Samuel Johnson and the art of procrastination
Or how to write 1,800 words an hour
Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)
A question for all the writers out there: What percentage of your so-called writing time would you say is really spent procrastinating writing? For me, I’d say it’s around 80 percent. Eighty percent avoiding it, sitting in the chair but not doing it, reading something I “have to read” in order to do it, beating myself up for not doing it, promising myself I’ll do better the next day.
This is something I have mostly felt a lot of shame about—I intend to write but I don’t, oh god, I’m such a worthless phony. But lately I’m starting to embrace it. Because a lot of good writing is procrastinating! I mean, the avoidance is integral to it. Not just because procrastination helps you build up enough pressure to finally do the work—though this is undoubtedly true and something I’ve written and talked about before—but also because not doing what you’re supposed to do all the time is good for the soul! Writers should be slackers, to some extent, and bring us back messages from the land of the slackers. Because you know what slackers have time to do? To think! And the absurdity and self-contradiction inherent to procrastination is fertile ground for interesting thinking.