I read a little article in The Atlantic last week about writers and procrastination that caused me a fair amount of existential pain because it struck too familiar a chord. While my work ethic is pretty strong (it would have to be in order for me to run my own business for 10 years and not be homeless), I definitely have a procrastination problem that, at its worst can cause anxiety that spreads to all areas of my being and can, at times, add unnecessary drama to my life.
However, no matter how hard I try to approach projects the “right” way by making an outline/plan of attack and then researching in frustrating, teaspoon-measured increments, I find I need to create a little bit of “Will I or Won’t I Finish This on Time?” tension in order to produce my best work. In college and grad school, I was always someone that wrote papers the night before (after thinking about them for weeks) and often saw the sun rising the next morning as I was printing out the final pages. I am very comfortable in the chaos that is, as the article says, “the unstructured world of work” and have the “A”s to prove my strategies (mostly) worked for me, but I still always wish I had the discipline to work well without crazy amounts of pressure.
In acknowledgment of the writer’s flaw I will likely never entirely exorcise, here are some musings about procrastination.
“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” – Mark Twain (from More Maxims of Mark)
“Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow.” – Steven Wright
“But indefinite visions of ambition are weak against the ease of doing what is habitual or beguilingly agreeable; and we all know the difficulty of carrying out a resolve when we secretly long that it may turn out to be unnecessary. In such states of mind the most incredulous person has a private leaning towards miracle: impossible to conceive how our wish could be fulfilled, still – very wonderful things have happened!” – George Eliot (from Middlemarch)
“From now on I hope always to stay alert, to educate myself as best I can. But lacking this, in Future I will relaxedly turn back to my secret mind to see what it has observed when I thought I was sitting this one out. We never sit anything out … We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” – Ray Bradbury