Procrastination and (false) economy

By Jessica Colleran

Let’s talk about procrastination.

But first, you need to clear the decks. I hope you have a cup of tea or coffee ready. No? That’s okay, off you go now and make yourself a nice hot cuppa.

Got it? Good, that’s better now, isn’t it?

You have probably heard the adage that a messy desk is a sign of a disorganised mind? Well it’s true, I can assure you. I was researching that topic only this week – you wouldn’t believe how many websites there are on decluttering your home, your office, and even your relationships! Very useful. Unless, like me, you live in a small cottage and are plagued by a lack of space (while all the Celtic Tigers were off building McMansions we were busy, researching the property market: buy or build? where? how many rooms? Is an office and a den a bit too much? Can we fit a chandelier in the front hall? But I digress.)

So, storage space, a tidy office needs storage space. This is where the Internet comes into its own. You can spend hours, no, days researching your options. And then the site will deliver to your front door. Brilliant time-saving – and goodness knows every minute is precious when you’re writing.

Unless, of course, you discover at check-out that they don’t deliver to Ireland (or outside of Dublin). But sure, never mind. With the new road it’s only a couple of hours to Ikea in Dublin. Ah, bless the Celtic Tiger, at least we have lovely motorways.

Now, you don’t need to spend hours on your decluttering. At a pinch, you could sweep everything from your desk into a box and voila! A clean desk, ready for work. You can always sort through your paperwork during one of your writing breaks.

Now to writing. The computer is on, fingers are at the ready, hovering over the keyboard. Wait! As you need to cut down on distractions, check your email before you begin. Remember, it’s all about clearing the decks. You never know, there might be something useful there.

See now, look at that email from the bank about password theft? Wouldn’t that be great for a teen detective story about a whizz kid from a broken home who drops out of school and makes a million through Internet fraud and then redeems himself by using the money to rescue abandoned ponies? Brilliant! Don’t worry if you know nothing about data encryption, identity theft and site inoculation. If you have a look around the Internet, I’m sure you’ll soon be up to speed. And it’s a sure-fire winner (based on my extensive research of what publishers are looking for this year; vampires – out, gritty realism with heart – in).

You just need to write it. And finish it. And then revise it. And then send it out.

But first, after all your hard preparation (now that you have a cleared desk, computer humming and ready for action) – what about another cup of tea? I always like to have a little treat around this time. It used to be Bourbons (biscuits, not the booze but that might be nice too) but I’m a little over them. A cracker with brie and quince jam would go down a treat. I really must look up a recipe for quince jam soon.

Again, I digress. What you really wanted to know about is procrastination. Right? Or perhaps you were curious about the link between procrastination and our (false) economy? Either way, you’re reading when you should be writing. Never mind the oft heard “bum in chair” mantra (in response to, “how do I write a story”). For that matter never mind any adage – they’ll only set you off to “researching” who first said them.

So, I submit to you just one piece of advice:

Write a list of what you are NOT going to do on writing days.

Write it once and pin it up where you can see it. For example (add your own sins):

NO email.
NO research (write the story, fill in the details later).
NO reading during writing time.
NO tea breaks (give yourself a word limit before rewarding yourself)
NO decluttering!!

Ah, I see that we still haven’t spoken about procrastination. Never mind, we’ll get around to that later.

© Jessica Colleran 2011

Procrastination as Art (article translated using


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