Most writers procrastinate. But why?

My best friend and fellow writer, Cy, sent me a link to an article in the current Atlantic about why writers are infamous procrastinators. Read it here and tell me what you think. And don’t forget to include the reasons you procrastinate in your comment. Personally, it took a relative taking me aside and disabusing me of the notion that talent is the source of success (or even deserves any praise). But my current biggest barrier to writing is poor time management. I tend to pick distractions or less important writing tasks over the more serious ones.

4 thoughts on “Most writers procrastinate. But why?

  1. Hi Mrs. Klempner,

    I generally don’t procrastinate. I prefer to start a task as soon as possible and work on it diligently until it’s done, preferably early. Then comes proofreading, which I do along the way, rather than delaying until the very end. There’s actually a perverse thrill that I feel when unsubscribing from some store’s email list, so that I will longer be distracted by their nonsense.

    It’s not that I’ve never procrastinated anything; however, the consequences of early procrastinations taught me a valuable lesson: don’t procrastinate. In fact, while in school, I figured out two keys to success:
    1. If the instructor gives two weeks to complete an assignment, the assignment actually requires all 14 days.
    2. Success is a function of time management more than anything else.

    Universities make life hard in a ridiculous way by subjecting young people to simultaneous contradictory demands. On the one hand, they’re expected to complete rigorous academic work. On the other hand, they create an environment full of foolish distractions: fraternities, sororities, athletic teams, ski clubs, parties, public protests against oppression (replete with “downtrodden” anti-Semites who scream about how the vile Zionists are to blame for all the world’s evil), nuts with petitions, and predatory salespeople trying to sign people up for credit cards (because they know that most of their prey will wrongly consider it free money). Since the majority of students easily fall for those traps, the only way to succeed is to develop a systematic approach to avoiding distraction. Willpower is not the answer; a system for staying focused is the answer.

    The same applies to writing, or to getting anything else done. Develop and implement a system for eliminating distraction and for getting things done. Here are some resources you may want to consider:

    “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

    A website called RescueTime

    Read the blog called written by Ramit Sethi. It’s not entirely about personal finance, and much of it addresses these issues frankly and effectively.

    The truest success does come to those who work the hardest, not to those with the most talent. Search for Mr. Sethi’s post on how he got into Stanford and paid for all four years by winning scholarships. His parents are not wealthy.

    Develop and follow a system that works.

    I did very well in my English courses, and almost all my other ones. Some things came easily, and yet the older I got, the more interesting those English courses became. I wanted to do the work, and did the work; I wasn’t looking for excuses to be a little spoiled brat like those described in Ms. McArdle’s article.

    I hope my comments help,

    Nathaniel Wyckoff


    • I appreciated the way you described the conflicting demands of college. It was so overwhelming for me, because I was one of those over-praised kids growing up in some ways, and had a very low frustration tolerance. If I struggled with something, either I thought I couldn’t do it ever, or that it wasn’t worth doing. I lost out on a lot of opportunities that way, and although I did well in college, by the time I hit graduate school and teaching, I could no longer meet my goals.

      It was actually being a mother myself and trying to run a household that taught me to organize my time more wisely. I’m still working on it, but once I started managing my time and my space better, I found my productivity soared both as a homemaker and as a writer. I’m thinking of going back into teaching, and I know that one of the biggest differences will be how I cope with time, paper tracking, and so on.


  2. Rebecca, thanks so much for sharing! Confession: I read this (and lots of other less important stuff) in the time I should’ve been finishing up an assignment that was due yesterday…
    So, why do I procrastinate? I can definitely relate to the perfectionism element the author describes. Sometimes, when I sit down to an article and I just can’t find the right word or sentence, procrastination is my escape mechanism. It’s my way of pushing off the headache of finding that perfect magical word that will make my piece one the world has never seen…

    You should post this on Soferet!


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