Writer’s Block and the Fine Art of Procrastination

Writer’s Block and the Fine Art of Procrastination


In Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s novel, The Angel’s Game, his character, David, a writer by trade with a new assistant, Isabella, said the following:

‘One of the first expedients of the professional writer that Isabella had learned from me was the art of procrastination. Every veteran in the trade knows that any activity, from sharpening a pencil to cataloguing daydreams had precedence over sitting down at one’s desk and squeezing one’s brain.’

Of all my writing skills, I think procrastination is by far the most developed. I truly excel at the art.

This week I did the following:

  1. I re-arranged my study. Again.
  2. Scrubbed the stove, with a toothbrush.
  3. Meticulously blow-waved my hair before picking the kids up from school.
  4. Sorted and repacked their puzzles.
  5. Googled. You can call this research.
  6. Made tea. This trick is two-fold. It guarantees a bathroom break.
  7. Stared at my character boards.
  8. Dusted my keyboard. With an ear bud.
  9. Paged through old magazines. This can also pass for research.
  10. Observed rabbits. I have several in my garden. This could also be research. Not that I am planning a rabbit book, but who knows.

Or of course, you can write an article about procrastination and that seems to be working because at least I am writing again. No more bunnies. No more Google. (I unplug my Wi-Fi if it gets very bad.) No more tea.

Stephen King says never stop writing, not even for a bathroom break. I have never tried this one in particular. Nora Roberts says find someone to kill (a character, she means a character) and Ray Bradbury says you only fail if you stop.

So I guess we’ll keep writing then, but feel free to leave your favourite procrastination tip in the comment section below. I am always looking for new ideas.

by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. The Writing Muse I Really Need
  2. A Writer’s Sketchbook
  3. What Watching Disney (and Pixar) Taught Me About Storytelling

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

This article has 20 comments

  1. Sarah Campbell

    Shop. For anything. Salt. Pepper. The container was half empty the last time you noticed, wasn’t it? And you have to try that new coffee shop while you’re out.

  2. Mark Henwick

    Read blogs about procrastination.

  3. Valerie Sweeney

    Working on the book – in your head. Endlessly.

  4. Mohamed Refaat

    I read about writing…a lot. Oh and I also keep rewriting and re-editing what I wrote. Sounds like work, but I know I do it so I wouldn’t have to think about new scenes in the story 🙂

  5. Blair Scheepers

    Reading blogs and Google get me every time…

  6. Julie Duff

    Think for hours what you ‘should’ write, change it once, twice, three times. Depression? Then go away, thinking about your failure and feel annoyed,
    and suddenly the first sentence comes into your head, scrap the lot and write from the heart. It works!!

  7. Skurk

    Lately I’ve began practicing moving my eyes like a chameleon instead of writing. I’m becoming good at it too. That is, moving my eyes individually, not writing.

  8. Danica Boutté

    On Sunday I cleaned under the kitchen sink, scrubbed the pipes and put down contact paper. Then I wiped down all cleaning product bottles and replaced them. After that, I noticed my vacuum cleaner was dusty so I took it apart and washed all the pieces individually. I hate me.

  9. ashley

    I leave the house – can’t write whilewhile I’m driving, or at a concert, or eating in a restaurant, or walking the dog…. the list goes on.

  10. C Booth

    Pace the floor while listening to your entire playlist.

  11. Kelly

    I drink a beer. Or two.

  12. Noridah

    Watch cat videos on youtube

  13. Eva

    Reading a good book always helps.

  14. Madenique

    YouTube. It gets in the way of everything. But watching trailers for animated movies beats watching bunnies. I think.

  15. ulrike hill

    I love your article Mia. I am still, and always will be, your fan.

  16. Daryl

    If one of you who procrastinates by cleaning would like to write at my house on Wednesdays, I’d appreciate it.

  17. Maria Vosloo

    Rereading all the bits and bobs I’ve already written and then reediting it for the umpteenth time

  18. jilly

    It would seem I have an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The angel says you can write dear girl, the devil says why bother!

  19. Chris

    How to get no writing done? Get a job in order to survive and then tell yourself that you’ll quit the very day you make it as a writer. Never going to happen. Rather become a writer and tell yourself that you’ll quit the day you find a real job. You’ll never find a real job, but at least you’ll be a writer. Writing is a job. You do it because you have to. You don’t wait for inspiration if you’re slaving away in a coal mine. You dig in or get fired. That’s the sort of attitude you need to take to your writing. It’s a job. You have to do it.

  20. Sian

    Facebook, youtube, messenger, music, walls, ceiling, reading, and if severe cleaning!!!!

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