All the things we do in order not to write

I confess! I am a procrastinator. In my journey toward writing more, I do everything in my power to postpone writing. Most of the time, the things I do instead of writing look very smart and relevant. But their sole purpose is to delay the writing itself.

Writing and procrastination are notoriously connected to each other. Writing is a highly intellectual process that takes our brains through extreme gymnastics and exhausts us. Moreover, while our thoughts are our private property, our writing is often meant to be shared –except maybe for writing in our diary. Our writing will eventually make us vulnerable. Sometimes, what we write might be perceived as dumb and dull. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that we avoid writing at all costs.

In my journey to write more academic articles, I have used and even invented a lot of creative procrastination activities. What is common to all of them is that, on the surface, they appear to be very smart and relevant activities. When I am engaged in these activities, it seems like I am writing. In fact, it feels like I am writing. But the results speak for themselves: Performing these activities leads to zero pages in my manuscript.

Since these activities appear very relevant (and they are relevant, but not for finishing my manuscripts), they make me feel accomplished when I do them. However, the disastrous thing about them is that these activities often come before writing (that’s why I call them procrastination tools) and push the writing itself into the background. Here are some examples that I frequently use:

  • Reading interesting articles and books about writing.
  • Writing blog posts about writing.
  • Hoarding articles in my Zotero library for future writing projects.
  • Scanning journals for interesting articles to hoard.
  • Organizing writing retreats (participating in such events, on the other hand, can be useful).
  • Organizing workshops and seminars about writing.
  • Building a zettelkasten (somehow relevant, depends).
  • Setting up routines and rituals for writing.
  • Setting up and trying new computer tools for writing.

The list goes on. All of these activities are important and part of the continuous reflection and improvement process that a writer must go through. However, the only method I have found useful for getting manuscripts out of the door is sitting in front of my computer screen with the manuscript file open on the screen and everything else muted and pushed to the background. Once the manuscript is written, the experience of writing it can serve as input to all the above activities.