Productive Procrastination

     I envy the writer who does not procrastinate. It seems that every time I sit down to write, I remember that laundry needs to be folded, my dog needs to be walked, the baseboards scrubbed, and there’s a sale online…
So it goes. I’ve tried turning off the WiFi on my writing device, keeping my cell phone turned off and in another room and writing on a pad of paper to avoid distractions. I’ve created a dedicated writing space and have a favorite 24-hour coffee shop. I have a writing group that I meet with on a weekly basis to keep me accountable. I’ve learned that it’s okay to say ‘no’ to every invitation I get so that I have time to write.
     Yet with all of the steps I take to make sure I focus on writing, it’s still easy to get distracted. I like going to Happy Hour, hiking outdoors in a rare warm-weather June day in the Pacific Northwest and meeting up with someone for a last-minute game disc golf. It’s also nice to have clean clothes and something to eat while I stare at a blank computer screen and try to conjure up the magic that is a good story.
     Last weekend, I decided to try something different. I did a big grocery shopping trip on a weeknight. I got to bed at a decent hour Friday night and woke up early and naturally Saturday morning. Then I hit the ground running. Literally. I went for a run, took my dog on a looooooonnnnng walk, eating a banana on the way. I popped meat in a crock pot and more in the oven, started a load of laundry and then went out to mow the yard. After I hacked away at some overgrown bushes outside, I swapped out one load of laundry for another and tackled the inside of my house. It took a few hours, but my house was clean, my dog wanted a nap, I had snacks and food pre-made for the coming week and I felt like I’d accomplished a lot.
     Were there still things on my to-do list? Yes. And there always will be. But I’d accomplished quite a few of the every day nagging items. All those things that are in-your-face reminders that while writing you’re neglecting other projects were gone. Did my email and text message notices still ping? Yes. They always will. During NaNoWriMo, I tell everyone that I’m furiously writing and that if they need my attention, to call my phone twice in a row. Then I know it’s important. Everyone understands my reasons and doesn’t abuse the “important” clause. They know that I check my phone during writing breaks- usually every two hours or so- and that I’ll get back to them then if it’s not urgent. I did that this weekend again.
     The results were amazing. I fleshed out my story while I scrubbed my bathtub (because, really, cleaning isn’t all that exciting) and had worked through a plot issue I had been battling for the better part of a week.
     After a few solid hours of writing, I met a good friend at a hole-in-the-wall pub where I was able to people watch and then I headed home where I played with my dog and got ready for date night.
     If you find your daily duties tugging at you, try giving them a set amount of time or decide on one or two specific tasks to accomplish and stick to it. My mother does something she calls “fifty-two pickup,” which is where she does a quick check of the house at night and tidies up. I know a friend that cleans her entire home one morning a week and others who get up an hour before everyone else on weekdays to write or to do household chores. Find what works for you and if what you’re currently doing doesn’t work- change it!