Social networkingWriterWriting

In Defence of Procrastination

procrastinationDecember was a busy month. But not a busy as November. I started to write a new crime novel earlier on in the year and the last week in November was my deadline for a first draft.

Once this was achieved, I put it down and I waited. I waited and went on my travels and came back with a more in depth take on the first draft, which then evolved into a second draft. The first draft had been with beta-readers, and, by then, most of the comments were back and I could think about them and incorporate them into the novel, making a third draft.

During December I had a major distraction with a visit to Buckingham Palace. This was a fantastic day, but also a big diversion from the novel. My mind was on getting it right, not tripping up or laughing nervously at the wrong time. As a consequence, my mind wasn’t, as it had been for many months, on my characters and what they were up to.

This break in my writing consciousness provide the ideal opportunity to disengage from my work and to return to it in January with new eyes. I immediately realised where I had to make changes and what could be added, and taken away, to make the pace right and for the story to work better.

This makes me wonder if procrastination has value, rather than being detrimental to the creative process. Is this a natural way of giving breathing space and a valuable distraction from the work? Do we need long, unfocused breaks from a piece of work in order to see it more clearly for what it is?

One of my favourite procrastination activities is social networking. I really like social networking, but I often feel guilty for spending time on FaceBook and Twitter and even LinkedIn. One of the problems is that I need to use it for my day job, so I can’t easily impose a curfew or stop all together.

More recently, though, I have realised that, for me, social networking is a kind of cleanser. It’s so easy to use, and its content is so neutral that it’s almost like resting my senses. A kind of sorbet for the soul! Then I can return fully refreshed to the work of the day. Although social networking generates some entertaining content, a lot of the people on my time line or feed are either trying to sell something or are just giving an opinion. It’s very unlikely that I will actually retain, outside social networking, much of the information I have read but, for the time I am using it, I am resting my mind and allowing space for new ideas to trickle through.

There are some exceptions to mostly neutral content on social networking. I got the idea for the novel I have just written from an article on FaceBook about the meaning of phrases and something within that sparked a flame in my imagination. Again, procrastination paying off.

All in all, although procrastination appears to be the thief of time, maybe we need time away before we can really understand our creative effort and what it means?