The subtle art of procrastination

Two weeks ago it occurred to me that what I have been blithely dismissing as ‘a bit of an idea’ is now half a novel’s worth of word count.  It wasn’t, until then, a book I was writing. It was an idea I had. It was some characters. It was a means of exploring a concept, a way of playing with it to see how such a thing might work.

What is was not was an exercise in which I battle a word count on a weekly basis, with the drama and the tears and the reluctance to delete bits because that feels like regression. No, it was just an idea. Which got big all on its own while I wasn’t looking.

The psychology of the beast of course means that this change in nomenclature coincides with a frenzied change in my attitude to it. It’s a novel! I must finish it! I must avoid it like a contagious bout of clap! I must peer at it suspiciously, attempting to understand how it grew like this in the first place, and then close my eyes and hope the growing-magic continues by the good will of the writing-pixies.

Damn you, fifty-eight thousand words. You look suspiciously like two thirds of a novel and three quarters of a first draft. And probably like something I should finish. So instead I will start a blog. In order to justify this (justifiable procrastination is the most virtuous of all the procrastinations) I may use it to store what I could only call research if I was a liar of the political standards. Reading. Browsing. Time-wasting loosely connected to subjects considered in the novel.

Or I may go back to browsing David Shrigley cartoons instead. We shall see.

Leave a comment


  1. This has been my experience of novel writing. They sneak up on you and demand a bigger and bigger narrative, and more plot, and more characters, like primadonnas. They take over your writing and then you have a dozen plotlines to finish…Good luck with that novel!

    • Thank you!

      I’ve never had a sneaky slow-grower before. Normally they’re more of the sturm und drang, keep you awake for three months and then leave you devastated types!


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