Google has 391,000 results for “how to stop procrastinating.” That’s clearly a saturated market and nobody needs more advice on that.
Today I will answer: How can we start procrastinating? How can we procrastinate better?
Maybe you’re one of those writers who sets yourself a daily word count and will not leave your chair until you’ve done it, no matter how many cats demand belly rubs.
Maybe you never sit down to write at 7pm and then suddenly it’s 11pm and you’ve photographed a rare cat in Neko Atsume and proven conclusively to someone on an internet forum that actually Sharknado could happen with the right weather conditions but, oops, you haven’t written a single word of your novel.
Well, no more! This blog will teach you how to be your own worst enemy!
Let’s start with some basic procrastination techniques. Even the most conscientious writer should be able to achieve these.
1. SUITABLE FOR BEGINNERS. Play around with fonts, headings, spacing and text alignment of your unfinished manuscript. Because what’s the point of finishing a shoddy manuscript, eh?
2. SUITABLE FOR BEGINNERS. Rewrite the opening paragraph. This can be done daily because, don’t forget, all the query advice tells us that agents and editors will wish a PLAGUE ON YOUR HOUSES and use your manuscript as toilet paper if the opening paragraph doesn’t make them salivate within two syllables–but really, for any chance of being published you rank amateur you, it needs to be half a syllable.
3. SUITABLE FOR BEGINNERS. Tidy your desk/writing area. A tidy desk is a tidy mind…or something like that. Perhaps if you’re a conscientious writer your desk is already tidy, in which case why don’t you research the finer points of Feng shui?
Perhaps experiment by:
- turning your computer and chair in a new direction;
- writing a paragraph;
- choosing a new direction;
- writing a paragraph;
- repeating through all compass points;
- sending each paragraph to friends and family for a rating out of 10; and
- using the results to assess which way best facilitates your qi.
I mean, maybe in your next book you can have a character obsessed with Feng shui and this is all good research. Right?
Once you’re comfortable with this level of sloppiness, let’s move on to some intermediate techniques.
4. INTERMEDIATE PROCRASTINATORS ONLY. Cleaning. How on earth can you sit and write while your house is such a MESS? I mean, for heaven’s sake, when did you last remove the carpet and shampoo the underlay? How about dismantaling the toilet to make sure that U-bend is really sparkling? When’s the last time you went into the spare bedroom and disinfected the insides of the bare wardrobes even though they haven’t been opened since 2007? (Hey guys, this is an easter egg from my novel! Did I do it subtly again? Guys? Guys?)
One benefit of procrastination is that your house gets really clean.
5. INTERMEDIATE PROCRASTINATORS ONLY. Research the accuracy of your character names. Two of the names used in Ken Follett’s cathedral building books were not invented at the time the novels are set and my god didn’t that hold back his sales! You’d better check out census data for the year your character was born, in the area of their birth, and check how many babies in the character’s parents’ socio-economic group were given the character’s name.
Bonus points if your work has a historical setting and you have to go to a library to carry out this research.
Extra bonus points if you’re writing fantasy with made-up names and you actually have to write 100 years’ of census data in order to conclude that your names are realistic.
Now you’re ready for the big leagues, my friend. You’ll be a REAL writer in no time.
6. ADVANCED – PROCRASTINATE WITH CAUTION. So what are you going to do with this novel when it’s finished anyway? Hadn’t you’d better start narrowing down the list of agents or publishers you’re going to submit to? The best thing to do is probably create a spreadsheet with columns like ‘Name of organisation’, ‘Submission guidelines’, ‘Length of synopsis required’, ‘Submissions email’, ‘Attractiveness of logo’ and ‘Have I killed off any characters with the agent / editor’s name?’
Bonus points for answering ‘yes’ to the latter question, deciding to rename the character, and entering an endless loop of tips #5 and #6.
With this information, you should then create a sophisticated scoring matrix to determine a priority list for agents / editors.
Bonus points if you have to Google (other search engines are available) Excel (other spreadsheet software is available) formulas and take an online course to create the perfect algorithm.
7. ADVANCED – PROCRASTINATE WITH CAUTION. Research the statistical likelihood of events in your novel actually occurring. I mean we all know that coincidence shouldn’t drive our plot forward, right? But what is the likelihood of two people from a company with 1,000+ employees attending the same company cricket match, striking up a conversation, and one of them being injured badly enough by the other to have to be taken to hospital except she’s got a fear of being touched so she won’t get an ambulance and they’re forced to spend time together in the confines of his car? WHAT ARE THE ODDS? (Easter egg blah blah, I’m really impressed with my subtlety!)
Bonus points if you need to take a three-year maths course to be able to calculate the odds.
8. ADVANCED – PROCRASTINATE WITH CAUTION. Write a blog.
Please comment with your favourite procrastination tips! This will help me exercise Tip #8 at some point in the near future.