Though we call ourselves writers and take pride in our work, sometimes it’s hard to get it done. We clean the house or walk the dog, leaving our manuscript reproachfully languishing as we procrastinate working on it.

This can happen for any number of reasons, from being bored with the story to simply feeling blocked. Facing the problems head on definitely has its merits, but if it feels like your procrastination is in for a long stay, it can be useful to work with it rather than fight it.

In this post, I share five ways you can make your procrastination productive — and hopefully get yourself back on track to writing your next big hit.


Do some research

Whether you’re not sure where your story’s going or you feel like you don’t know your characters very well, going down a research rabbit hole is the best kind of diversion. It may not be actively writing your book, but if you look into something related, it still counts towards building your story.

The research can be related to writing topics or strategies if you feel like that’s where your problem lies. It could involve looking into story structures you haven’t used, like the Save the Cat Beat Sheet or the 7-Point Story Structure so you can get excited about writing again. Or it can just be a good way to while away the afternoon so you have something tangentially related to tell your writing group.

But it doesn’t have to be directly related to writing either. Look into any historical events or famous people you’ve been curious about. The truth can truly be stranger than fiction and many authors draw inspiration from real world events for their own stories. There’s nothing wrong with simply learning something new, as making new connections in your mind may lead you back to your story and give you things to ponder.

Who knows? Whatever you find out might give you some new ideas for a character backstory or an interesting aspect to your world. The excitement might be all you need to nudge you out of procrastination mode and back into writing.

If you think research involves too much heavy lifting though, there’s plenty more low-key activities you can try.


Make a Pinterest moodboard

If you haven’t already made one as preparation for your novel, making a dedicated Pinterest board for your book can be a great way to procrastinate while still feeling like you’re getting something done. It’s not limited to the planning stage, either. Whenever you’re feeling like you can’t work on your book, turning to the endless variety of Pinterest can be a fun (yet helpful) distraction.

As you look for images that remind you of your story, characters, or world, it also helps you get to know it better. The pictures you choose can give you an idea of what your tone is. For example, if you’re going for darker pictures, maybe you’re discovering that there’s an eerie undertone you haven’t explored. You might stumble on some nature photography that gives you inspiration for a scene that more deeply examines your character’s emotional arc, or world architecture that helps your worldbuilding.

And if it doesn’t do that much for you, it’s still a fun way to spend the day.


Experience another story for inspiration

Fantasy author V.E. Schwab believes in the importance of keeping your “creative well” filled to make sure your inspiration never dries up. The best thing you can do for that is read a book. The format doesn’t matter — it’s more important that you in some way consume a story.

It’s easy while you’re writing to get a little obsessed with your book. Especially if you don’t have a lot of time, more leisurely pursuits, like watching TV, might fall to the wayside in favor of your writing project, but you can’t stay motivated in a vacuum. Experiencing the works of others, especially the ones that speak to you, can remind you why you’re writing in the first place and reignite your creative fire.

So go back to an old favorite or pick up that new release you’ve been meaning to read. Get excited about storytelling again by experiencing a character’s journey rather than plotting it out yourself. This might not happen after one chapter or even one book if your well has gotten too dry, but sometimes we do our best work while distracted.


Take a walk

If you’re having trouble focusing on creating at all, physically getting away from your work might actually be what you need. Taking a walk around the block or going to the park functions like a reset button. You’re not actively thinking about your story, but focusing on your surroundings and your physical movement. When you get back, you’ll be more relaxed and more likely to get something done. And you might have gained some clarity along the way.

Counterintuitively, we also do our best thinking when we aren’t thinking at all. Have you ever been stuck on a problem for days, only for the answer to come to you fully formed while doing the dishes? One Cambridge University student famously solved a 2,500 year Sanskrit problem minutes after he returned to his work from a joyous summer holiday of “swimming, cycling, cooking, praying and meditating.” The same principle applies here!

Getting a breath of fresh air does wonders for the creative mind. Even if you don’t solve any ancient problems, you can always say you were looking after your health after spending too long glued to your desk.


Make a playlist

Truly one of the best ways for a writer to procrastinate is to look for inspiration. We’ve already seen that with making a Pinterest board and reading a book. But another great way to do this is by creating a playlist. This can be for your writing in general, if you’re the kind of person who likes to write with music. But if you’re not, you can create a playlist that reminds you of your story or a specific character.

As you avoid actually writing, you’re still developing your characters by listening to music old and new. You’re still thinking about your novel as you make connections between songs and characters or scenes. As you get your mind working, it might get you excited to write again. The best part is, if you ever get frustrated later on, you can listen to your playlist at any time to get back in the right headspace and call it a productive writing day.

As writers, we find all kinds of reasons to procrastinate and avoid our work. But sometimes a little distraction can be a good thing, if we know how to use our time wisely. Sometimes, you might even be able to find inspiration where you weren’t looking for it and end up creating something better than you could have imagined.



Rose Atkinson-Carter writes about writing and publishing at Reedsy — a website that connects authors with publishing professionals and gives tips on a wide range of topics, from making audiobooks to improving one’s craft.