The Fine Art of Procrastinating With Creativity

It’s amazing how many little things you can get done… when you have to do something else. Image: Lisa Tate

Warning: This post contains no helpful advice. It offers no solutions.

The only reassurance is that those who may think similarly may enjoy a small laugh at something relatable and take a few moments from their work and obligations to procrastinate. This is only appropriate as procrastination, and my personal style of it is what I’m going to talk about.

As someone who writes and edits for a living, I find writer’s block and an overactive imagination to be a dangerous pairing. When they get together and get jiggy with each other, they produce that pushy little offspring known as procrastination.

I know that persistent little beast well, and because I’m a sucker I never turn it away. I bring it in, feed it, and ask it what it would prefer to watch on its favorite streaming service.

I’m not the only GeekMom to recognize this little imp. (I highly recommended looking up Rebecca Angel’s “Procrastination Destination” series for fun.) Yet, we all deal with procrastination in our own way, and in the spirit of sharing here are my most common, and constant, dealings with writer’s block and procrastination.

Amending Your Writing Environment

It’s funny how I can neglect a cluttered desk or updating my files for weeks until I have some job due. All of a sudden, this all needs to get cleaned up, dusted off, organized, and taken care of RIGHT NOW. I think it was Dick Van Dyke (I might be wrong) who I heard talking about this on a late-night show when I was a kid. He had a script due and couldn’t get around the writer’s block so he went to a secluded cabin without distractions to finish. When he got there, he wrote one line, made a typing error, yanked out the sheet of paper, wadded it up and was ready to throw it away. Unfortunately, there was no trash bin, so, of course, he had to go and build one before he got started. I get it. I really do.

My “environment” sometimes also includes my corporal state, as it’s during these writer’s block bouts when everything begins to feel itchy or dry…. where’s that lotion?… in need of adornments… I haven’t painted my nails in a while… Great, now I have to wait for them to dry… and more than anything, in need of sustenance… I need cheese. Calcium is good for the thought process. Even if it isn’t it is good for the teeth. And coffee. I need coffee. No! It’s after noon. I need tea! Time to heat up a pot! Better wait for it to get hot, so it doesn’t go off when I’m trying to write. I’m on a deadline, you know!

Creativity Out of Left Field

In the kid-friendly poem “How to Stay Up Late” by X.J. Kennedy, the poet talks about the secret to avoiding bedtime: “Unless you like to go to bed too fast, just save your most impressive play of all day long for last.”

That is how I tend to operate in the creative world. I do all my best work when I have something else more “important” but less interesting needing to be done.

I’m always proud of summer “Be the Artist” series, but I should share a secret about it. Many of those silly inspirations happen when I’m trying to work on something else. I’ve also created movie and costume props for the house, painted rooms, made jewelry, sketched some of my best work, and baked some amazing goodies from scratch because every maker knows you have to jump on that inspiration when you can, otherwise you’ll lose it.

Yet, inspiration sure likes to pop around in my brain when I have to focus on something else. One day, I had a specific and hefty schedule. I had to finish a calendar editing deadline, turn in a feature story, finish a handful of writeups for performing arts groups, and complete an invoice by a certain time… so I made a little felt hat for my Jayne Cobb Firefly action figure, because “can you believe he didn’t come with one?!”

It does look pretty cunning, though.

Each one of my little “Toon June” sketches came to me while I was trying to work on finishing other jobs. Creativity waits for no one. Image: Lisa Tate

Sudden Bursts of “Altruism”

When I’m stumped for a story idea, or behind on my word count, procrastination sometimes brings its nasty little friend to visit me…. guilt!

What kind of terrible person am I hunched over a laptop computer when it’s summer and I need to spend time with my kids. Yes, we had a family picnic yesterday, but they might want to have a good parent-to-kid conversation about what’s happening in their lives. I know they’re telling me to “go away! I’m reading” but that’s just compensating on loneliness. We need to go for a family walk… and get ice cream… or books… maybe a movie…

What about that poor neighbor’s dog who doesn’t get enough love… I need to pet it and feed it a biscuit… but not forget to walk my own pup. I know he’s napping, but he is just bored because I’m not walking him… Should I try to teach the cat to walk on a leash, too… He looks despondent.

My capacity for doing good shouldn’t stop in my neighborhood. I have to take that box of clothes to the local cancer support group, but there’s not enough clothes in it… time to go through the closet… I had been meaning to contribute to that charity or Kickstarter campaignI wonder what other Kickstarters are out there I should share on social media… or what that random obscure celebrity who follows me on Twitter is up to… what if he isn’t following me, anymore? It’s because I neglected him… ooh, look there’s a new teaser-trailer up…

Okay, my motives aren’t completely “altruistic,” but, hey, don’t judge. Doing good is doing good, even if it means putting off doing work. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Work can wait. The world won’t save itself. Hand me my superhero costume… after I design and make one.

Finishing Other Things You’ve Been Putting Off

This is actually a good thing, or at least I’ll say it is. All those little independent freelance jobs tend to jump in the way of my big project for the week and find themselves getting attention first. Yes, I have 600 items to slog through for work, but really I shouldn’t neglect my other jobs. I have to get my weekly stories in for various sites, not to mention I promised myself I would get my next batch of art blocks done for the Art-O-Mat.

I like to think of it as needing to drive to the bank down the street, but deciding to take the scenic route around the entire state to get there. Things get done, and discoveries are made, just not in a straight line. Where’s the fun in that? There is nothing like one big deadline to help you get on top of 20 others that aren’t as pressing.

And that is the fine art of my procrastination journey.

I’m proud to announce this post took me less than two hours to write, and it came together efficiently and without distraction.

Of course, I also wrote this while putting off an editing deadline due that same evening, but, hey, at least I got something done, right?

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