A Writer’s Guide to Procrastination

So, you’re writing a novel and it’s going really well. You’re on cloud nine and can’t wait to get those words down on paper. Don’t worry, the crash will come. I’m not wishing it upon you or anything (much), but it will happen. One day you’ll wake up with Doubt sitting on your chest, cackling and fiddling with his balls, right in your face. It’s distracting (trust me on this one). And suddenly, you don’t know what to write next. You’ve gone blank. There’s a big wall of blank and even if you slam your head against it, it’s still blank.

a writer's guide to procrastination

When writer’s block strikes and you go a bit crazy. (img. The Shining – Jack Nicholson)

Coffee.

You go and make coffee. That’ll do the trick. Only Doubt’s got there first and he’s – oh god, no – he’s got his balls IN your coffee mug. You chuck the coffee down the sink and head to your keyboard. It’s time to get writing.

The cursor blinks. Did it just speed up? Or slow down, like a slow hand clap, taunting you? ‘Come on genius. Write something, then…’ it says.

You slam the laptop shut.

What the hell do you do now?

I have a few suggestions:

  1. Start tidying. Sponge clean the leaves of all your favourite house plants. Now you’ve stepped away from your novel, you’ve just noticed how dusty those suckers are getting. Yeesh, it’s a wonder they can still photosynthesise.
  2. Play videogames. It’s time to find the biggest time sync humankind has ever invented – the openworld gaming experience, which can only be topped by an MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game). Grab yourself a copy of Skyrim or Minecraft and kill all this time you have, now that you’re not wasting your time writing.
  3. Subscribe to Netflix. Why try to write your own screenplay or television drama, when you can just watch someone else’s? I mean, there’s way too much TV already, right? And this is like research, really. You can study the craft and gain the weight of a small child, while bingeing on everything from House of Cards to the whole of the DC television universe.
  4. And speaking of bingeing…why not crack open the wine? Yes, get the creative juices flowing. It worked for Hemingway and all those. Except, didn’t Hemingway blow his own head off and didn’t all those other people often die young, sad and alone? No, no, that’s just what people say, when they’re trying to kill the romance of being a writer. You have to suffer for your art. Let’s have another glass and go on Twitter.
  5. Become a social media whore. Now you’ve got all this downtime, you can finally focus on building your media profile. This’ll be totally worth it, once you’ve finished that masterpiece. Selfie with a glass of wine – caption: ‘writer at work’. Just reply to that dickhead who told you you’re not a writer because you never write. Now it’s time to get more likes by criticising the work of those up themselves ‘published’ authors. Oops, this has escalated quickly into a social media shit storm, but your ‘engagement’ stats have gone through the roof. Maybe you should book an exotic holiday to make your Instagram feed look more aspirational.
  6. Travel the world to find yourself. Yes, you’re now bathing baby elephants in Sri Lanka. This is what being a writer is all about. How can you write the next great novel, if all you know is suburban Hertfordshire? Make sure you get some selfies of you sucking your stomach in on the beach, meeting real ‘locals’ and drinking a pink cocktail with a turquoise sea just over your shoulder. And maybe do some yoga in Thailand to tap into your creative soul.

Six months pass. You wake up in your flat. It’s cold. You think the electricity might have been switched off because you can’t remember paying your bill. You were too busy being on a higher creative plane. There are a lot of empty wine bottles. The TV is on – it’s season 13 of something that used to be really good. Your head throbs and there are nausea tsunamis rushing over your body. And the thirst, an unimaginable thirst.

Something wet is on your head, as you lie in a sea of wine bottles and pizza boxes. You look up. It’s Self-pity. Doubt’s obviously invited his cousin without asking. Self-pity is stroking your head, leaving a trail of slime that’s less than comforting. She’s sobbing until snot bubbles form and then pop before dribbling over her sagging breasts. You try to get up, but she’s pushing you back down.

You’ve finally had enough of this and it’s time to kick these losers out. You shove Self-Pity aside and she wails. The throb in your head reminds you. Water. You grab a glass and run the tap. What’s that noise? It’s Doubt, his feet slapping on the work surface as he chortles, running towards you, eyes on your glass, balls swinging.

‘Not this time, mother fucker!’ you cry.

He leaps. You form a fist and he flies right into it. His face puckers. You’ve hit him, right in the knackers. He gasps and flies back crashing into six months’ worth of dishes. You take a good long slug of water, stomp over and tear those balls off with your bare teeth. You’re pumped.

‘I’m going to take your balls and use them as olives in my Martini, you little shit,’ you call after Doubt and Self-Pity, as they scamper out through the cat flap.

The martini was an empty threat, the whole drinking thing didn’t really work out. Now that you’ve kicked Doubt and Self-Pity to the kerb, there’s only one thing to do.

Write.

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