science of us

9 Writers on the Most Outrageous Ways They’ve Procrastinated

Photo: Irina Vodneva/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Look, we all know it: writing — literally just the act of sitting down and starting to write — is physically impossible. Even when your assignment is relatively short, or your daily goal relatively modest, it’s so hard to start many of us will go to great lengths to avoid it.

Here are stories from writers and students who went to especially great lengths in order to not write.

“I once moved to Paris so I could justify taking longer with an essay because ‘I’m working on it in Paris.’ (I stayed in Paris for months, experienced a total emotional breakdown, did not start the essay.) I was in a very rational place — it was about UFOs and the American southwest. Then while I was there I was like ‘…but maybe it’s also about Paris?’ It was not also about Paris.” —Brian Phillips, author of Impossible Owls

“I created a new identity and new accounts in all social networks, hoping it would give me ‘a new perspective.’ Kept them running for two months. Didn’t write a word. It started as a sliding doors scenario? Like, would my life be different if I … rediscovered the internet. Would I read different books? Listen to new music or podcasts? SUBSCRIBE TO DIFFERENT NEWSLETTERS? Would that make me a different person?! It was silly, but super fun, tbh.” —Natalia

“Instead of finishing my MA thesis, I got a dog, moved across the country, got married and started a new job.” —Mike

“I once (and by once, I mean this past week) picked up an entirely new hobby — cross-stitch — to avoid writing a paper abstract for a conference. I purchased a cross stitch kit on Amazon, waited two days for it to arrive, designed my own pattern (!!! why !!!) and stitched the whole thing. Then I wrote the whole abstract in 48 minutes, starting 49 minutes before the deadline to submit it.

But I really like cross stitch, it turns out.” —Katie

“To avoid having to write my dissertation, I once spent a week teaching myself Morse code, which has come in handy absolutely never. It involved so many different little tactics, but the most prominent was a website called “Morse Code Trainer,” which teaches you one letter or number at a time and then taps out little words for you to decipher. My dissertation notes slowly became a list of these deciphered codes and it looked exactly like something a person becoming slowly unhinged would write. Something like:


I also downloaded a few very poorly made Morse code game apps (to this day the only games on my phone) in an attempt to learn how to tap out Morse code myself rather than merely decipher it. I doubt it will ever actually be useful, but I’ve found it’s a big hit among friends/at parties/et cetera. For whatever reason, people find a harried grad student tapping out Morse code in 2018 to be riotously hilarious.” —Doria

“There has been a lot of binge watching and random driving over the year to avoid work that needed to be done, but I think the best was the day I just did all the most time-consuming chores I could think of. I sat on my couch fixing every seam tear or little hole in every piece of clothing I could find. I was cross-legged on the couch for hours sticking my thumb with needles and half-watching episodes of Sex and the City. Then I library-organized my records, books, and pile of hoarded magazines. By the time I was done it had been ten hours and I decided I’d earned a break from work for a couple hours. Then I went to the local record store/bar to browse before writing the whole story I’d been avoiding over a glass of wine in one of the corner booths.” —Christine

“I started an Instagram account for my dog. I know for a fact that it was when I was compiling the 25 best true crime books for Esquire, because I accidentally posted it to her page, and then I kept it there, because fuck it.” —Maris Kreizman, author of Slaughterhouse 90210

“When I was studying for/writing my Ph.D. exams, I ran out of things to clean/organize in my house, so I adopted a 12-week-old puppy. I love her, but this is without a doubt the single worst idea I’ve had in my entire life.

THEN after I passed said exams, I started a novel just so that I could procrastinate on it by writing my dissertation. There is no way I would have finished my dissertation if I were not using it to avoid writing the novel.

Now I have a big dumb dog, a dissertation, and maybe half a novel.” —Kellie

“The most outlandish way I have procrastinated writing is by making all of the characters in my novel on Sims 4 and playing the game to the plot arc of the story. Marriages, deaths, affairs, fame, the whole nine yards, only in simulation. Surprisingly, it helped a little! It gave me a better idea of where I wanted to take the story, but it didn’t help with the act of writing. I had played about 12 hours of Sims and was so tired afterwards that I just went to sleep. I got no writing done at all, which I guess was the goal.” —Kaitlyn

9 Writers Share Their Wildest Procrastination Stories