I saved this post for last. Because I kept putting it off. This article is about procrastinating. I do that a lot. Like a LOT. Everyone does it to some extent, I’m sure. There are many reasons to do it and some of them are psychologically valid. Writers, and other people too (like students), have been procrastinating for hundreds of years. Writers seem to have a special penchant and reputation for putting off writing. And I thought it was just me. I stumbled across Writing About Writing on Facebook which reinforced the idea and then in watching re-runs of Castle I remembered this exchange:
There is also this article from Reader’s Digest which shows that many classic authors had the art of procrastination down to a science. Clearly it’s not just me. It’s a common trait.
And what does this have to do with social media? Well, social media makes procrastination really, really easy. It’s one thing to clean your entire house to avoid writing. That’s just another form of hard (harder) work. But social media is right there. It’s available on the very same machine where I am supposed to working on my blog, assignment and/or novel. You must all have had similar experiences. Raise your hand if you went all through your Facebook newsfeed twice before actually committing words to the screen? How can you resist looking at a cat video? Listening to that song that someone posted for Throwback Thursday? There is so much to discover at your fingertips that seems way more interesting. Like Ted Talks!! Don’t you just love Ted Talks? Look at this one!
That Ted Talk is actually very interesting for a few of reasons:
- It makes me feel like my ability to put things off is almost amateurish.
- It actually explains how a rational, intelligent person can engage in such behaviour.
- Even at over thirteen minutes long, it’s engaging and gets me out of doing any work for over thirteen minutes.
In gathering information to write this article, it gave me an excellent chance to
waste my time do more research on procrastination and why it happens.
It turns out there is a lot of psychology around procrastination and it has been studied extensively. Here are some highlights of those studies:
- It is very common. At a study at the University of Vermont, 46% of subjects reported that they “”always” or “nearly always” procrastinate writing papers (Solomon, LJ; Rothblum (1984). “Academic Procrastination: Frequency and Cognitive-Behavioural Correlates”)
- To some extent, it can be normal to procrastinate as it helps us prioritize among tasks (Wikipedia, “Procrastination”, Health Perspective)
- It can have roots in a fear of not attaining perfection (McGarvey, Jason A. (1996). “The Almost Perfect Definition”)
- From my own perspective, it means that there is still the possibility that what I create will be exactly what I was aiming for. Once the assignment is done, it’s out of my hands as to how it will be received. Procrastination gives me the illusion of control.
Social media has offered me so many useful resources about writing. And yet, I even put off reading them. Currently, my Saved items on Facebook has eight links to articles about being a better writer and getting published. I have not read one of them yet. I even procrastinate about being a better writer! What is wrong with me?
This blog will be posted well ahead of the midnight deadline of April 11. In that way, I have never procrastinated during this course. The existence of a deadline is actually helpful to me. And I have developed some coping mechanisms so that I can actually function and get things done. A lot those have to do with bargaining with myself. No, you may not go shopping for birthday presents until you’ve finished your blog. No, you may not post that amazingly witty thing on Facebook until you’ve finished your blog.
How do you cope with procrastination? And did you get your blog posted on time?
Lauren Gelman, “6 Famous Writers Who Were Masters at Procrastinating”, Reader’s Digest
Tim Urban, “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator”, Ted Talks, 2016
Facebook: I write; therefore, I procrastinate.
Twitter: I write; therefore, I procrastinate.