I had tons of ideas for a blog this month. I was going to write about life, writing, movies, and plays all using a three-act structure. I was going to write about how I plot and plan. I had a great idea about life imitating art and art imitating life. Then I thought about the end of Mad Men (which I just saw on DVD) and how the end didn’t live up to the rest of the show. I mean nobody’s real-life story line ends that neatly. Poor Betty.
So, what happened? Well, one thing led to another and then another and then life got in the way, you know how it does? After that, I don’t know. It just never happened. I kept hearing my third grade teacher’s voice whispering in my ear, and then shouting…”Procrastination is the thief of time.” However, I successfully pushed it into the background. Before I knew it, this blog was DUE.
While I was procrastinating, telling myself I have the blog in my head, all that’s left is putting the fingers to the keyboard, I decided to catch up on the news…I stumbled on an article in the New York Times. Turns out, procrastination is actually a good thing. In fact, it increases creativity. And best of all, they have studies to prove it. Okay, I didn’t think you’d believe me, but here’s the link. Check it out for yourself.
On reflection, it makes a lot of sense, although the increase in creativity feels more like a panic attack. Procrastination isn’t passive. It takes a lot of energy to decide not to do something. While you’re thinking about not thinking about it, your subconscious is chewing on it. It’s the same principle as getting great ideas in the shower, or on a run, or driving to and from work. Put your brain on autopilot and it churns out ideas, solutions, and answers. Sometimes totally unexpected ones. Procrastinating gives you permission to find creative solutions. Then, at the twenty-fifth second before the due date, limber up those fingers and stretch them out on the keyboard. If the theory holds, then this should be a great blog. I know it’s on a topic that hadn’t crossed my mind, until last night. And of course, the proof is in the New York Times. They’re never wrong…are they?
How about you? Is your style advance planning, or do you believe in the Hail Mary pass? Would you consider changing?
In Myers-Briggs social styles I am rated “Perceiving” rather than “Judging.” In short it means I’d prefer to keep my options open as long as possible – which some might refer to as procrastinating. Fortunately, I have strong trait for making a decision when it really needs to be made and then moving on.
All of which is to say, the tension of leaving a decision unmade is fine, even preferable, for me because you never know when a new piece of information will change everything and provide a much better answer than whatever choice I would have made earlier.
Yes, I procrastinate, big time. Which is why I'm pounding the keyboard and simultaneously serving dinner many evenings. Back to the wall = most creative, inspired thinking. Though I'm slowly getting better with plotting.
Perfect example, Jim. That one new bit of information that changes everything. I am learning though that juggling requires earlier decisions, but I will still hold off on the send button until the last minute. Just in case that last bit of inspiration/information arrives.
So true, Margaret! Isn't it amazing how lack of options = inspiration!
In my writing, I generally know how a story (or novel) is going to start, sometimes some things that will happen in the middle, and how it is going to end, but very few of the details.
And my characters sometimes utterly refuse to do what I want them to. Which makes for interesting changes.
Most days, bedtime comes, and I haven't accomplished any where near what I wanted to. But I don't let it stress me out--tomorrow's another day.
Does that make me a procrastinator?
I like Jim's take on this. I'm not procrastinating, I'm keeping my options open. :)
I love deadlines - they really concentrate the mind. It's just having a deadline for a huge project (say a novel) isn't that helpful. July seems so luxuriously far away right now. So I have to create my own deadlines to put my back to the wall, as Margaret put it. I have a wonderful editor who will be taking a look at my work in progress in February well before I have to send it to the publisher. I blame my former career in newspapering for this addiction to last-minute adrenaline.
KM, I don't think you are a procrastinator! I think that's just life getting in the way of intentions. I've learned that it's usually best to let the characters take the lead when they want to. They seem to have hidden agendas that befuddle us all until we learn to trust them.
Ah, Shari, I know what you mean. If I may make a suggestion--I discovered a free program called pacemaker. It lets me set my daily, monthly weekly whatever deadlines, chart my progress (Pavlov would have loved me) and keeps me well on track. Check it out, you may like it too. http://pacemaker.press/, and it's free! I'm sure there's a paid version, but this one works great.
Sometimes the distractions prove to be worthwhile on their own.
I'm the queen of procrastinators. :-) Every two weeks or so, I make long column lists of things to do on a large legal pad. I feel good using a marker to show what I've accomplished. However, I never even get half of what I planned to do done. I've been known to decide to clean a closet when I should be getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner in a few days. Of course, that was long ago. Cleaning closets rarely gets on any list and wouldn't be crossed off if it did. Loved the comment that procrastinators are more creative. Now I have a reason for not feeling so bad about procrastination, which reminds me I still have three thank you cards to send for Christmas gifts.
Warren, you are SO right!
Gloria, I make multiple lists too. And end up crossing off only half or so (and I've been known to include stuff I have done--never hurts to jump start things.) I see a lot of value in the link between procrastination and creativity.
It depends on the task, Kait. Some, I rip right through. Others, like insurance papers or something, I look at on my desk, get up, and do something--anything but them. It's not so much procrastination, but total avoidance. I eventually get around to them, but I may make a lame excuse to whomever wants them. Too bad! What is important to me gets done first.
However--when I apply that to my manuscripts, I feel that unless I have a big block of time--I won't do them justice. Manuscripts are so complex, I don't want to mess them up because of inattention or distraction. I'd feel as if I were giving less than my best effort. Even as I write this, I'm not alone and a vacuum is droning in the background. When do I have time to myself to concentrate? It's not procrastination. It's work that requires more than evidently I can give right now. And yes, I am frustrated.
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