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Editorial

Why Writers Procrastinate and Why It’s OK

3 minute read
Ahava Leibtag avatar
Procrastination isn’t always bad or harmful. Sometimes we need that non-writing time to deliver compelling, strong content.

Confession: I procrastinated writing this piece.

First, the deadline appeared in my calendar. I ignored it so completely that I didn’t even put it on my to-do list.

Another, more urgent message popped up. So I added “CMSWire article” to my list. Then every day, I ignored it.

The due date came and went. I got a gentle nudge from the editor. Next my marketing manager asked where the piece was.

Why? 😱 Why do writers do this? It’s so frustrating, and yet every writer I know procrastinates (except for Stephen King, who seems to have this licked).

Here are some of writers’ classic excuses. Do any of them sound familiar?

  • We’re creative! We have to follow our writing process.
  • We’re waiting for inspiration to strike.
  • I’m doing more research to make sure I’ve covered all the angles. (This one is my personal fave.)

But these excuses are weak (not to mention untrue). What’s the real reason writers procrastinate?

Two Kinds of Procrastination

Here’s what makes me a Procrastinator Extraordinaire: When I finally, finally sat down to write this article, I took a break (to prepare a roast: onions, garlic and red wine — it was delish).

But preparing that roast may have helped me write this article. There are two different types of procrastination — and one type may be beneficial to writing:

  1. Active: You are “managing delays” and putting off the things you don’t want to do in favor of the things you want to do.
  2. Passive: You’re lying around doing nothing. This type might be a sign that something is wrong, and writing isn’t the only thing that’s getting you down.

Writers tend to engage in active procrastination. Maybe you go on Facebook, do laundry or cook a roast. Maybe you flip through books and pretend to do more research. You’re engaging in other activities that allow the ideas to marinate in the back of your head. When they’re more fully formed, you can return to your laptop and write.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: Content Marketing Strategy, Done Right

Procrastination, A Writer's Best Friend

The Greeks and Romans knew that procrastination wasn’t a terrible thing. They believed procrastination was the way to go: don’t do anything unless you absolutely have to. Procrastination only became the bad guy when the Puritans got hold of the whole “work ethic” idea.

But I think it’s time to restore procrastination’s glorious history. It’s an important part of the writing process. When you sit down to write, that blinking cursor doesn’t help bolster your confidence or get the creative juices flowing. Actively engaging in other activities helps stimulate your brain.

So procrastination isn’t harmful – just the opposite. We need that non-writing time to deliver compelling, strong content.

Maybe just now, you pushed off your writing by reading this article. Trust me, I understand. And it’s OK.

Related Article: Discussion Point: Content Marketing Is Driving Me Crazy

About the author

Ahava Leibtag

Ahava is the president and owner of Aha Media Group, a content strategy and content marketing consultancy founded in October 2005.