Picture by Ren Hang
According to Wikipedia, Procrastination is: In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.
While talking with my casual friend journalist Patrick Alleyn today, I said out loud one of my most perplexing habits. I imagine a quick check would find others who do it and even an official medical term. It's pretty weird though.
He was quizzing me about the writing process for novels and I was telling him how I broke down the targets by word count and overall time into how many words per session I needed to reach. Like if you want 500 pages, at 250 words per page standard average, that's 125 000 words. So if you wrote four times a week and did 500 words a session ... you'd need a year and two months just to get a first draft in. The thought of that defeats me mentally before I even start trying. As does the idea that you realistically need to double up that output, at least.
We then talked over pre-planning and mapping the novel first, all that stuff, then he asked me what was the hardest part of writing and two things immediately came to mind. The first is that the hardest part for me is the ten seconds between sitting down to start typing proper prose in a draft and the moment I start to type. That is where hardcore procrastination attacks. I may have easily and enjoyably done a month of planning, inventing and preparing but those ten seconds are killer and I may find anything else to do.
The second thing is what I can only describe as procrastination spasms. I sit down, I look at the screen ... then, I stand up and walk off to another part of the flat - for no fucking reason. After a few seconds of walking, I realise that I'd had no reason to get up and walk away - it was a subconscious involuntary physical act. My subconscious actually takes over, stands me up and marches me off, hoping I'll bump into another task I presume. It's not the same as being in those ten seconds and thinking, wait, I'll just get a cup of tea before I start, then getting up - it's a physical spasm and it is not proceeded by identifying another task.