Preparation Not Procrastination

by Tom Swift

Looking for something to listen to as I dosed off — something that didn’t involve Trump news — I stumbled last night upon close to the opposite: “Roy’s Writing Tools,” a “podcast” version of the Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark’s book, Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. Exactly eleven years ago today tool No. 41 dropped: “turn procrastination into rehearsal.” In it, the well-known and highly regarded journalism instructor asks a provocative question: what if we viewed procrastination not as a vice but as a virtue? All writers procrastinate to some degree, he says, but what if procrastination were constructive? Maybe even necessary? While he suggests things to help combat procrastination — write right away in the morning, write early in the process, and discount nothing — I found this a useful frame. It’s another example that we almost always have a choice in how we think about something. I am not sure I will use the term “rehearsal,” but the idea is the important thing. What if I am preparing? Building? Gathering? Of course, there are limits here — many people never write the essay, the manuscript, the book. But if you stay close to a project and not sling too many arrows at yourself, it can be that there are right times — better times — times when we are strong enough — to research, draft, revise, and rewrite. In other words, it’s OK to wait. It might be important, in fact, not to rush through the space between idea and execution.