I Can't Help Wasting Time Before Writing

Do you have any idea how unlikely it was that you would read this? Let’s ignore the random sequence of events that led you to this blog. (Except for those of you wise enough to subscribe. Let’s not ignore you because you get an e-mail every time I write something. Isn’t that awesome?)

I’m talking about something more specific and something much more unlikely than you finding this particular page among the billions of pages on the internet: the fact that I wrote this post at all.

I wrote this post. Can you believe it? I can’t. And the reason I can’t believe it is because this post is the ever-so-rare example of something about which I did not procrastinate.

That could be due to the constraints of the exercise. This post is part of ChicagoNow’s monthly community writing exercise in which we’re given a topic and then challenged to publish a post on that topic in one hour. Procrastination impossible.

This month’s topic: “Write about what, why and how you procrastinate.”

Usually when I do these exercises I don’t end up writing the first thing that pops into my head. Sometimes that first thought is too corny, too dumb, too shallow, too hurtful, or too something else. After a few minutes I think of a better topic and get to work.

But this time I knew right away that I wanted to write about writing because there’s nothing on which I procrastinate more than writing.

I like to write. Sometimes I’m good at it. You might think that since I like it and since I’m sometimes good at it that I wouldn’t put it off. But, you’d be wrong. I put it off every single day. It’s quite shocking to me that I write anything, to be honest.

And if you’re one of those wonderful e-mail subscribers who I mentioned before, and you like to read what I write, I should let you watch me procrastinate sometime. That’s the real art!

So here’s a brief description of how a typical day of writing procrastination might go.

Wake up and think, “I’m going to write.”

Pickup my phone and check the time. “Oh, I better check Facebook.” Fiddle with my phone. “Shit, I hate using Facebook on my phone.” Login on the laptop. Scroll through Facebook. Silently curse people for posting. Silently curse people for not posting. Refresh. Scroll through again just to be sure I didn’t miss anything.

Brush my teeth. “The kids are up. I should get breakfast for them.” Get cereal, pour milk. “I’m hungry, too.” Toast. Eat. “I should go write.” Login to the laptop again. “I forgot to check my e-mail.” Delete junk e-mail. “Shit, the news!” Scroll through CNN. The New York Times. Chicago Tribune. “I need to write.” Open Word. Read what I wrote last time. Write a few sentences. “I forgot to see how many readers I had yesterday.” Login to ChicagoNow. Check for new subscribers. Read other people’s posts. “Focus.” Write a few more sentences. “I’m thirsty.” Get some tea.

And so it goes. Me trying to write is rather like a four-year-old going to bed at night. I can find a million reasons why I shouldn’t do it, despite it being the right thing to do.

Writing isn’t terribly hard. There are good days and bad days. Some days I can knock out a 700 word blog post in 45 minutes. Or I can write 4,000 words of fiction in three or four hours. And then there are days I’ll sit in front of the computer for two hours, and every letter is a struggle. At some point I’ll think I’m almost done, and then discover that I’ve only written 450 words.


I saw a quote recently from George R.R. Martin, who is rather prolific and responsible for Game of Thrones, and it describes some of my days perfectly: “Some writers enjoy writing, I am told. Not me. I enjoy having written.”

I enjoy having written. That’s it exactly. I enjoy the writing being done. The finished product.

I don’t know how I ever wrote the first thing, not knowing that I’d enjoy having it done. I’m glad I did though.

But I’m even gladder now, because this is done.

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