Wednesday, October 17, 2007


“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
---Abraham Lincoln

Whenever I consider the word “Procrastination”, my mind switches into music mode. The dulcet tones of Carly Simon ring inside my head. I have to stop myself from bursting into song: “Procrastinay-ay-shun is making me wait…”

Or is that “making me late”?


Few people understand the depths of procrastination that a writer can sink to. We sneer at the lowly solitaire game, as we usually have at least a dozen Hoyle card games stored on our hard-drive and we’ve mastered them all. Along with Minesweeper, Parcheesi, Chinese Checkers, Checkers… I better stop now before I reach for the mouse and click on Backgammon.

Before you shake your head in disbelief let me add more. Besides email, phone calls, chat rooms, blog comments and message boards, writers have been known to take drastic measures to avoid the inevitable. Even… *gasp* Cleaning The Bathroom.

I know, I know. *shakes head* Sad but true.

It’s not laziness. Or stubbornness. Or even avoidance. No matter what it seems.

The actual writing--tap-tap-tapping the fingers on the keyboard--isn’t the issue. Most of us have the energy and the motivation. And if we were lazy, well… would we really volunteer to vacuum the house while keeping our eyes averted from the nagging computer screen? Hardly.

Writing, particularly fiction, requires us to push past something inside our brains. The experience is both painful and pleasurable. The pleasure for me is usually after I’ve written. Hah! Often times I’ll re-read the passage and feel a surge of satisfaction, a thrill, a YAHOO! When I’m actually pounding out the words though, it’s like reaching inside and yanking out my soul. Often as I compose each sentence, I’m convinced it’s crap. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I scan the words. Whew.

I realize too, that this avoidance isn’t exclusive to writers. We all have tasks we put off. Yet the resistance within our souls is often what hurts. The wall we’ve built inside. Maybe from childhood conditioning, maybe for our own mysterious reasons. Whatever the block is, we’ll go to great lengths to avoid confronting it, even scrubbing toilets (unless of course, scrubbing toilets IS what you avoid, then perhaps you'll pen a novel).

What I have found is this. THINKING about it, gives that stubborn block industrial strength. The process of Thinking About The Upcoming Task is like slathering concrete over a wall. Anticipating can be a direct path to procrastinating. The only way to move past the block is to plan a covert operation. Instead of considering the task at hand, just DO it. Say… “I’ll be (FILL IN THE BLANK HERE) at Blah-Blah o’clock.” When the time comes, move automatically. Don’t consider. Don’t think. Don’t anticipate. Just do.

Sometimes it’s the only way…

And for Carly… We’re on to you. We figured it out.

Now if I can only find a new song…

What about you? Any inventive ways you've discovered to procrastinate? Please share any juicy stories of avoidance. We can always use a few tips. *wink*

--Chiron O'Keefe

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