Productive Procrastination

Wednesday, April 20, 2022


This post made me think about how I work.

Monday, I needed to dive into my rewrite. After all, I have a teen nonfiction book due Friday. It is 8 chapters, 15,000 words, and too long already. I need to focus the text, work in some more examples and descriptions, and cut the excess. One chapter is 700 words too long. Others include notes to myself like “Transition!” or “Brilliant conclusion goes here.” 

I spent the day prodding myself. “Must rewrite . . . must rewrite . . . must . . .”

Somehow I suspect you know where I’m going with this. So much to do, so little interest. My brain was full of great ideas -- blog post ideas, ideas for my upcoming comic, and ideas for brand new projects. I got through one chapter but everything was calling to me except this rewrite. Face it. I folded laundry! I did dishes twice.

Fortunately, I know how I work best. I let myself work on anything that was on my to-do list and had to be done by Friday. After all, the rewrite isn’t the only thing I need to get done this week. So I pulled together work related social media posts. I worked on blog posts. I worked on the back matter for the book. I got so much done and all the while I was procrastinating where that rewrite was concerned. 

The reality is that I never work on only one thing. And that’s a good thing because I never know when I’m going to get stuck. Sometimes I need a bit of distance to think something through because what seemed like a great idea or the perfect solution simply refuses to come together. Sometimes I’m waiting for a critical bit of information. Sometimes my brain is just being bratty and does not want to work on that thing right there. 

So I work on something else. I accomplish one or more things on my to-do list.

And that’s a good thing. Because by dinner time I had a note from my editor. “Here are my comments on book 1. Can you get this done by Friday?” 

Do you work on one thing and only one thing at a time? Or do you move between projects? 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on May 1, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins May 1, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins May 1, 2022). 


Cathy C. Hall said...

First, Sue, I love that you write yourself notes like, "Brilliant conclusion goes here." I do, too!

And yep, I work on more than one project at a time, mostly because I'm always working on a lo-o-o-o-ng manuscript while doing other smaller projects. But sometimes I'll have an idea for something right in the middle of something else and I can't get to work on the something else until I've got the idea out of my head. Apparently, there's only so much room in my brain. Ha!

Renee Roberson said...

Sue--This is hilarious. And I don't think you need me to answer the question. I am sooo bad about bouncing back and forth between projects, and because I also work from home, I'll decide to "whip up" a batch of muffins or waffles while I'm "thinking" about revisions. And those pesky editors who think we have nothing to do but sit around and write and revise all day, LOL.

Marcia Peterson said...

I usually like having more one creative project going on. It kind of
keeps the brain coming up with ideas for one or the other, and you can switch back and forth if you're inspired by something.
But regarding procrastination, there's the good kind and the bad kind, right? It sounds like you are accomplishing lots of other stuff on your to-do list while you're away from the page, and I know you are a prolific writer! (And even baking is great for break, Renee. Send over those muffins!)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

If I write an idea down, I generally don't have to write it, if you know what I mean.

Yum - waffles! My go-to baking procrastination is blondies.

I can't say that I'm always great about knowing when I need a break. But my husband has no qualms about dragging me off to do something fun.

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