How to Procrastinate

There are three steps to successful procrastination:



Let me put it another way. I am currently in the throes of NaNoWriMo, so it seems a bit odd to pause for a meditation on procrastination. But I spend a good deal of online time chatting with fellow writers, and in one loop a discussion broke out on, of all things, the proper use of the singular possessive apostrophe (talk about having too much time on your hands!)

This is what I mean. Should you write Dickens’ books or Dickens’s books? The former sounds better, but the latter is the accepted form. I pulled out my Strunk & White and found the rule to be that for ancient proper names, like Jesus and Moses, the form is: Jesus’and Moses’. Which seems to me a little unfair to Dickens, as it’s merely his accident of birth date that gets him the extra s at the end.

One of the other writers cited the “Bible” – The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. She said CMOS “goes for  ‘s for singular nouns ending in s––even Jesus’s name.”

Unwilling to leave it at that, and feeling a bit anti-authoritarian that day, I took five minutes and wrote a drinking song, to be sung around a table with other writers, steins of beer in hand, and sung directly to CMOS:

Your singular possessive
Is singularly regressive
And your S’s just make messes!
Halaloo halalay!

[Pause for drinking, and pounding steins on table]

When it comes to guys like Dickens
Your injunction is for chickens.
Here is what I say:
I will do it Jesus’ way!
Halaloo halalay!

[Finish with more drinking]

And that’s how you procrastinate.

What about you? What are your favorite ways to keep from working on your books? What do you find yourself doing when you know you should be writing? 

24 thoughts on “How to Procrastinate

  1. After 25 years as an IT version of the Maytag repairman, I’ve become quite adept at looking busy while actually being like that kid in the Bugs Bunny toon From A to Zzzzzz. find ways to do things other than writing that seem to be just as important, if not more important, than actually finishing the novel.

    My procrastinations quite often tend to look like actual work when often they are merely camouflaged distractions. As my day job Director once told my day job Supervisor, “He seems….um…distracted.”
    Funny thing is sometimes those distractions turn out to be my next project. Case in point, the Kickstarter website which distracted me from doing my writing two weeks ago, is (as of this morning) a live Kickstarter Project to raise funds for R&D on my WIP and for the creation of a documentary film about that R&D happening right here in Alaska.

    Pop on over to ICE HAMMER’S Kickstarter page, check it out.

  2. I do it Jesus’ way
    No matter what the Bibles say
    Most readers can’t even guess
    The proper way to dress an S
    Halaloo Halalay!

    Dressing S’s
    only make messes
    for readers to slur
    when they do occur.
    Halaloo Halalay!

    So stop I say,
    And do it Jesus’ way
    Halaloo halalay!

  3. Poking around online, reading about writing instead of writing itself, engaging on social media to get my social fix since I write alone at home.
    PS. I still think you are a machine — I’m amazed at all you do — procrastination or not — right now in fact — traveling and teaching at a writer’s conference — and yet still participating in Nano and all your other obligations. Great inspiration for the rest of of us.

  4. I’m sure this is a great post. I’m really looking forward to reading it, but right now I’m pretty busy. As you can tell. Creative procrastination is always a matter of perspective, as I have said whenever the opportunity has presented itself. And I think it is worth pointing out that repeating oneself, whether in discussion or in writing, is not really a creative way of procrastinating. Neither is Googling oneself. Procrastination for sure, but not all that creative. And I would go on, but my tea is ready.

    Great post.

  5. An entertaining post, to be sure, but I”m worried hysteria has set in for Mr. Bell. It can happen. I’m 16000 words into NaNo as well, and I haven’t had a moment of relaxation since it started.

    But I have procrastinated. And procrastination is not be confused with relaxation. Far from it. Procrastination, during the month of November, is a self-defeating, nerve-wracking, and time-mutilating form of inspiration mangling.

    I’m loving every minute of it. But my heart goes out to Mr. Bell. Drinking and banging steins? Tut tut. He’s obviously gone over the edge.

    • Nailed it, Amanda. Ha! Plus, I’m going to be teaching today, and traveling tonight, so I won’t be able to interact much at all. But that’s okay, I’ll get around to it….maybe….

  6. Gosh, James, I didn’t really need any help with procrastination. I’m already an expert at it… what do you think I’m doing here, as opposed to getting in my twenty pages today for the Fast Drafting workshop I’m in the middle of…

  7. I like to watch movies or catch up on my favorite TV show recordings, especially the shows with consistently good writing. I’ve experienced epiphanies that translate to new stories or plot improvements because I believe my brain works through any perceived issues with my stories to come up with solutions that I figure out later.

    Procrastination can actually be part of your process.

  8. 1. Folding laundry. (Makes me feel like I am doing something).
    2. Words With Friends. (Makes me feel like I am increasing my vocabulary even if it is words like Qua).
    3. Watching football. And it’s 12:52 so I have to go now…Eagles-Packers need me).

  9. I enter contests (an illusion of progress.)
    My house is suddenly sorta clean.
    I argue politics on Facebook.
    . . . SQUIRREL . . .
    I take over a newspaper (thank goodness the ACA covered mental health services, more to come on this announcement.)


  10. Love your blog! Always fun to visit here.

    I procrastinate by writing really long, embarrassing, confessional e-mails. (and posts to blogs, har-har). Most of these I never send, (thank God), but when I do, always bites me in the posterior, big-time.

    Another procrastination technique. Going on Yahoo to research and invariably getting sidetracked, finding myself on a YouTube link of a cat playing a piano, or a dog yowling to “Old MacDonald’s.” Or worse, clicking on a tabloid link of Kim Kardashian’s latest selfie. I never ‘keep up’ with their goofy “E” show, why am I looking at her selfie?! Anytime I’m clicking on TMZ (not to be confused with TKZ, heh heh) – I’m wasting time that I’ll never get back.

    My biggest time suck, is watching HGTV reruns. As I wrestle with guilt for NOT writing, I silently argue with spoiled, unreasonable househunters.

    “Honey, this isn’t my taste. I must have granite countertops and wood floors. I must have a cabana house near the pool. I must have a staff of toadies,” the TV househunter sniffs. “And I hate this wallpaper.”

    Me, rolling eyes, “Hey, lady, take down the wallpaper and buy a can of paint.” Then I find myself speculating. How does this impossibly telegenic young couple have a million dollars to blow on summer home in Tahiti? What do they do for a living? (Hint: they sure aren’t writers)

    While I roll my eyes, my muse is rolling his/her eyes at ME.

    I have writer friends who own two computers – one is their working computer, (no e-mail or Internet access), the other laptop is housed in the root cellar with Norman Bates’s mother, where they can go online AFTER they’ve put in their work hours. When I am rich, (HAH!), I will buy another laptop and disable one from Internet access.

  11. The proper way for a writer to procrastinate is to have a good idea, and then remember on of your favorite authors tackled that in a book you read once – so you now have to find that book, and as it’s been so long since you’ve read it, you start at the beginning and re-read the entire book – thereby completely forgetting what you were doing in the first place. Which incidentally brings me to the book I’m currently re-reading.

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