I’ve utilized procrastination for years as a legitimate writing project technique. I know, I know, many people think “procrastination” as a bad habit or some quality to be scrutinized, but in reality it is one of the most useful techniques at tackling difficult tasks.
You see, all writing genres have the same 3 phases. First, there’s the brainstorming phase. Second is the writing phase. Third is the editing phase. Projects are identical. There’s the thinking, making, and refining phases (they really mean the same thing). Everyone dedicates different amounts of time to each phase, but that doesn’t stop ignorant instructors to push for the balanced approach i.e. (33/33/33). The instructors ethos is then made “standard” and peers expect you to fit into that mold.
I’m telling you right now that there are known legitimate extremes with their own benefits and downfalls.
The 3 Extremes
For perfectionists, they may spend 10% of their time brainstorming, 20% writing, and 70% editing. This type of person could have multiple blog posts ready to go, but can’t pull the trigger on the publishing button. Academics know this person as Reviewer #2. The great thing about these people is their attention to detail. They usually have very clear ideas and know exactly what they want to say, but trip themselves up on minutiae.
For a chatty cathy, these people spend very little time brainstorming or editing in lieu of writing (10/80/10). They turn in papers that are way over the page minimum and tend to have tons of “fluff”. They add unnecessary padding, provide long drawn out conclusions, and jump from topic to topic at a whim. They never seem to understand why their writing gets heavy criticism and prioritize quantity over quality. However, many of them have great ideas, but those ideas get lost in the sea of words that is their writing.
A procrastinator is a person who spends majority of their writing process (or project process) on brainstorming (70/20/10). These people cut out time for editing and rely on getting their writing “correct” the first time. They usually cut projects close to the deadline and take up every minute available. Many times, they run the risk of not meeting deadlines altogether. Some procrastinators even claim to be “perfectionists”, but that’s far from true. These people also have wonderful ideas, but those ideas get muddled with poor writing and even worse editing.
Most people fall into a wide spectrum of varying percentages and will change them depending on the medium/scope of work. Try to think about where you like spending your time in the writing process. You might find that you are not as extreme as your peers.
The Rhetoric of Deadlines
The extremists all tend to focus on one critical aspect, the deadline. The chatty cathy’s deadline is a buzzer that signals to “stop writing”. The perfectionist dreads the impending doom of eternal errors. The procrastinator’s relationship with the deadline changes from a welcoming distant idea to a hated nearing apocalypse of stress. Everyone else sees a deadline as the final date to be done working.
How you respond to a deadline indicates your writing process. Panic and dismay for a forgiving deadline may mean that you might need to spend more time writing than brainstorming. Calmness for a brutal deadline may mean that your not brainstorming enough (or maybe you handle stress well). My point is to reflect on deadlines. Are deadlines something to take serious from the start? Or are they something that only matters as they near?
How you treat a deadline is how you will treat your writing or project throughout the entire process.
The Rhetoric of Timelines
Timelines are somewhat different than a straight deadline. A timeline follows many smaller sequential deadlines. As a lifelong procrastinator I love utilizing timelines in projects. Going from phase to phase and task to task gives me a sense of completion. I’m able to gauge bottlenecks, resolve problems as they come, and meet the main deadline efficiently. Other extremes sometimes struggle with a set project timeline.
Think of a timeline in another way. A timeline is a set of deadlines in the 3 phases of writing. It’s giving yourself a deadline for brainstorming, one for writing, and one for editing.
Just a point of advice: try to learn where you like to spend your time. If you’re a 30/40/30, then great, your phase deadlines will be closer than someone that’s 45/45/10. You could set up a timeline of events and without knowing your percentages continue to randomly pass/fail to meet a major deadline. You’ll also spend more time stressing than needed. Knowing how to break up your work is knowing how you like to write.
Conclusion and EOD
“EOD” as in “end of day” is a common deadline acronym. Small tasks get a EOD sticker slapped onto them all the time for me. Really, EOD is just a way to say ASAP or “focus on this right now”. These adrenaline filled deadlines seem to throw the 3-phase paradigm out the window, but that’s just not true. Don’t sacrifice brainstorming or editing for a fast approaching deadline.
With that being said, I’m giving myself 10 minutes to edit this post. It’s taken me about an hour to write this bad boy (if you count the image and social media copy). However, I’ve been thinking about deadlines for some unmeasurable amount of time. (Hint: sometimes you can’t accurately measure the 3 phases and that’s okay). The real battle is knowing how to balance the three phases to fit your needs.
I hope that you refine your process. Figure out what phase you like to live in the most. Maybe you like to edit? Maybe your a thinker? Or maybe your some rare unicorn of a writer that’s already well-balanced? In any case, try your best to gauge your feelings around deadlines and that will help you determine your phase preferences for writing.
Thank you for reading and I hope you found something to add to your everyday rhetoric reparatorie. If you liked this post, please comment with what you think your percentages are in the comments. BTW, mine are 60/30/10.