We all know the holidays are breathing down our necks. Heck it’s less than a week until Thanksgiving. All of the obsessive-compulsive types lurking out there (ME), may be (ARE) panicked if he or she is like me and procrastinates until the last minute to get something, anything done.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends and very much enjoy gathering for the traditional dinner, and even cooking the usual dishes. The stress comes from waiting until the last minute to do it all. Year, after year; event after event, nothing changes, I’m always waiting until the last possible second to get the vacuum, feather duster and mop out of their dark, cob-web ridden corners. This year, I’m proud to say I’m ahead of the game. The vacuum cleaner is sitting in the living room, just waiting for me to plug it in and turn it on. It’s been there for over a week. I’m staring at it as I type these words. But, I just can’t get the gumption to walk three feet over to it and actually turn it on. It silently mocks me, daring me to overcome whatever fear it is that holds me hostage in my chair. But heck, that doesn’t bother me. I’ll turn it on when I’m good and ready and not a moment before!
I’m sure there are plenty of therapists out there that salivate over dissecting the causes and cures for people like me. I’m just not making myself available to them! Even though I know I have an issue with procrastination, nothing changes. And, I hate to admit it, but I’m the same way with my writing. Yep, something I enjoy and get energized by doing, I procrastinate on doing. Go figure. To my defense, the proscrianation usually occurs when there is a deadline. Perhaps I just love playing with fire and pushing my boundaries as far as I can just to see what I can get away with. Or, maybe it’s something deeper. I have no clue.
I think a lot of writers chant the “I-can-put-it-off-until-next week-next month-next year” mantra. We’re not that unusual a species. Are there advantages to being a procrastinator? I’m not sure. I can certainly rationalize why I put things off, but if there is a benefit to it, I haven’t discovered it yet.
Many people do their best work when under pressure, and writers often rank at the top of that list. Many don’t plan on putting off that all important assignment; but instead get caught in the pressures and demands of daily living. I know I can claim that excuse 90 per cent of the time. As writers we can claim “Writer’s Block” for a good amount of procrastination, but not all of it. We also can claim family demands; no one will argue with that. What I think it comes down to are priorities. What really is most important to us?
When I take the time to re-assess my reasons for writing, I somehow get a sudden inspiration and often find myself typing away within minutes of that revelation. If I could just keep it going. But, it’s like being on the never-ending diet, the motivation that gets one through the first day or two somehow likes to evaporate like a sun drenched mist in the aftermath of a summer thunderstorm. And I suddenly find myself staring at a blank screen not sure how I got there in the first place.
Whatever psychological reasons exist for one’s procrastination, I think it is critically important that we do not beat ourselves up over it. Instead, we need to accept who we are, determine our priorities of what must be done and even more importantly, what we want to get done. Just adding that little bit of “want” to the equation can often be all the impetus needed to get that wheel rolling. Just thinking of the rewards of completing a successful piece can sometimes be enough. Sometimes we need more motivation. Whatever is needed, please search for it. Those words, thoughts, emotions and scenes playing out in your head will be something that entertains, evokes thought, or can even change one’s life. Don’t keep it to yourself; feel free to share it. More people than perhaps you imagine can be affected by your work. And that in itself could be the best motivation to overcome procrastination yet.
Happy Thanksgiving! And yes, I did plug in the vacuum cleaner today.