The Art of Writing…Tomorrow
When it comes to writing and the writing life, those that task themselves with this activity, so-called writers, only one word serves as synopsis; procrastination. Self-delusion is also often used, but rest assured, procrastination is more accurate. After having committed some of my life to writing, I confirm that procrastination stands alone, victorious, in the number one spot as summary for the writing life. See, the writer must first actually write something with which they can delude themselves, thus confirming procrastination’s number one spot.Credit: Mark Riegen
Procrastination is such a writing reality that writing, itself, is eventually incorporated into the writer’s procrastination regimen. Take this article that you are reading as a prime example. A reader (see there’s that self-delusion in the simple typing of ‘reader’ and the assumption implied by its permanence on the current page, reader, that one of these illusive beings would actually read this) might be drawn to this article’s title hook thus camouflaging the true nature and reality of this article. Don't be fooled for this article most certainly is procrastination's by-product. Writing success is then affirmed through this piece of procrastination with final confirmation manifesting itself through page hits. See, it’s so easy for writers to con themselves into the illusory world of success through productive procrastination.
Productive procrastination takes many years to develop for most writers. Productive procrastination also takes some degree of effort, thus eliminating it from the realm of possibility for many that attempt writing. Writers that have successfully attained productive procrastination skills have a word for those that never develop the productive procrastination skill set—untalented. So, to save writers and those prospective writers now tagged as "aspiring writers" from the being labeled untalented, here’s the roadmap to productive procrastination (you’ve been forewarned, the side-effects of writing may lead to many accomplishments…other than writing that is).
Take Out the Trash
Usually goes something like this:
I’ll sit down and start banging out that article on (insert working title here) once I’ve taken out the trash.
Or, after having already sat down to write, the discovery/reveal:
Man, what’s that smell? Oh yes, those onion peels from last night’s dinner. I've gotta get them to the curb.
With the trash, that’s usually where most writers start. Here procrastination is still subtle and even seen as noble. Procrastination at this level is still in the developmental stage. The second example being more destructive since the writer has actually sat down to engage in the writing craft, a feat unto itself.
Glad I got that stink out of the house with that trash, but man I’ve gotta (insert applicable bodily function here).
For the aging writer:
Glad those stinking onions are out of the house. Now I can concentrate without their stench. Oh, almost forgot to take my (insert required daily dose of either the branded or generic pharmaceutical name prescribed).
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
Upon entering your writing zone:
Wow, that (add applicable heavy, saucy meal such as burritos or curry) last night really did a number on me, I feel so much better now, lighter and ready to write. Oh my, just look at all those notes from last night’s research scattered on the desk. How can anybody work in this kind of environment?Credit: Mark Riegen
For those rare, neat-freak writers:
I need to sort through those notes from last night’s research and reorganize them into a more coherent flow. The more I think about it; I really should flesh that outline out before getting bogged down with that reorganization.
At this stage, procrastination grows beyond innocence with pervasive and insidious levels close at hand, but here it’s still very much camouflaged as a writing enhancement task. Beware, the tidiness and cleaning bug infection grows from here.
Usually goes something like this:
Took some time straightening up the office. Now, I can see the keyboard and find what I’m looking for. Oh, look there, its 11:30 already. Only thirty more minutes ‘til noon. Getting going on that project now would be a waste since it’s almost lunch.Credit: Mark Riegen
Unfortunately, eating is one of life's inconvenient requirements. This means most writers will not only engage in the eating--they embrace it. No more elaboration necessar other than eat as you like, but know your writing suffers due to it.
Activity, Anything but Writing
That (insert any meal consisting of scrounged scraps assembled into an edible form) was good and I’m full. It’s only 12:30. I’ve got some time to kill before my afternoon writing session. (Insert pet’s name) needs a walk/pet/scratch/bath/clipping/anything other than writing.
Can take this form:
That (insert meal, same qualities as above example) was good. Looks like I’ve got a bit of time before I get to into that writing project. I’ll just slip out and check the mail/mail that letter/get some fresh air.
For the sloths:
I’m full. Oh yes, I’ve got a half hour to myself. I’ll just settle down on the couch and think a bit. One can’t go into the afternoon writing with scrambled thoughts. I really should close my eyes, helps with the head-clearing.
Due to growing proficiency at procrastination, writers find themselves with more snippets of time to fill. These procrastination productivity gains soon lead to more time to fill.
At Mount Procrastination’s foot is where all those that have pushed themselves through to the writing life will find themselves eventually. Arrival at Mount Procrastination’s foot is an event, not a mindset. Here, staring upwards at loftier heights, wanna-be’s frighten. They will retreat and scurry away to join the ranks of “those that have written”. Here, those that will eventually call themselves writers push forward. Onward, they take their first steps, scaling Mount Procrastination.
Activity, Anything but Writing: Part Deux
Refer to above: Activity, Anything Other Than Writin. Only now--GO BIG OR GO HOME.
Honey, I’m going to change the oil on the car today. No baby, I’m not taking it down to Happy Slappy & Chuck’s Jiffy Fast Oil and Lube, I’m jacking it up myself and saving the cash.
Honey, I’m making (insert his favorite dish from your grandmother that takes you most of the day to prepare so you only make it every couple of years) tonight. How’s about a nice homemade apple pie from scratch to go with it? Oh, don’t worry about picking up some vanilla ice cream on the way home; I’ve got a whole list I need to get from the grocery store. I’ll just pick it up then.
Seasonal opportunity, unisex:
Dear, I was thinking about getting a quick jump on Christmas this year? I know Halloween was yesterday and Johnny still has candy left, but just think of how his eye’s will light up when he sees those decorations go up. Now, where’s the tree go?
Are those clouds building out there? Man, I was thinking about planning a picnic next week. I need to check the ten-day forecast.
Is it alumni, alumnae or alumnus? I’ll just hop on the Internet and sort it out real quick.
That’s where Djibouti is located.
Man, those squirrels in the attic are sure making a racket. Today’s the day I finally sort ‘em out.
Cleaning Bug Takes Hold
Credit: Mark RiegenMuch like Mount Procrastination, this is an event stage. Here the writer finds succor in the maxim “cleanliness is next to godliness”. Working through this stage is the only way to cope. Once every carpet is clean and every sill dusted, the Cleaning Bug is put into check by the limitations of our hovels’ square footage. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” rings hollow. Our date with destiny is in focus.Credit: Mark Riegen
I’ll brainstorm some ideas on this notepad and see what happens. Procrastination... Productivity... Procrastination as productivity. Wow, productive procrastination…
I’m beat. I’m hungry. To hell with it, I’m going to start that blog.
Can take this form (hopefully):
Can manifest this way (hopefully not):
I’m hungry, tired and beat. What else could I be, I’m homeless for God’s sake. Well, I suppose I have plenty of time to write some stuff down.
Arrival at Destiny
After working through all these stages of procrastination the writer finally arrives at productive procrastination. Here Mount Procrastination's summit finally and those fertile seeds of procrastination have sprouted, grown, blossomed and wilted away. There are no wanna-be’s that tread these upper climes. No, only self-actualized writers that know themselves as the beasts they are survive. Here, these writers harness their inner beasts as best they can. They enslave their bestial selves into days of productive procrastination with much writing resulting. From this productive procrastination some pieces of great writing are born. This may be the best that some writers will ever do, but all here are writers.
The day will come when that burdened beast raises its head from the keyboard or lifts its pen from the notepad and gazes outside for a moment. There, through the persistent smudging on the windows the weather will be duly noted. The beast will chuckle to itself as it focuses attention back to the keyboard or takes up the pen once again. Then, just before punching out another word or forcing another pen stroke that beast will say to themselves out loud, “Those windows need cleaning. I need to find myself a novelist.”