The Nine Circles of Procrastination

If you are human, you often find yourself drifting apart from reality or finding something with which to distract your mind from whatever menial tasks require your attention. As you wander through the sludge of boredom and monotony, you are pulled deeper into a nearly inescapable, perilous journey that will inevitably become your downfall: procrastination.

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

You have something to do. You have that niggling feeling, that tickle in your brain, that sternly reminds you that your only goal for the day is steadily becoming more impossible the longer you evade it. If you are a writer, the clock is your worst enemy. It tells you how much time you have left in the day to sit down and, well, write. But you’re feeling rather tired, and you’re not sure what to do. The bed’s right there, after all, and you have work tomorrow. You are now entering…

Circle One: Limbo

“Should I write, or do something else?”

circle 1

This is the mildest circle, for you can easily get yourself out of it if you have the right gumption. The two choices are obvious: you write, or you do    not. Maybe you do fall into bed and find yourself rested the next morning. Or maybe you grit your teeth and start typing, knowing that if you don’t get this scene in, it’ll never turn out the way you want it to. The writers in this circle are identifiable by their inane urges, such as standing in front of the refrigerator for the 23rd time that night or spontaneously reorganizing their sock drawers.

Punishment in this circle consists of a tightrope. If writer falls on one side of the rope, they land on a cushioned seat before their computer. If writer falls on other side, they are condemned to tumble down a mountain of paper, thus resulting in eternal papercuts.

Circle Two: Lust

“Hold on, I’ll get to writing in just another hour. I have to get to level 53 on this farming game first. Shoot, but that’s an odd number…Okay, level 54.”

circle 2

You have found something addicting, something that consumes your precious time, including that which you allotted yourself for accomplishing your one and only task. This usually, but not always, pertains to video games, television shows, and meaningless Internet searches. Writers in this circle are constantly in a state of guilt for neglecting their tasks.

Punishment consists of being strung up by your thumbs and forced to listen to William Carlos William poems while you are forcefully fed poisonous plums.

Circle Three: Gluttony

“Well, I certainly can’t write without my special vanilla chai tea or homemade pumpkin cookies. Better start baking.”

circle 3

You might be about to write, or already in the process of writing, when suddenly your stomach emits a horrendous gurgle. Startled, you realize that you could eat an entire buffalo, and thus go in pursuit of nourishment. You are so enamored or distracted by the thought of food that you forget about your duties and instead see what’s on T.V. while smashing a burrito into your face.

Punishment is being forced to write endless descriptions of food while the Food Network plays in front of you…and you are unable to eat a thing.

Circle Four: Greed

“You can’t write about that! I’m going to! …Someday.”

circle 4

You are a hoarder. You generate ideas that are so creative, so fascinating, that you do not know what to do with yourself. You become so possessive of your ideas that you never use them; you claim that you are saving them for a special project. But these are projects that live only within your mind, and will never see paper.

Punishment for this circle is that editors will hoard your stories and say that they will publish them…someday. But they never will. And you cannot withdraw, or resubmit.

Circle Five: Wrath

“What do you mean, it makes no sense? You just don’t get my style. My writing is wasted on the likes of you.”

circle 5

When things go awry, you are unable to craft. This mostly comes in the form of a bad critique, or even some well-meaning advice. Writers in this circle will snap back at editors and peer readers for not being open enough to receive the genius of their writing. They will argue that their work is fine as it is, and will make no effort to improve upon it.

Punishment includes a pit of alligators that critique your stories in the voice of Gilbert Gottfried as they eat you.

Circle Six: Heresy

“I can be a writer without writing anything.”

circle 6

Writers in this circle are noted for their delusional sayings. This mostly comes in the form of vapid statements such as that they are writing a book, and yet have not actually written a single word of it. In this circle, a title is all these writers crave, but are constantly having to combat questions of why they haven’t published anything.

Punishment in this circle comes in the form of having to listen to various people describing—in vivid and disturbing detail—an array of unsavory things, such as colonoscopies and how hot dogs are made.

Circle Seven: Violence


circle 7

If you are in this circle, it is difficult for others to understand your reasons for being here. Something in the story has gone horribly wrong, and no one other than you can appreciate just how enraging it is. In consequence, you begin to take it out on the computer by beating on it with your fists, or yell at passersby about why your characters are idiots, or simply rip your story notes to shreds.

Punishment consists of James Joyce and Ernest Hemmingway taking turns beating the shit out of you.

Circle Eight: Deception

“I can’t think of anything to write…Wait! I’ll write about a boy who finds out that he is a wizard and goes to a special wizard school!”

circle 8

This circle is particularly tricky. It is arranged in two parts: fraud and hypocrisy. In regards to the former, you are dry on ideas and therefore lack the motivation to think up new ones. In regards to the latter, you tend to turn out advice that you yourself never follow.

“You can’t be a writer if you don’t read all the time.”

And yet you never read.

Punishment is being forced to write out copies, in long hand, of your least favorite books until your hands cramp to uselessness and you go insane.

Circle Nine: Treachery

“I don’t need to write anything, I know I’m good enough.”


“I can let myself get a little rusty.”

circle 9

This circle is notable for writers who are overly prideful. They believe that there is nothing left to learn, and they frequently demonstrate unwanted pity on writers just starting out. They even manage to raise themselves above acclaimed authors, saying that the world just hasn’t prepared itself yet for their work. However, this alleged work is actually sitting unfinished in your Documents folder, because you think that you can just pick it back up again when you feel like it.

In this way, you betray yourself in what you are and what you can do. You give yourself false ideals and believe that hard work is not necessary for you.

Punishment in this circle is simple, but potent nonetheless: you spend an eternity wallowing in viscous, malodorous slime that prevents you from moving anywhere, especially forward. As a bonus, if you are particularly sinful: the ghost of William Shakespeare comes over once in a while just to tell you that you’re a prick.

So if you find yourself in any of these circles, find the ladder you can climb in order to escape it. You don’t want to turn into nothing more than an animal, where your baser urges get the better of your vision. Otherwise you will end up sitting half-naked on your couch, moaning that you have not written anything for three weeks, licking the Cheetos dust off your fingers. You just hope that you’ve remembered to feed the cat, and try to ignore that strange smell that tells you otherwise.


One thought on “The Nine Circles of Procrastination

  1. […] I hear all the time that scheduling a specific part of your day to write is helpful, and maybe this is helpful to some writers, but that’s simply not how I function. My schedule changes on a daily basis. If you’re going to set up a schedule, you must stick to it, or else you’ll wander and become complacent. For more on the effects of this particular event, you might want to peek at my earlier blog post about The Nine Circles of Procrastination. […]

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