I was going to talk about procrastination as a weapon—like Thor’s Mjölnir!–but that sounds like a LOT of effort, doesn’t it? Maybe I should just call it a tool—although even that word makes me want to go take a nap. Writers, at least some of us, are fond friends with procrastination. It’s the pal that whispers in our ear that it’s fine to go watch a marathon of “Modern Family” when we’ve got a proposal to brainstorm. It cheers us on when we choose Cary Grant movies over copy edits or reading the newest Susanna Kearsley instead of writing this week’s blog entry. It’s like peer pressure, insidious and tempting. And worst of all, it’s like the call is coming from inside the house. You can’t get away from it. Procrastination is always there, showing you how pretty the grass is on the other side and encouraging you to roll around in it.
This is nothing new. Most creative types wrestle with procrastination. But it’s only very recently that I have come to realize procrastination isn’t my enemy. IT IS MY ALLY. No, really. When I procrastinate—and let’s be clear, I never put things off so late that I miss a deadline—it forces me to work to my best when I finally settle down to get things done. I don’t second-guess myself; I don’t dither. I make quick, effective choices because I must.
But there’s something else at work here: when I procrastinate, I spend that time doing things that I enjoy. I read novels that have piled up; I flip through travel magazines and poetry books. I binge-watch screwball comedies on TCM. And I peruse websites and blogs I don’t usually have time to linger over. Then, when I settle in to work, a truly bizarre thing happens—I USE WHAT I HAVE COLLECTED. All the little bits and pieces I’ve snatched up and stashed in my creative nest come in handy at this point. Writers are magpies, and I’ve come to understand that my procrastination gives me the time I need for assembling the pretty, shiny things that I will need when I sit down to work.
And since I’ve come to realize how essential this is to my process, I’m now focusing on banishing the guilt that usually comes from taking a walk on the slacker side. In the past, I’ve fretted over the lost hours I could have been writing. Now I see those hours for what they really are. You don’t just squeeze a grape and expect wine. You need time for fermentation to bubble away, working its magic. And the creative process can be much the same—demanding time as well as raw material to complete the alchemy.
So, I’m resolved to embrace my procrastination, to be an unrepentant enjoyer of movie marathons and binge reading and museum trips. And maybe I’ll even write a book about procrastination as a creative tool. But later…
A sixth-generation native Texan, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a double major in English and history and an emphasis on Shakespearean studies. She taught high school English for three years in San Antonio before leaving education to pursue a career as a novelist. Deanna makes her home in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and daughter and is hard at work on her next novel.