Everybody procrastinates – it’s natural. And for writers, professional and aspiring, we are experts of procrastinating in every step of the creative process because nothing scares us more than the blank page. Now, thanks to the Internet, we have so many more ways NOT to write.

Social media for one. It’s a rabbit hole that we fall into like a new-age Alice in Wonderland: I’m just gonna open Instagram for a second, just a second, I’ll check if I have any notifications, and that’s all… 45 minutes later, you haven’t written a single word and you feel worse about yourself than ever.

Then there’s Netflix, which is like media crack-cocaine: I just need one more episode, that’s it, just one more and then I’ll do that thing I really need to do. I SAID ONE MORE. Cut to nine hours later and you’re on your second season of a series you just started.

Most people will give you advice on how to battle this inclination to procrastinate; but as writers, we are really really creative about NOT writing. When all the advice isn’t working, I say, let’s just shift procrastination to work for us and not against us.

Here are 5 ways that help you procrastinate with purpose and actually finish projects.

1. Social media
Bet you didn’t see that one coming…You could be working on a project, or, looking for a new one, just post one question to your timeline relating to your theme, main character, or plot. Your friends will engage with you, because usually, the questions will relate to them (since after all, you’re writing a story). These questions can vary from straightforward ones – What’s your favorite Zombie apocalypse movie? – or a bit more evasive – How would you define your biggest loss in life? – or even research-based – Who grew up in Jordan in the eighties? After that, have fun watching the comments pour in. Engage with everyone’s comment and strike up conversations. If this doesn’t push you to work on your project, maybe it’s time to change gears.

2. Netflix
If you’re watching it anyway, might as well make it work for you. Choose a series or movie that reflects what you’re writing. This could be genre-specific, theme-based, or even main-character centric. For instance, if you’re writing a novel about an aging AUB professor, watch some movies or shows about teachers. You don’t have to do any work, you just have to watch; the information will seep into your subconscious and whenever you do start writing, it’ll be there as food for your creativity.

3. What would my character do?
Imagine that your main character lived in the city where you live and ask yourself, where would my character go for fun? A local dive bar? A fancy resort? The amusement park with bumper cars? Go there and hang out. Invite friends and while you’re socializing, take in the surroundings from your character’s point of view. What kind of movies would your character watch? Then watch one. What does your character like to eat for dinner? Order that food. What kind of music do they listen to? Find it and listen to it. The list here is endless.

4. Music
Speaking of music… use your procrastinating time to find music that you’ve never heard before. Go crazy! Use the vast expanse of the World Wide Web to explore music and culture from around the world. Then just listen. Weird stuff happens to your creativity on music.

5. The 10/45 rule
Maybe this one is cheating, but I like to use this rule when I’ve fallen deep down the rabbit hole. 10 minutes vs. 45 minutes. I force myself to write, think, read, plan or rewrite for a total of 10 minutes. It’s agony, but when I’m done, I get 45 minutes to do whatever I want (just enough time to watch an episode of dramatic television). It’s a trick because the time gap usually closes and by the second 10/45; I’m working longer than 10 minutes and resting less than 45.

The real reason we procrastinate is because we don’t want to fail. Even when we do have work written, we procrastinate the rewriting stages, because we’re afraid that we can’t figure it out, so we would just rather organize the Tupperware cabinet in the kitchen (the pre-Internet method). Once you can procrastinate with purpose, you’ll trick your brain to forget the fear and get some work done.

In related news, check out this article about setting and meeting your deadlines.

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