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6 Ways for Writers to Procrastinate

Updated on September 4, 2014

And still be productive!

Writing a novel or a short story is challenging at the best of times. There's plot holes to consider, bathrooms to be cleaned, food to be eaten and, sometimes, motivation to be found.

I've been writing novels for the past seven years and yet I still suffer from chronic procrastination. When my Deadline disappears I turn into a Twitter dwelling, PS2-gaming, clean freak - anything but writing. This is stupid, because I don't just love writing, I adore it.

So, over the past seven years I've taught myself to avoid writing by writing or crafting other things. Like right now (I should be planning another essay). In this lens I'll share with you 6 ways to procrastinate and still make progress on developing your novel, short story or writing skills. No magic needed.

Artwork by yasmeanie

1. Mood Boards - staring at your wall can now be productive

This is perhaps the most enjoyable way to procrastinate. Images are a fantastic source of inspiration. When you plan a novel or begin writing, do you collect images? Have you seen echoes of your characters or creations on deviantART or Etsy? Then it's time to do something useful with those pictures, or, start collecting them.

Begin with magazines - beg, borrow and steal them from your friends. This is a good place to start image gathering as it is forces you to look beyond the specificity of internet search engines. It can make you think beyond whatever genre you are writing for. So, find your magazines, browse through them and tear out pictures that make you think of your novel. Don't ponder over an image or consider 'why' you like it, just rip it out and put it to one side.

There is also no quota of images you should get from this. I usually have a limited supply of magazines (I always nick them from friends and family), so I tend to find no more than 3-to-5 images. This is OK. It's about quality, or, 'instinctive inspiration', not quantity.

Now that we're done with magazines: onto the internet! You can simply type key words into Google Images and hope for the best, but this can be dull and unfruitful. I would suggest going straight to deviantART, Etsy or even Tumblr.

When you've collected your images, arrange them onto a giant piece of paper (when in doubt, sticky-tape or glue the edges of A4 pieces together instead). Again, don't think too hard about how you arrange these pictures. Place them as feels natural.

Now, find a friend to look at your mood-board and ask them, 'what is my novel about?' They will probably read your mind, or, point out things you hadn't considered just by looking at the arrangement. Over time, as you spend hours looking at your mood-board instead of writing, each picture will have meaning and probably answer a few missing links within your story.

In the above-right you can see two of my mood-boards for two separate novels. Almost all of the images were found on deviantART. In the third image, you'll notice a line of white paper and post-it-notes - these are images I have drawn myself. It always takes months for each picture to have a solid meaning but they develop a meaning nonetheless, and I never stop gathering images. This is, for me, the most useful procrastination technique.

Verdict

If you do end up making a mood-board, I'd love to see it!

Will you try this out?

See results

My Favourite deviantART Artists

I'm primarily into fantasy and digital art but I do like a few photographers. I've listed some of my favourite artists here that might help narrow down your search. Browse their galleries, check out their scraps folder, poke at their favourites - you might be captivated by what you find. For a more complete list check out my journal: The Lemony World of Willow

2. Begin A Writing Bible - something every writer needs

Picture by UndonNodu

Most authors will tell you that a Writing Bible is essential to your story and, for the most part, I agree. This isn't an instantly gratifying way to procrastinate but it will become your most guarded treasure.

What is a Writing Bible?

A Writing Bible is an explosion of organised notes about character details, key moments in your chapters, plot points, things to remember, timelines etc. It contains your ideas and secrets in as little or as much detail as you want. It's the padding of your universe without actually writing a story. No one will ever see it. This is your super-awesome-journal that helps keep your story consistent (did Joe Bloggs have brown eyes or blue?) and it's a safe place to throw around ideas (what if Voldemort was Harry Potter's father?!).

Starting Your Writing Bible

Make a contents of all your characters' names - the easiest place to begin. Then, pick your favourite character and answer all of the questions that Manon Eileen has written for interrogating your character. [CLICK HERE] The Survey is nicely presented and, at the end, leaves you with a chunky PDF all about Your Character. It's a great way to spend hours not-actually-writing but developing lifelike people.

Extra Awesome Stuff**

For more details on what to put in your Writing Bible check out Pip Hunn's fantastic, in-depth article [HERE]. It explains how to make a contents list, how to index and, most importantly, what to explore within your super-awesome-bible-of-procrastination.

My First Writing Bible

Click [HERE] to see my first Writing Bible made out of ripped in half sheets of A4 paper and bound together with a pipe-cleaner!

**EDIT 07/10/2013: The link to Pip Hunn's articles is currently broken. As far as I can tell, the entire 'write-thing' website is unresponsive and possibly shut down. I'll endeavour to find other links, or I will expand this module myself at a later date/make another lens about fleshing out writing bibles. Thanks for your understanding.

Verdict

Do you keep a Writing Bible?

See results

Do you already keep a super-awesome-procrastination-bible? If so, what advice can you give to others who have never made one before?

3. Get Out The House - I know, scary stuff. No pyjamas here...

Picture by UdonNodu

...unless you're like me, and don't mind walking through the countryside in pyjamas and with a mug of tea.

As writers, we tend not to get out the house often enough, but walking is actually a really great way to mull over our ideas and release stress. It gets blood flowing and oxygen to the brain.

When you're feeling down; struggling with writer's block, passionate but frustrated with your work, it's time to put on your shoes. It doesn't matter where you live, in the city or suburbs, leaving the house will make you feel better.

I find that the most creative walks are when I only take my keys and my iPod. If I have a playlist that I listen to when I'm writing, then I listen to it when I walk. New ideas come to me and I feel happier about returning to my manuscript.

Vary the hours you go out, even the types of weather you brave. This will change the setting of your regular walks. As I live in the city, I often go walking at night amid the lights and dinner-couples, although I only recommend doing this in safe districts.

It's not about being inspired by what you see - although this is great and can happen - it's about daydreaming. That sounds awesome, right? And it is. Let your feet carry you on a long walk and your mind fly through another universe. Watch out for cars, though.

Verdict

Will you endeavour to walk more?

See results

4. Put Together A Playlist - you're lying if you say songs don't inspire you

Picture by mibou

There is a plethora of musical genres and languages to be discovered from all across the globe. Aside from finding songs that make my imagination explode, I've learnt and discovered a lot just by looking for music. I'm now a fan of Faroese folksongs, Korean rap, Scandinavian darkwave and my iTunes is one giant album of game and film music! So how do you find these songs that get you in the mood for writing?

Things to Consider

Where is your story set? Norway? Atlantis? Galafrey? YouTube is fed every day by people from around the world. Unless you're searching for music sung by dodo birds, you should be able to find something that is linked to your setting. This is what I search for first as it is the most thematically relevant.

What's your favourite film or videogame? Both of these mediums produce gorgeous soundtracks that cater to a range of moods. The galaxy, horror, chase-scenes, piano music that makes you cry - there's a wealth of soundtracks you probably never noticed are amazing.

Have you considered production music? Trailer music is epic and usually what I listen to on my walks. There are roughly five groups who produce all the trailer music you know of. It's crazy, I know. These groups are Brand X, Two Steps From Hell, Epic Score, X-Ray Dog and Future World Music. Most of their music isn't available for the general public to buy but it is available on YouTube.

TIP: Listening to music without lyrics, or in a language you don't understand, is great for those who are easily distracted by song lyrics when writing.

Two Steps From Hell - Heart of Courage

This is perhaps one of my favourite pieces of trailer music.

Verdict

Do you frequently listen to music as you write?

See results

5. Write Fan Fiction - there's a fanfic hidden inside all of us

Picture by Nazgullow

Fan fiction is a wonderful form of literature (yes, literature), and if you think otherwise, let me share with you a quote from onlyalittlelion:

"Most of the history of Western literature (and probably much of non-Western literature, but I can't speak to that) is adapted or appropriated from something else. Homer wrote historyfic and Virgil wrote Homerfic and Dante wrote Virgilfic (
where he makes himself a character and writes himself hanging out with Homer and Virgil and they're like "OMG Dante you're so cool." He was the original Gary Stu).


"Milton wrote Bible fanfic, and everyone and their mom spent the Middle Ages writing King Arthur fanfic. In the sixteenth century you and another dude could translate the same Petrarchan sonnet and somehow have it count as two separate poems, and no one gave a fuck. Shakespeare doesn't have a single original plot-although much of it would be more rightly termed RPF-and then John Fletcher and Mary Cowden Clarke and Gloria Naylor and Jane Smiley and Stephen Sondheim wrote Shakespeare fanfic. Guys like Pope and Dryden took old narratives and rewrote them to make fun of people they didn't like, because the eighteenth century was basically high school. And Spenser! Don't even get me started on Spenser."

The beauty of fan fiction is that half the work is already done for us. The world is there, the characters are there and so is the lore. Writing fan fiction is a creative process that squeezes out new content. We have to look at what we want from the original story and reconstruct it into something new.

It can be great practice for character studies, rewriting timelines, experimenting with setting, and of course, using language in general. The nice part is, as people read your work, you'll have prompting and encouragement from readers. Some may even give constructive feedback. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

What book, game, film, TV series do you love?

I would like to conclude this little module with another quote from onlyalittlelion:

"Here's what fanfic authors/fans need to remember when anyone gives them shit:
the idea that originality is somehow a good thing, an innately preferable thing, is a completely modern notion. Until about three hundred years ago, a good writer, by and large, was someone who could take a tried-and-true story and make it even more awesome. (If you want to sound fancy, the technical term is imitatio.) People were like, why would I wanna read something about some dude I've never heard of? There's a new Sir Gawain story out, man! (As to when and how that changed, I tend to blame Daniel Defoe, or the Modernists, or reality television, depending on my mood.)"

Verdict

If you can tell us a bit about your answer, I'm sure it will help other writers decide.

Do you think writing fan fiction helps develop your craft?

See results

6. Build a Hub! - I'm serious

Picture by Anna Pietroni

Writing a hub might not be writing a novel but it is some form of writing. Write, write, write. It's the only way to improve.

Don't know what to write about? Nonsense, of course you do. You're a creative individual with hundreds of ideas to share. How do you build fictional worlds? Where do you find writing prompts? If you're really struggling, however, check out SquidooFanatic's '101 Ideas for a Squidoo Lens!'

By writing this lens I've hopefully helped you and I've experimented with how to write a casual article. Progress, right? I've also learnt how to deal with despair when I accidentally delete a whole module of text that I didn't back up. Make sure you back up words to your harddrive before hitting 'save' or you may suffer unadulterated misery at having to start again. I could have wept because it's bad enough that I'm procrastinating, remember? Yeah.

Now go get busy effectively procrastinating yourself!

Guestbook Comments - how do you procrastinate?

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    • TerriCarr profile image

      TerriCarr 4 years ago

      Mainly by reading. But I can find other ways to procrastinate. Such as taking a REALLY long walk.

    • pjsart profile image

      pjsart 4 years ago

      By searching out lenses-lol, going on facebook, reading, sorting, answering email and snacking which is my doom for my waist

    • profile image

      The_Storyteller 4 years ago

      Also: the pictures are awesome! They add a lot to the lens, and make me feel in a writing mood just scrolling through this!

    • profile image

      The_Storyteller 4 years ago

      This lens is brilliant! Good advice, well-written, interesting and fun to read, and with well placed polls! Awesome job!

      I find that I either use or have considered most of your methods. I have never done a mood board, but I have often thought that when I have my dream 'writing room', I will have a corner of it with bulletin boards and big inspiring pictures, so I can have a giant collage of inspiration on hand! I also tend to listen to LotR soundtrack, or Korean drama OST, among other things. The walks I don't do regularly, but I should; even if I am not thinking about the write novel, I am always daydreaming and brainstorming about some story or another!

      For me, another big one is working on other novels. I am constantly having new ideas, and usually when I first get an idea the motivation to write it is strongest; I often deviate from my present novel to write the first few chapters of a new idea, and when the inspiration leaves I put it on file and go back to the one I am working on. =)

      Thanks for sharing, this is a great lens!

    • Tim Bader profile image

      Tim Bader 4 years ago from Surrey, UK

      I read. I read when I should be writing and I write when I should be reading.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 4 years ago from Fresno CA

      I sketch. I read. I think reading helps get ideas too... that goes back to the whole imitatio, I think.

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 4 years ago from Houston

      As a pro-crastinator, I've had to find many tools and strategies to leap hurdles and blast through walls. Yours are definitely in my toolbox. Great job.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      I write lists of instructions that push me through procrastination.

    • profile image

      IreneL11 4 years ago

      Great lens. Thank for the tips. :)

    • RowanChisholm profile image

      Rowan Chisholm 4 years ago from Washington state

      You forgot the one about cleaning your writing area because if you don't the crumbs on the mouse pad are going to imprint on your hand.....

    • JohnCumbow profile image

      JohnCumbow 4 years ago

      Thanks for the inspiration. Now I have to get back to my writing.

      Right after I...

    • profile image

      changrcoacher 4 years ago

      Very interesting....

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      Well, I could tell you right now how I procrastinate, but I'd rather wait until tomorrow to tell you. ;-)

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 4 years ago from Burbank, CA

      I day dream or read or play video games.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      It's just that sometimes I know procrastination, by a different name.

    • profile image

      FashionAndrea 5 years ago

      Procrastination is like my middle name :) Thanks for all the ideas

    • Madonaa profile image

      Madonaa 5 years ago

      Nice work you have made a nice collection

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      This is very productive and positive procrastination - I hope I can take a page from your book! Blessings.

    • Willow Wood profile image
      Author

      Willow Wood 5 years ago

      @dellgirl: Oh wow! Thank you so much, dellgirl. I'm super happy this has inspired you to such an extent. I don't know why the music section isn't showing the full song collection, but I think Squidoo is has a few bugs lately.

      Thank you again and again <3

    • profile image

      dellgirl 5 years ago

      So much love for this inspirational lens, I'm back again! I'm tweeting, facebooking, pinning on Pinterest, Google +1(ing) and whatever else I can do to spread the word about this great lens. I am happy to be able to say...

      **Blessed by a Squid-Angel**

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      These are great ideas. I usually procrastinate by working on a different writing project. It's hard to tell myself to stop because I am writing.

    • MyCrazyAdventures profile image

      Melissa 5 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

      Great list of ideas--inspiring as I head to work, on the internet and without supervision.

    • PennyHowe profile image

      PennyHowe 5 years ago

      Great ideas! I like to immerse myself in a good book. Or play cards on the computer. But, I am getting better and mostly just get to it. That way I know I will feel better once I get it done. Thanks for this great lens.

    • elibenporat profile image

      elibenporat 5 years ago

      Really enjoyed this lens, keep it up!

    • elibenporat profile image

      elibenporat 5 years ago

      I watch Baseball...

    • nicks44 profile image

      nicks44 5 years ago

      Thanks a lot, very helpful tips you've noted down here!

    • Willow Wood profile image
      Author

      Willow Wood 5 years ago

      @FlynntheCat1: Ah, but not if you have a programme called 'Freedom' - freedom and lock down from the internet! I forgot to mention it. I'll have to add it to this lens a little later.

      But yes, you're right. The internet in general is one big sign saying 'procrastinate this way, please'.

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image

      FlynntheCat1 5 years ago

      Unfortunately the internet automatically means procrastination. But writing-wsie, I've mostly trained myself to at least bounce around between sites!

    • Willow Wood profile image
      Author

      Willow Wood 5 years ago

      @THEHuG5: It is genuinely amazing. During novel-months my bathroom sparkles - SPARKLES I tell you. It's great to hear you enjoyed this lens, thank you for saying as much, and I hope your writing bible grows ever chunkier.

    • profile image

      THEHuG5 5 years ago

      What a great lens! I can definitely relate. It's amazing how much cleaning you can get done while you're procrastinating lol. I liked the advice you gave about writing bibles (I didn't know that's what they were called) and how you put the lens together.This was a really enjoyable read :)

    • Willow Wood profile image
      Author

      Willow Wood 5 years ago

      @dellgirl: Wows! Thank you for saying so. It's brilliant to hear someone enjoyed this lens so much, and thank you for the encouragement.

    • profile image

      dellgirl 5 years ago

      Love this lens, it really caught my eye and held me captive! It's Impressive, very enlightening! Youâve done a wonderful job on it. Keep up the good work!

    • Willow Wood profile image
      Author

      Willow Wood 5 years ago

      @vegetablegardenh: Thank you! I'm really glad to hear this. I hope there was something useful here for you :D

    • vegetablegardenh profile image

      vegetablegardenh 5 years ago

      I enjoyed reading this lens very much, and really like your style of writing!