He was hardly alone in this. William James was another chronic procrastinator. He told one of his classes, “I know a person who will poke the fire, set chairs straight, pick dust specks from the floor, arrange his table, snatch up a newspaper, take down any book which catches his eye, trim his nails, waste the morning anyhow, in short, and all without premeditation—simply because the only thing he ought to attend to is the preparation of a noonday lesson in formal logic which he detests."
The only reason he's poking the fire is that the internet had not yet been invented and there was no way to watch Henri the cat. (Or *cough* no way to surf Slate and write a clip-heavy blog post.)
Obviously, procrastination can be productive in its own way.The Stanford philosophy professor John Perry is a proponent of structured procrastination, or avoiding doing your most important tasks by dealing with less pressing (but still worthwhile) items lower on your to-do list.
That's one approach. But I think many artists needed to procrastinate simply to ratchet up the pressure, whipping themselves into a state of near panic that, while bad for the nerves, is pretty good for the work. The playwright Tom Stoppard has noted that the only thing that really gets him to write is fear—he has to get “frightened enough to discipline myself to the typewriter for successive bouts.”