Friday, February 19, 2016

Creative Procrastination

by Linda Rodriguez
People have been known to ask me how I get so many different things done. After I do a double-take, trying to see who they were talking to (because it certainly couldn’t be me with the huge, never-finished to-do list), I reply that I do it by not doing what I was supposed to do.

My house was never so clean as when I was in graduate school facing studying for finals and writing long papers on the literary critical theory of Jacques Lacan—Désir! Désir is all! I have knitted innumerable pairs of socks and mittens, purses and even rugs, while delaying work on a tricky sweater promised to my husband. I wrote one whole novel while avoiding finishing one that was under contract. I get things done by doing things that aren’t the top priority on my list instead of doing that top priority. I call it Creative Procrastination.

I’m thinking about this because one of my students just sent me an abject email, beating herself up because she hadn’t been doing the work for my class, couldn’t bring herself to do the assignments, had written 2,000 words about how awful she was and how ashamed she felt for not doing them. I had to tell her that I knew exactly what she was going through, that most writers did at one time or another.

There’s this thing called resistance. It means that, even when we love our work and want more than anything to do our work, something inside us drags our feet, pulls us away, and the beloved work doesn’t get done. It’s especially a problem for artists—and even if we write commercial novels, that’s what we are. (Look in the mirror and say ten times, “You are a writer. You are an artist.”)

I don’t try to fight it anymore. I make that nasty resistance work for me. After cleaning house for a day or two, I’d get up with plans to do some more cleaning/organizing and end up working on my Lacan paper to keep from doing the cleaning I’d planned on. Halfway through the rug, I started sneaking in a row or two on the husband’s sweater as a rebellion against it. Just before finishing the last chapters of the uncontracted novel, I started being unfaithful to it with the novel under contract (and deadline). There is a method in my madness.

Along the way, I end up getting an awful lot of things finally finished—usually while rebelling against something else that I’ve set for myself to do. It may sound crazy, but it works for this aging hippy radical. For example, I was procrastinating writing this blog post, so I gave myself the assignment of writing a special handout for my class on how to motivate yourself to write and find time to do it. Sure enough, I sat down instead and wrote this post.

Now, what can I assign myself to do, so I can procrastinate by writing that class handout?


  1. an intricately plotted puzzle mystery based on a complicated knitting pattern

  2. I can so identify with this. I think I must belong to your tribe. I will have to assign myself the tasks of vacuuming and cleaning the back porch so I will finish my next chapter. Thanks for the tip! :-)

    1. I'm going to make myself clean out my kitchen cupboards, so I'll finish the handout for my class. I did part of it this morning, procrastinating from checking for comments on this blog and promoting it on FB and Twitter. I call it "mind management."

  3. Margaret, I've thought of many a plot twist while knitting, spinning, or weaving. So don't laugh. The sad thing is that, since I don't sell any of my fiberart any longer, I can't take tax deductions for it.

  4. Actually, this post could be the basis of that handout -- if you dare ;-)

  5. Actually, Mary, I did the handout, and then in the email sending it around, I told them to also check out this post.

  6. Linda, your blog came just in time to save me. I appreciate you passing your wisdom to me. I am a writer. I am an Artist. I'll do it. Look in the mirror and repeat. Juliana

  7. Juliana, I'm glad this helped. Sometimes it's hard to remember that we are creative artists when we're in the slog of revisions or submission or promotion. No one else will remind us so we must do it for ourselves.


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