The Procrastination of Writers

I’m doing it now. Procrastinating, that is. I have my notebooks out, my laptop at the ready. I know what I have to do to dive into the next section of my short story. Instead, I’m doing a post – which I love – and reading about the latest election results here or overseas, and generally mucking about.

Typically, a writer may view procrastination as wasting time, or as an avoidance issue.

But Irish poet David Whyte says that procrastination for writers is really about them finding a way through. ‘Before a book can be written,’ he says, ‘most of the way it cannot be written must be tried first … in our minds, on the blank screen, on the empty page … or staring at the bedroom ceiling at four in the morning.’ God bless his Celtic soul.

There is a difference between writing.and penning. Writing is when we day-dream, maybe weed the garden or pace the floorboards wondering how to formulate the one sentence that will bring the piece together; conclude a short essay on menstruation and period pain! Penning , on the other hand, is when we put pen to paper and actually put our ideas down on the blank page or onto the shimmering space of a computer screen.

We writers can be too hard on ourselves. Author Haruki Murakami says that in the writing industry one needs a ‘core of steel’. If we accept that procrastination is part of the process, as David Whyte contends – part of the allowing revelation to reveal itself – then we can relax a little. Where would our work be if not for thinking and dreaming about it? When an idea or solution does strike – in the shower, on a walk or at three in the morning, there’s an excitement about ‘the penning’ that is unsurpassed.

So let’s procrastinate on, confident that the muse will come. The only wrong thing, according to David Whyte quoting Rilke, is to give up on that ‘original idea’ – the one that has driven us to the page in the first place.

5 thoughts on “The Procrastination of Writers

  1. I’m with David Whyte Margaret! So much procrastinating, so much trying to find the perfect words in walking the lanes and digging out the weeds. The penning seems to be a small part of the whole practice of writing. Thanks for sharing this.


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