Efficient procrastination while on the creative journey.
“Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.” ~ Paul Rudnick
There are mornings when I wake up with a fire in my mind and I feel excited about what I will achieve that day.
I spring out of bed, feed the cat, feed myself and then, as if a switch has been flicked, I fall into procrastination. The perfect art of doing nothing, whilst doing everything.
Breakfast is accompanied by my opening Internet surf of the day, I sink into the couch and scroll through status updates. I choose the mindless over the productive, and I wonder why I am letting myself slow down so soon after leaving the starting blocks.
The minutes that pass, as I overload with unnecessary information, are minutes that I will never get back, but I do it anyway. Somehow I find a way to justify it to myself by likening it to starting my day with a warmup instead of a sprint.
I clean my apartment and wonder if I will ever be one of those people who tidies up as they go along. I call my mother, I call my brother, I call my father. A worthy use of my time but still, time moves forwards and I have not written a word. A moment of guilt registers inside me and I push it aside. I practice yoga, I shower. Finally I sit down and begin.
I want to write a post for my blog, I want to write a contributing post for another blog. There is the work I do for the non-profit I volunteer with, that is on my list too. I’d like to work on my book, but that always takes last priority, even though in the long run it may have the biggest rewards. The scale of the project, and the mental energy it takes, often feels too big.
It feels too big because whenever I walk into a bookstore, the number of books on the shelves is overwhelming and I wonder how I can ever stand out in this ocean of writers. The fear of not being good enough.
Then I remind myself that there is still space in the world for further successes. We are a society of hungry consumers always on the lookout for the next wonderful thing. We love great art, great literature, great gadgets, and there is always room for more.
It is true that I often see the end of the story before I have even read past the first page. I won’t apply for that job because I won’t get it. I won’t enroll for a French class because I will never be fluent in another language. I make things up. Instead of taking a few steps to see what is around the corner, I procrastinate, or even worse, don’t do it at all.
Yes, there are times where I can make an educated guess at what the outcome of my efforts might be, but I frequently sell myself short. The truth is that I have no idea how anything will end. Life is not a train line with fixed stops, it is a map and compass and the freedom to walk in any direction I choose. I can drive the train anywhere I want, as long as I turn on the engine.
And the longer it takes to turn the key, the less time there is to enjoy the journey. It is like spending all morning thinking about going to the beach, when the forecast says that the afternoon will bring rain.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” ~ Mark Twain
A little while back, a new friend said to me, “You know who you are, you just need to fucking do it.”
She’d only known me for a week, and she was right.
My life right now is rich with possibility in a way that it never has been before. I do know who I am, I do know what I want and I do know what I must do. I think about her words while I am ironing my knickers or arranging my books alphabetically, and they provide me with fuel.
The belief that everything I begin needs to be finished, and everything that I finish needs to be perfect, can be a hindrance. Not everything I write needs to be published; in fact, I need never show most of my work to anyone. The only thing that matters is that I start and consider my work as an exploration — one that might lead me to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or one that might take me somewhere that I never want to go again.
And then what I have is a lesson, and an experience. Maybe it will give me something else to write about.
I might know who I am, but without beginning, I will never realize it. Instead of becoming accomplishments, my dreams may become regrets, smokey memories of the things I didn’t do. Memories to which I only have my own made-up ending, and not one that I lived.
Part of my struggle is my misconception that if I will be successful at something, then it will just come to me with ease. There are times when I sit — restless — at my computer, feeling like there are no more words left in me. I reassure myself that although we may not see it, success is usually the result of numerous hours of work, and many attempts. The result of many hours spent procrastinating, hand in hand with many hours spent not procrastinating.
I wonder if my list of things to do is too long; perhaps this is causing my delay. I tell myself that if I never start, I will never finish. I question if I am too hard on myself, and need to stop measuring what I believe to be success, with time.
Even though I don’t start until 3 pm, I work on and off until midnight. I drift in and out of a state of deep flow as I write — absorbed in how a word sounds, how it feels and how it connects with the words around it, coupled with an healthy obsession with punctuation.
When this feeling hits, I contemplate why I continually put off beginning. Why do I forget how good this feels?
Perhaps the problem is not procrastination, maybe it is efficiency. Maybe this is just the way a creative journey goes, maybe I should stop being so hard on myself. Despite the hours it took me to get there, when I look back, I can see progress — a series of achievements that is growing. In between my Netflix addiction that was seven seasons of How I Met Your Mother, I must have done something.
“I have always tried to hide my efforts and wished my works to have the light joyousness of springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost me.” ~ Henri Matisse