Writers’ Top 10 Ways to Procrastinate

Olaoluwa Ajibade
8 min readJan 8, 2021

When I speak of the ten “best” forms of procrastination, I mean activities in which we engage to put off a task related to our books (whether it is writing, publishing or promoting them). These activities allow us to burn several hours over many days without noticing the passage of time, and, to top it all, if we are operating in a denial mode (very common in the profession of writing), they will make us feel satisfied and convince us to be doing something productive that will take us far in our literary career .


“When I was studying for/writing my Ph.D. exams, I ran out of things to clean/organize in my house, so I adopted a 12-week-old puppy. I love her, but this is without a doubt the single worst idea I’ve had in my entire life.

THEN after I passed said exams, I started a novel just so that I could procrastinate on it by writing my dissertation. There is no way I would have finished my dissertation if I were not using it to avoid writing the novel.

Now I have a big dumb dog, a dissertation, and maybe half a novel.” — Kellie

“I started an Instagram account for my dog. I know for a fact that it was when I was compiling the 25 best true crime books for Esquire, because I accidentally posted it to her page, and then I kept it there, because fuck it.” — Maris Kreizman, author of Slaughterhouse 90210

1. Read manuals for writers

The huge number of books that enter this area is enough to procrastinate the rest of your life, starting with those of the type Develop your creativity and remove once and for all the writer you have inside , How to build dialogues, characters, arguments, stories , metaphors, storytellers and everything that makes up a novel , Write a book in two weeks . After the book is ready, they play those who tackle publishing, both in the traditional industry ( How to send manuscripts to an agent that will make you the next bestseller , How to make the biggest publishers in the world fight for you ) and in the digital mediumHow to publish on the new “free” platform that will make you spend an extra fifteen hundred dollars on proofreading, layout, cover design and advertising ). Then come the marketing for writers: How to sell ten million eBooks in a week (guaranteed success) , How to use social networks to become a best seller using five minutes of work a day and five hundred applications that will be obsolete in a year , The secret of the writers who are lining their pockets (not revealed in the book, so they do not compete) .

To stop procrastinating , choose one or two manuals corresponding to our mentality and our current stage as authors, read them and apply the recommendations before looking for more.

2. Investigate about times and characters

We are writing a novel set in the Middle Ages, or whose protagonist is a policeman. So we watch police series and the latest Robin Hood remakes , we take The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the A Song of Ice and Fire series because they “look” medieval, we reread some books by Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. In the end, we are left with a stereotypical version of the police, totally alien to reality, or with a Middle Ages of the XXIII century, which we could have written perfectly without so much prior “research”.

To stop procrastinating , focus on what it takes to build the character or the time. If you are looking for realism, go to non-fictional texts or specialists in the area that interests us.

3. Read writers’ blogs

One of the benefits of writing blogs is sharing experiences. Without them, we would know a lot less about the publishing industry, the marketplace, publishing options, and difficulties along the way. Now, the vast majority of writers have a blog and each one tells how they have published, the success they are having, the disappointments, the games with their pet and their children, the presentation of their book, the reflections on national politics, the latest mishap at a supermarket, his readings, his reviews, his photos, his book covers, his releases, his awards, his advice to other writers. The time between buying one manual and another can be spent reading these blogs and the day is gone.

To stop procrastinating , reduce the number of blogs that are followed in the feed and not read everything that everyone publishes.

4. Read success stories from other writers

It can be in their own blogs, in books written by them, in interviews for print and digital media. In theory, we read these stories to motivate ourselves, but deep down it is to remind ourselves. Although we find the experiences of rejection / triumph of JK Rowling, Ernest Hemingway or EL James interesting, we actually think that they were lucky, that this happened in another country, in another market or in another era, that we did not write in that genre We generally lack the determination, connections, discipline, or talent of successful authors, or we get carried away by other myths . So we get frustrated and combine this activity with the one described in point 8.

To stop procrastinating , reflect on what can be applied from the story to our case and what kind of action we can take in this regard.

5. Participate in literary gatherings

We say that we are going to meet with other authors to read our texts, comment on books or talk about literature. Actually, we argue about politics, we complain about some hopeless situation and we talk about our latest personal problems. The hours go by drinking and having a snack, without doing anything related to writing. Another variant is to delve into logistical minutia and try to agree on the brand of wine to be offered during the next event or a difference of half an hour at the beginning of the meetings.

To stop procrastinating , focus on the true goal of the gathering, abandon it if it lost its foundation or assume it as a meeting between friends.

6. Get sucked into social media

We are supposedly on social media networking and promoting, but time flies as we review tweets from around the world, Facebook updates, Google+ communities, and what’s hot on YouTube. With the excuse of looking for content to share, we spend hours of hours “entangled” and we land on photos and videos of cats and babies, if not spam . It becomes difficult to draw the line between effective marketing , personal enjoyment, aggressive advertising, and mere waste of time.

To stop procrastinating , analyze which tactics or networks work for us, focus on them and limit the time of use.

7. Dream of our resounding success

Imagine signing books at the Fair in London, Madrid, Frankfurt and Buenos Aires, visualize when we shake hands with our favorite consecrated writer after he says he loved our book, put together the cast of the film version of our novel, think in all the languages ​​into which they are going to translate us, prepare what we are going to say when they award us the Nobel, decide who we are going to make a millionaire with our royalties in our will … Not even the sky is the limit.

To stop procrastinating , admit that none of those dreams are going to come true if we don’t work for them.

8. Believe ourselves a failure and consider alternative careers

We are often hit by difficulties in a literary career. Nobody pays us for the hours we spend writing, the effort seems immense compared to the results, more and more must be done to sell, to be noticed, to find an agent or publisher. The successes along the way may have given us joy at first (the first book in our hands, being named a finalist in a competition, having signed a publishing contract), but when we notice that the royalties for a year are barely enough for a lunch, that Having been the winner of a contest has not helped us with sales, we have been rejected for the umpteenth time, that there is still no return on investment with the book, it is logical that one gets discouraged and begins to question whether it would not be better to declare the company writing a failure. In those moments we wonder if we should write in commercial genres, or dedicate ourselves to professions where every hour of work is paid, or where free time is truly rest and fun, and not wrestling to make our way into the world of books. So we find out about alternative careers that relieve us of frustrations, but we recognize that they do not motivate us enough. In the meantime, we have lost a lot of hours and have neither changed course nor done anything to achieve our original goals. but we recognize that they do not motivate us enough. In the meantime, we have lost a lot of hours and have neither changed course nor done anything to achieve our original goals. but we recognize that they do not motivate us enough. In the meantime, we have lost a lot of hours and have neither changed course nor done anything to achieve our original goals.

To stop procrastinating , weigh our expectations and priorities, the effort that is necessary to invest and what we are really willing to do, and make a decision accordingly.

9. Travel to write

This includes both “research” trips (because our novel will be set in the place we are going) or when traveling to make time to write (because the daily bustle neither inspires nor gives opportunity for it). We decided to organize a trip to Paris, India or an island paradise; But, as it is a sin to go so far to spend hours behind a desk, we walk, meet people, go on excursions and shop, play sports, go to places of interest, attend parties, visit museums, parks, bars, restaurants , casinos. Writing? Fine thanks.

To stop procrastinating , enjoy life without looking for excuses.

10. Sponsor another author

Instead of dedicating ourselves to our personal projects, we take another author as a protégé, we read and correct everything he writes, we give him a hundred tips, we help him prepare his manuscript, we advise him with the publication, we create the marketing plan … It is one of the most misleading forms of procrastination because we feel generous, when in reality we are creating a symbiotic procrastination relationship. We don’t do our thing to help the other; the other does not assume responsibility because we are helping him. It happens that it is easier to commit to someone else’s project (in the success of which we are not emotionally involved) than to take charge of your own. Ultimately, our protégé ends up doing what he wants, ignores most of our suggestions, and our work doesn’t progress.

To stop procrastinating , be honest about our motivations and try to identify those of our protégés (they may seek to confirm their own opinion or their insecurity, delegate tasks that are hard or unpleasant for them and for which they are not willing to invest money or effort, rather than the help we can give them), distinguish between healthy collaboration between authors and the vampiric effect as a consequence of unnecessary commitment.

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Olaoluwa Ajibade

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