PRODUCTIVE PROCRASTINATION, WHAT IS IT?
Productive Procrastination. I’d like to go out on a limb and assume this is a term you’ve either heard of or come across somewhere, at least once. Most likely on the internet. If prior to reading this, you hadn’t, even better. I will try to share my thoughts on what I think it is and why I think it’s beneficial in this post.
Many times we find ourselves stuck or stagnant for whatever reason. There’s an important project that needs our attention, like a painting, an article we have to finish, or that Screenplay. But we choose not to do it either out of laziness or some kind of block. For me, it’s usually the latter. As a writer, it’s especially consequential to be in a healthy state of mind if you’re to get anything on the blank page, which any writer can testify to that facing the page is always such a daunting thing regardless of how long they’ve been writing.
Picasso once said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” This makes me realize (with the exception of when my mental health is the pits) that most times my block is rarely ever due to the fact that I'm simply lacking inspiration, but information. Could it be that this fear of facing the page is simply a fear of coming off misinformed? (For lack of a better term.) The fear that whatever I write simply won’t be good enough; so I put writing off altogether, till I feel I’m “ready” which can take 3–4 days, sometimes weeks, even months.
With a quick Google search, Oxford Languages defines procrastination as “The action of delaying or postponing something.” Which I believe can have serious repercussions if left unchecked to the point where it becomes a habit; as time is a valuable and fleeting resource that we have to make the most of.
But what if we switched that narrative. Instead of just procrastinating, what if you remained productive while procrastinating? What if we postponed and delayed with intention? (This makes me sound like the wannabe Essentialist that I am lol) What if instead of spending the time you’re supposed to be working on that thing watching TV, playing Video Games or drinking Wine, you spend it engaging with things that assist or complement the very thing you’re supposed to be doing; to give you the confidence or inspiration to help you tackle that thing with less fear; that by the time you face the blank page or canvas, you have a lot more ideas or perspective as you’ve just spent the last 48hrs consuming themes or subjects relating to that thing you’re meant to be working on.
How can I procrastinate productively?
One of my favorite screenwriters, Aaron Sorkin, says, “writing is more in the head than it is on paper.” And I think productive procrastination is exactly that…writing, doing the work, but in your head. Think of it as a period of research and ideation as opposed to a period of “free time” and lazying around.
Picture this. You’ve just gotten your first travel writing gig. You’re nervous cause you’ve never written this kind of piece before. But instead of spending your time watching Breaking Bad for the millionth time (if you’re anything like me) why not watch NatGeo or Discovery channel, instead! Or, you could even go the extra mile an open an actual atlas in preparation for your trip. They’re filled with all sorts of facts you might not have otherwise known about the place you’re set to be traveling to, to write about. In turn, you’re no longer wasting time waiting for inspiration to strike, you’re actually building it by taking in new information and ideas.
Or, if you’re writing about the most random thing like let's say, bread. You could spend time with your local baker, asking them questions, watching them bake, until you learn enough new information about bread to actually feel excited and confident to write something interesting on bread. That way you don’t have to feel guilty for not having to be productive in a conventional way; as I usually do when I don’t get any writing done in a day.
I’ve come to learn that the best writers are either people watchers, travelers, or very keen researchers. This isn’t a proven fact! Just my own observation. So take it with a grain of salt. What this tells me is that you need to take in the details. It doesn’t matter how minuscule they are. But you need “information” to make something a whole lot better. You’re going to have to immerse yourself in an environment that can provide you the necessary tools and details to aid you on whatever project you’re set to undertake.
How People-Watching Makes You a Better Writer - Write It Sideways
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Again, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” So if you wanna make progress with that thing…align yourself with things related to that thing, that will help you do the thing: A TedTalk, an article, an old interview, an essay, a video essay, a class, people in that related field who’ve done what you’re hoping to do or something similar. Use as many things as are at your disposal and soak up whatever you can to help propel you into doing the work, even when you’re not actually doing the work. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln
Down below is a link to a piece on a few ways to inspire creativity. I hope you find something listed on it that speaks to you and helps you get into that zone of creativity and productivity.