In fact, I’m procrastinating right now!

    I always say maturing doesn’t mean you stop doing things at the last minute. It means you know when the last minute actually is!

  13. This is hilarious. Favorite way to procrastinate? Any and all of the above. And then there’s the internet, right? Just to need to look up this one small fact. Which leads to another look up, which leads to…Three hours later, I emerge from the rabbit hole I fell down and haven’t written a thing. But, but, but, I was working! Wasn’t I? 🙂

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