Monday, November 28, 2016

The Thief of Time

Recently my daughter gave me a present of procrastinating pencils. They came in a little pack and each of them bears a suggestion.
  • You probably need another coffee.
  • Go on, take me for a doodle.
  • Mmm, what's for lunch?
  • A to-do list, you need a to-do list.
  • You can't possibly work in an untidy room.
  • Just chew on me and look thoughtful for a bit.
There may be some writers who sit down at their desks at the determined hour and get to work straight away without allowing any form of distraction, but I haven't met any of them.  They are probably the same people who only ever have one slim file lying on the otherwise empty desk, who have the whole book planned out with spreadsheets before they type 'Chapter One' , who always meet their deadlines without any sort of unseemly scramble at the end and who always have a spare ink cartridge in reserve for the next time it runs out - so we don't like them, do we, boys and girls?

For the imperfect mortals among us, there is a bizarre resistance that often has to be overcome before we open the file that contains our work in progress and get on with it.  If you haven't got a big excuse, a little one will do : 'If anyone comes in and sees the kitchen floor looking like that, I'll be mortified...'

It's completely irrational. I know that writing is what I like to do more than anything else - whereas I hate having to wash the kitchen floor. Once I sit down and get absorbed, the time simply flies and I'm surprised when I find it's lunch time. I can look at what I've done with a glow of satisfaction that carries me on through the rest of the day.

I can remember in the long-ago days when I was a teacher pupils who had upcoming exams would tell me they 'just couldn't make themselves' get down to revising. An excuse, I thought at the time and was fairly crisp about this kind of problem. But now I wonder, is there something deeper at work than just being easily distracted?

As long as we are writing our book in our head, it is going to be the very best thing we have ever done — probably the best thing anyone has ever done. But whenever something is set down on paper it becomes limited, and however good the writing may be it never quite takes flight with the glorious freedom it had before.

So is procrastination, after all, not just a funny little lazy quirk but a dark, deep-seated fear of failure?


Vicki Delany said...

True confessions: I am that one! Only because I am so ill-disciplined that I have to be strictly disciplined. So I do sit down at the exact same time every day, I do have spare printer cartridges always at hand, and I do finish my projects way ahead of deadline (because I don't handle stress well). Definitely not a tidy desk though, and definitely no spreadsheets.

Sybil Johnson said...

Vicki, I wish I were you. Sigh.

Aline Templeton said...

I'll forgive you because of the untidy desk!! Not only is mine normally untidy, when I do a clear-up I feel deeply uncomfortable until it's messy again - rather like Piglet who after Kanga bathed him rolled all the way home to get back to his own comfortable colour again.

Unknown said...

Oh my, I could use a set of those procrastinator pencils! That's a great idea.

Eileen Goudge said...

I solved the problem of the messy desk by getting rid of my desktop computer. Now the pile of papers that used to clutter my desk lives in the drawer that held my keyboard. It all started when I spilled coffee on my old laptop and was forced to buy a new one, which I love because it's way speedier than any computer I've owned thus far. Switching off with my desktop, I realized I was getting frustrated because it now seemed so slow. The moral of the story? Not sure there is one. Maybe that good changes can come of catastrophe, if not clutter.

Donis Casey said...

My house is never so clean as when I simply HAVE to write. For some reason that is when I simply can't stand the dusty furniture.