Why do writers procrastinate?

There are so many topics that I want to talk about on here now that this is public, so many things that I want to share about my writing process (someday soon, I promise, I’m going to blog about how I use tarot cards at the beginning, middle, and end of my process), but this one–procrastination–is something near and dear to my heart.

I didn’t share my last post on any of my social medias, mostly because I was freaking out too much, so in case you missed it, here is a post almost in all caps and showing purely just my excitement during a single scene.  For 140k words, I’ve been creating a relationship between two of my main characters.  They meet for the first time at the beginning of the book, and they become fast friends.  There are very obvious feelings happening between them, but they’re both a little a lot too broken to focus much beyond their own pain, so it’s a very (very) slow burn.  140k words worth of slow burn.  Sure, there are other things that happen in that truly obnoxious amount of words (another post one day will also be about word counts, and how they actually do matter), but they probably interact, however small, in every chapter.

140k words.  Let that sink in.  One hundred and forty thousand words.  Prisoner of Azkaban is 107k words.  Goblet of Fire is 190k.  And do you know what I did when I got to the chapter when they finally kissed?

I went back and worked on a different chapter.

How does that make any sense?  I’ve been building this relationship for an entire novel, and when I finally, finally, got to the scene I’ve been over the moon excited about, I did something else.  It doesn’t make sense.  And yet, I do this all the time.  I’m fairly certain other writers do it, too.  It’s not even romantic scenes.  I’ve worked my way up to big battles for Ronan, and decided to go back and edit the whole first half of the novel.  I got right up to the last five or so chapters for Alex, and decided I was going to start writing a new novel instead.  I do it while I’m reading, too.  If the next chapter sounds like it’s going to be really promising based on the one I just finished, I’ll put it down to read later.  What?  This is insane.

Sometimes, the procrastinating isn’t that bad.  I made that post about James and Oliver kissing (FINALLY!) on Monday morning, and had written the scene by Monday night, but I let an entire day pass.  I fluffed out the chapters around it, I added a little more to a scene from an earlier chapter I’d been thinking about, I read my book a little, I hung out on Pinterest–I did everything I could that wasn’t writing this pivotal scene.  I’m still procrastinating, too.  I haven’t written the chapter that comes after the kiss, which is almost more intense than the initial scene.  I’ve spent the last two days taking out a conflict and finally writing a chapter I’d been avoiding because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it.

Why do we do this?  I’m not really here to answer this question because I’m not entirely sure, but I do have some theories.

  1. The right song.  If you listen to music when you write, then you know that the right song for a particular scene will make or break it.  Usually, I can just listen to whatever I want, and type away.  Sometimes, however, when it’s a big scene–James and Oliver kissing, the memory of Ella’s death (dun dun duh), Quinn invoking a demon (WHAT)–the atmosphere needs to be right.  For each of these scenes, I’ve procrastinated because I’m desperately searching, starting and restarting sentences as I keep changing songs until I finally land on the right one.  Saturn by Sleeping At Last, You and I by PVRIS, Once Upon a Dream by Lana Dey Rey.
  2. The right mood.  And I’m not talking about atmosphere here, but you, the writer.  If you’re not in the mood to write something romantic, something sad, something wild, then it’s not going to happen.  Sometimes, I sit on Pinterest for a half hour searching for things to put on the Pen boys’s board because I’m trying to put myself in the right headspace.
  3. The end.  I will forever and always procrastinate ending a novel, and I think we can all agree that’s not because we don’t want to leave the world, but because we’re afraid to leave.

Again, I’m not here to answer the question to why we procrastinate, but rather, to say stop procrastinating.  Your next great adventure is on the edge of your comfort zone.  Take the plunge, and write the scene you’ve been waiting for.  End the novel.  Edit later.  Stop blogging.  The time is now.

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