Writing…Is “procrastination” really a sin?

As a writer and creative, are you meant to go down the direct route, immediately producing that book in record-breaking time? Or, is so-called “procrastination” part of the creative process…a required element to add to the quality  and longevity of your work?After all, as creative guru John Lennon once said: “Life is lived while busy making other plans”.

These contradictions often go into battle at the back of my head and I’m constantly coming across this tension in other writers as well.

Recently, I was reminded of this tension reading this quote by Moliere:

“The trees that are slow to grow, bear the best fruit.”

– Moliere

However, is this true? Or, is it just a nice saying?

oak-340px-illustration_quercus_robur0

The Mighty Oak

I consulted the Google oracle to see what its great wisdom revealed and found this research report by Bryan Black, an assistant professor of forestry at Oregon State University, who works out of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore.  His research shows that even within a species, the oldest  trees grow the slowest, even as youngsters.

“Faster growing trees may put all of their energy into growth and burn out before they can achieve really old age,” he said. “Slow-growing trees may invest a lot in producing strong wood and defense mechanisms against insects and disease and never rise above the forest canopy.”

Rapidly growing trees may occupy space more quickly, reach sexual maturity earlier, and are more prone to frequent, catastrophic disturbances, including flood, fire and windstorms, Black said. They also die at a younger age. Meanwhile, the slower growing trees channel their energy into structural support and defense compounds, don’t burn out from reproducing, and slowly-but-surely outpace their mercurial cousins.http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2009/feb/study-finds-oldest-trees-grow-slowest-%E2%80%93-even-youngsters

oak-440px-cork_oak_trunk_section

So, this research suggests slow and steady ultimately wins the race. Well, that is, if being a long-lived tree is your goal.

While  I feel pressured to get that book out there, I have benefited from taking the extra time. I have grown so much as writer through the hours I am putting into my blog  and have found my voice. Even more importantly, I have been dialoguing and chatting with my readers, while also reading and responding to their work. Through these exchanges, I’ve been unconsciously fine tuning my story. It might be taking me longer to write the book and it might even be taking me away from it, but I know that what I’ll write now will be much more relevant. It has to be. After all, I’ve spent the last 4 years listening as well as writing. Moreover, being able to hear readers before I write the book project, has to be revolutionary.

However, it takes a lot of courage to take your time writing the book. There’s so much pressure to publish just to gain any kind of credibility. You’re not a real writer until you’ve actually published the book…any book!

Yet, isn’t the ultimate credibility writing something worth reading? Writing something which changes your readers lives and minds and inspires them in some way? I’m sure that doesn’t happen overnight just  like quality plants don’t mature overnight either.

Indeed, we’ve all seen backyard domination by the mighty weed. Is that what we want from our modern literature?

So, while I think there is a place for writing, writing, writing and getting that book out ASAP, I’m still a believer in “slow and steady wins the race”. That the tortoise will ultimately take out the hare but the tortoise still needs to make it through to the finish line.

That’s something I need to work a lot harder on.

What are your thoughts?

xx Rowena

 

tortoise_and_hare

And so the race begins…

 

 

17 thoughts on “Writing…Is “procrastination” really a sin?

  1. Midwestern Plant Girl

    Your tree analogy is spot on! Fast growing trees often break under pressure.
    I agree about procrastination… mostly because I’m a bit bipolar. I’ve learned there are times I’m just not productive and manic times. I ride my wave accordingly. I usually do finish my projects on time… the ones requiring a due date, that is. If I have the extra time, I take it.
    So, IMO, procrastination is your friend, IF you know how to use it. 😆

  2. Rowena Post author

    I do like my trees and so when I found the quote, I decided to see whether it rang true or not.
    There’s a lot of pressure to get there as quickly as possibly but you still need to be standing at the end of the day. You’ve no doubt heard of the 27 club of highly successful creatives who’ve died at 27 usually by taking their life.
    I can get a bit up and down myself and am on prednisone as well…that’s great stuff for fueling your manic side. Our son is currently on 25mg for his asthma and is very bouncy.
    I work much better with hard deadlines and am starting to think of how to use them for getting this book out the door at long last!

  3. Tails Around the Ranch

    From my own experience, a delayed pathway works in conjunction with the creative one. When I rush just to make a writing deadline, I think my writing suffers. If I let it percolate and meld together, it seems to be properly spiced and tasty. For each of us, I suspect it’s all different and what works for one may not be at all appropriate with someone else. My mantra is “eat that elephant one bite at a time.” ღ Not only is it more palatable, the end result is completion of a gigantic task. 😉

  4. Catherine Cheng, MD

    Hello! I totally agree! I still struggle with the discipline and scheduling, though… Sometimes I have a great idea that I really want to get out, but other more pressing tasks (that have hard deadlines) take precedence and the idea withers a bit. Or I stay up ‘way too late to get it on the page and I pay physically later.
    How do you (Midwestern Plant Girl and Rowena) manage this?

  5. Catherine Cheng, MD

    Adam Grant writes a little about this in his book, _Originals_. He says Martin Luther King, Jr. did not write his speech for the march on Washington until only a day or so before. And he only got the idea for the promissory note part from a conversation he had had that week with a friend. Grant says an advantage of procrastination is that we remain open to new ideas while we procrastinate, and are more likely to integrate them into the final product, rather than getting narrowed into a tunnel of one idea or theme when we start too early. I guess it really is a balance! Thanks for stimulating the conversation, Rowena! I think I will attempt a draft right now! 😊

  6. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much for sharing that background on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech. I have noticed this with re-telling my own story and how it keeps getting refined or I see things from a new angle. A bit of time has also provided perspective, which is helpful for providing others with a true insight into what I’ve been through.

  7. Rowena Post author

    Thanks for reminding me of that elephant quote, Monika. It is a beauty. I also agree with you about when I don’t get a chance to let my writing perculate, although I somehow pulled off that A_Z Challenge but I had nothing left by the end of it. I was spent!

  8. Midwestern Plant Girl

    After almost 4 years of blogging 5 days a week, along with a 47 hour real job, I’ve gotten used to my schedule. There are times I have 15 ‘back-up’ posts ready to go, and times when I have to publish a haiku to just make my post deadline.
    I write a bunch of notes and lists to keep these good ideas from slipping away. Post wise, even just writing a title and saving it helps. Sometimes I only have a photo and I save that.
    I’ll admit I am a bit shocked I can keep deadlines… if you spent 5 minutes in my brain, you’d be looking to escape through my ears 😉
    As I age, my drives have gotten stronger and I could see me slipping on hard deadlines over perceived deadlines. IE, my blog. No one pays me to post, it is my personal deadline, however the drive to post is strong in me. Sometimes stronger than my drive to go to work. 😜
    I dream that blogging could be my job, someday!

  9. Tantei M.Gin

    I am actually a procrastinator. Haha. You can’t rush genius! Haha. LoL. Needless to say, though, just give me good music and a spot where I won’t be disturbed and things will get done.
    This post was very insightful! Thanks!

  10. Rowena Post author

    You’re welcome. I’m glad it helped. Working through things really helped me and I’ve come back to needing to write a plan and get on with my book project. I think I need that discipline.

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