Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Guilty Pleasures of Procrastination

By Dario Ciriello

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: Writers procrastinate—especially when the writing isn’t flowing. Although we don’t get a lot of word written n those days, the little breaks can be useful. Dario Ciriello is back this month with tips on making the most of your procrastination.

When it comes to procrastination, nobody beats a writer.

There’s a popular saying that nobody’s house is cleaner than that of a writer on a deadline. Cleaning is indeed one strategy, if you enjoy that sort of thing. But the ways to stave off actual writing are limited only by the writer’s imagination.

In truth, writers are enormously creative when it comes to finding displacement activities. The late, great Douglas Adams was known for taking endless baths as his agent fretted and tried to talk him into delivering a manuscript. “I love deadlines,” said Adams, “I love the whooshing sound they make as they go past.”

My own current favorite approach to avoid slinging words on the screen is to cook elaborate meals. Gumbo is a good dish for this, as you can sizzle away several hours to make a really fine chicken and andouille one, from browning the meat to making the deep chocolate roux; this last alone can take up to almost an hour of stirring, which is why Cajuns sometimes call it a “three beer roux.” And of course, the advantage of cooking as a delaying tactic for the author is that you get to enjoy the results of your avoidance.

The great twentieth century novelist Graham Greene took procrastination to another level altogether: he insisted that nothing less than an omen, a clear sign from above, was required before he would start writing. With a random number firmly in mind, he’d stand at the roadside looking for the magic number to appear on a passing car license plate. Now, that’s procrastination!

Of course, we put off the act of writing because it’s difficult, painful, and filled with terrifying hazards. Part of the problem is that for those of us who are aesthetes, there are few things as beautiful as the shimmering, heavenly expanse of a virgin sheet of a paper, or the eye-watering blue-white glow of a just-cleaned monitor. Oh, yeah — did I mention that you really ought to take your keyboard apart, key by key, and thoroughly clean it inside and out before you begin? Those things are cesspools are bacteria. In fact, you really ought to go down to the office store and buy a new keyboard just for this project. Better still, order it online, and you can perhaps find some other things you really need while you wait a day or two for it to arrive. That takes care of today!

Of course, all the above are quite benign delaying tactics. The writer’s worst enemy to production is the internet connection on their computer. And it’s rare to have a writing session where you don’t find the need to research some minor fact, check email or social media, read your favorite writing blogs… and when, forty-five minutes later, you get back to your story, you’re out of the zone.

Fortunately, I have the solution.

Before you start on that new novel, go online and find a cheap used laptop. When it arrives, take it to your local computer guru and them have disable the wireless card; then fill the external port with epoxy for good measure, so that you can’t hardwire it. That will fix the distraction problem, and also buy you a couple of days more time before you’re forced to start writing.

And all you need now is that sign from above.

Are you a procrastinator? What are your favorite displacement activities?

Dario Ciriello is a professional author and freelance editor as well as the founder of Panverse Publishing.

Dario’s fiction includes Sutherland's Rules, a crime caper/thriller with a shimmer of the fantastic; Black Easter, a supernatural suspense novel which pits love against black magic and demonic possession on a remote, idyllic Greek island; and Free Verse and Other Stories, a collection of Dario's short science fiction work.

Dario’s 2011 nonfiction book, Aegean Dream, the bittersweet memoir of a year spent on the small Greek island of Sk√≥pelos (the real Mamma Mia! island), was an Amazon UK travel bestseller. The Fiction Writing Handbook: The Professional Author’s Guide to Writing Beyond the Rules (Panverse, 2017) is his second nonfiction work.

In addition to writing, Dario, who lives in the Los Angeles Area, offers professional editing, copyediting, and mentoring services to indie authors.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Panverse Publishing

About Made in L.A.

Readers in Los Angeles are thirsty for stories that bring their city to life. This anthology features a diverse range of voices and genres. Like the City of Angels in which these stories were born, nothing is off-limits. Literary or contemporary, noir or ghost story, fabulism or science fiction, each story in this volume will forever change the way you look at this iconic metropolis.

Made in L.A. Writers is a collaborative of Los Angeles-based authors dedicated to nurturing and promoting indie fiction. This 2018 volume is the first of the annual Made in L.A. anthology series. While our styles, themes, and story locales differ, our work is both influenced and illuminated by our hometown and underpinned by the extraordinary, multifaceted, and often surreal culture and life in the City of Angels.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | iTunes | Indie Bound | Kobo | Panverse


  1. One of my favorite procrastination methods is to read this website. It has the added bonus of making me feel like I'm being productive because I'm improving my writing skills while I'm procrastinating!

  2. Hi Anonymous! Yup, that works for me too :)


  3. Yep, me too. I always found something useful here that will bubble up in my writing so it's a very effective writing friendly kinda procrastination. The other is to do the daily household chores, all of them, before I write because then I can really concentrate (!)