Procrastination and Writing Anxiety

Procrastination is not always bad. Sometimes it is a necessary part of the writing process. If, when given a writing assignment, you suddenly get the urge to do something else, you are procrastinating. Some people do this not just because they feel the need to do something else, but also because they experience actual negative physical sensations (such as shortness of breath, dry mouth, uncontrollable twitching) when asked to write something. This is writing anxiety.

Procrastination is a result of writing anxiety. But, as mentioned, sometimes procrastination is necessary…when you need to think a little more about what you want to write…when you need more instruction on what the teacher is seeking…when you simply need to ruminate over the question for a bit. These are all times when procrastination is necessary. It only becomes bad when used to completely avoid a writing assignment. However, you can use procrastination to help you.

How to Use Procrastination

To avoid simply wasting time and to get back to productive work, you can analyze your habits to help you get words on the page. Here are some techniques you might try that can produce good results:

Use dictation software. Dictation software allows you to speak your ideas while the software records your words on the page. Using such software may help you begin, continue, and complete your writing assignment.

Try freewriting. Freewriting is simply writing chunks of ideas whenever you have downtime. Carry a notebook with you, and when you are waiting at a doctor’s office, sitting in line at the DMV, or in between classes, write. Authors have been known to write entire articles or books (or bloggers entire blog posts) simply by writing in chunks.

Use a timer. If you have trouble staying focused while writing, don’t try to write it all at once. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and write only until the timer goes off. Then do something else until it is time to write for another 10 minutes.

Set a limit to procrastination. Allow yourself to procrastinate but only for a specified period of time, say, thirty minutes. Watch television, get on social media, call a friend, but only allow yourself a short period of time in which to do those things. Then get to your writing assignment. It may be necessary to set an alarm (or timer as in the above technique) to make sure you do not go over your scheduled time to procrastinate.

Get an accountability partner. These days, people have accountability partners for all sorts of things. Some people simply work better when they have another person or a group to whom they are accountable. Having check-ins with this person or group where you have to show your work may ensure that you get it done.

Set aside a writing time. Just as you can set a time to procrastinate, you can set a time to write. Put in your schedule, planner, or calendar an appointment time where you are solely responsible for writing. You can set aside an hour (or more, if the assignment is longer) to do nothing but write. This will ensure that you have time to complete the writing assignment.


Each of these techniques works with a specific type of procrastinator. Test each of these techniques for yourself, and see which one(s) work for you. Before long, you will not be procrastinating as frequently (or as long), and you might even find yourself looking forward to writing.

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