Procrastination: Let Me Count the Ways
Procrastination, how do I practice thee? Let me count the ways. The practice of procrastination isn’t limited to writers. Most procrastinators can remember “cramming” for an exam or starting a term paper at the last minute. I remember when I was in high school waiting until the night before all of the lab reports due in my chemistry class for the entire semester were due. I agonized over what my notes written months before meant, and vowed never to put myself in the position of pulling an “all-nighter” ever again as I finished the last report. I peeked out my window to see if it was light yet and saw that I had missed the heavy snowfall that had occurred during the night. There was no school that day! I had stayed up all night before a snow day just because I had procrastinated. Did this experience reform me? Of course not. I wrote some of my best legal briefs on the cusp of a deadline. But I always wondered, would they have been better if I’d started writing them just a tad before? My writing career has given my procrastination habits a whole new dimension. Many deadlines for writers are self-imposed, such as, I want to get this out to my agent or send five queries by the end of the month. Those can be tougher than when an editor says your first draft is due in three months. But what is it that makes us procrastinate? Many theorize it comes from a fear that we will not achieve perfection. Others debunk that as a water cooler myth and say it has other causes. I actually tried to procrastinate writing this blog post by taking an online quiz on procrastination to determine if I was the garden variety or had “Procrastinator” tattooed on my back. Unfortunately, the quiz is no longer available. I guess I’ll have to continue writing the blog. How do I procrastinate? Any way I can. But there does seem to be a pattern, so I’ll confess. Facebook quizzes. I know they are stupid and probably make private information about me available to the Russians, but if I’m in a procrastination kind of mood, I’ll take the risk. “Whose Name Is Written on Your Future Marriage Certificate?” will grab me even though I will soon celebrate my fortieth anniversary. “What color is your personality/chakra?” seemed irresistible when I had a deadline looming. “Plan an afternoon tea party and we’ll predict how many children you’ll have” sounded scientifically sound to me when I was supposed to be editing. “What is your real age?” only primed the pump for this procrastinator when I learned I was truly decades younger than I am. When I find myself taking these quizzes, I force myself to post the results on Facebook with the comment, “Someone is procrastinating.” Does this self-admission embarrass me into jumping on task? Often, it only makes me realize how badly the bathroom needs to be cleaned. Or that I am in desperate need for a pedicure. Occasionally I will decide it is the perfect moment to cook Bolognese sauce. When I am really desperate, I will leaf through my daily “To Do” lists, which I keep in a notebook. I will look back months for items which were not crossed off. Ultimately I apply a little “ass glue” and plop my butt in a chair and start to write. After the first sentence, I realize whatever task I had feared doing was less painful than the act of procrastination. With each word, I feel better. Am I cured of procrastination? Hell, no. This sequence promises to repeat itself. Will you share how you procrastinate? I’m getting tired of those silly quizzes and could use some new ideas.