Wednesday, October 14, 2020


A quick note about procrastination before I, uh, get to the work I'm supposed to be doing.

I remember when I used to make lists but avoided putting the things on it that I really had to get done. If they were on the list it was a guarantee that I would try to avoid them. And anyway, those important things? I couldn't possible forget them—that's why I was avoiding doing them.

But this isn't about that, though I see you, students with way too much to do and who have to create systems to try to manage all of it. I watch in honest awe as my daughter who just began grad school creates organizational systems of pure beauty with coloured makers, white boards, Google calendars and the kind assistance of whichever Greek god was responsible for Blundstones and Moleskine notebooks. 

I want to talk about the tremendous LIFE GIVING POWER OF PROCRASTINATION. Buy my handy guide now. Or...later. What do we want? Procrastination. When do we want it?

But though of course I want and need to get things done when they need to be done, I also acknowledge that sometimes that delicious and awful procrastination energy leads me to create other work. Like the image and prose poem above. I've got lots of things to do—including getting dressed!—but somehow I wrote this instead. This morning in bed (instead of getting out from under the lovely covers) I read a rather scathing review of someone's book which included explorations of the idea of "The Visionary" and the end of the world, so after I poured myself coffee (I mean, poured coffee INTO myself) I sat down here (at my computer) and with some idea of the notion of "Visionary" in mind (and thinking about how to work on a project I am "supposed" to be working on, including my novel, and student work to read (which, honestly, I really am excited to read—and I'll get to it after this) and even feeding the dog, I stumbled into writing that piece and, indeed, this blogpost. I'm really quite happy about the piece and about the fumbling avoidance behaviour which resulted in it. And sometimes, if it (the procrastination) is going to happen any way, one might as well make laterade out of the procrastilemons.)

I guess that procrastination energy reaches deep into the well of my most essential humanity! But really, there is something existential about procrastination. It's part fear--fear of failing or not succeeding enough—in what one has to do. Fear of the discomfort of setting that aside, of all the feelings of uncertainty or inadequacy (or of only 'adequacy'), rolling up one's metaphoric sleeves (did you know my literal bathrobe has rollable sleeves?) and getting to work on the required work. 

So, I both forgive myself those times when I don't get down to work and relish the often surprising and energized work that results. Is it me listening to what I really need? Maybe. Is it me finding meaningful (at least to me) things do to with restlessness and anxiety and some kind of lack of executive function which goes when I don't get enough sleep? Yeah, probably. But I know that I do make my deadlines. That I'll get to those other things in time. That things generally work out. That when the crunch is really upon me, I'll focus well enough on the task at hand to get the thing done.  To quote that ol' paragon of self actualization, Artie Prufrock:

There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands.
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me.

So here's a list of things of five things to do to avoid procastination:



  1. To do or not to do that is the question
    Whether tis nobler in the mind in the mind to do nothing
    Or to take up a sea of nothing and do something.
    Ah, there is the wet rub.

  2. Ha! Of course there is always John Cage's "I have nothing to say and I am saying it."