Rogue Ink

May 28, 2008

Procrastination. It works for me.

Filed under: Writing — Tei @ 5:22 am
Tags: ,

Put your head down, your nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel, money where your mouth is, hand on the helm jam on the biscuit, weasel in the rabbit hole, martini in the left hand and pool stick across the right, for I say unto you: cliches are fun when properly abused, and they are an excellent way to pass the time when you ought to be doing something else. Like, say, work.

I procrastinate. A lot.

This is not my fault. I place the blame it squarely upon my dearly beloved professor of Shakespeare at the University of Chicago. This blessed gentleman was not only the owner of several of those delightful jackets with the leather patches on the sleeves – not to mention a bicycle, a full head of white hair, and an incredibly sweet and welcoming wife who didn’t seem to mind filthy college students in her house at all hours – but was also a scholar of no small distinction who had been teaching the Bard for over fifty years and had seen a paper written on nearly every possible topic on the subject. I mention this because he made ‘A’s contingent on producing a thesis that he had not seen before. In fifty years.

I spent a full day writing my first paper, and I’d like everyone to bear in mind that I write very quickly and generally spend a good deal of time ‘thinking’ about it before I actually put pen to paper. I got a B+ on it. ‘Good writing,’ said he, in his comments, ‘but I’ve heard this argument before. Also, you happen to be wrong, but you didn’t lose points on that.‘ Is it any wonder that there was a deep and abiding love in my heart for this man?

The next paper I consulted with him beforehand to make sure he hadn’t seen the topic before. He was about to go onstage for a production of The Tempest, he was dressed in robes and a good deal of stage makeup, and he discussed my topic with me so arrayed until he had to answer ten minute call. He hadn’t heard the topic before. I spent the afternoon writing it. I got an A-.

The final paper I completely forgot about. It was finals week, I had a class in global warming taught by a professor who bore a remarkable resemblance to Gimli of Lord of the Rings, if Gimli dropped the axe and the helm and discussed particle dispersion a lot, and I figured my studying hours were best spent on physics. I wound up reading the play (again, I’d read it once before in high school), deciding on my topic, and writing the paper all in the space of five hours.

I got an A.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I procrastinate. It seems to work for me.

The trouble is, while procrastinating projects works for me, what I tend to do with the spare time is never good. It usually involves pop songs, for some reason. These are the moments in my life when I tend to think, “What would I say to all my loved ones in the afterlife if the Apocalypse happened right now and we all got to view our last twenty minutes over and over again? Is there any realistically cool explanation for spending one’s last moments on Earth rocking out to nineties one-hit wonders? I don’t think there is.”

I could do cool things when I procrastinate. If I scheduled it right, I could be procrastinating certain projects while scrambling to meet a deadline on another. I could dance or sing or train squirrels to do the tarantella. But I keep putting it off, because none of those things have deadlines.

Procrastination is not the problem. The problem is, I don’t have enough things to procrastinate. If I did, I could be in a constant state of panic, and everything would get done, and it would all be BRILLIANT.

I’ll tell you all about it. Tomorrow.

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  1. Hilarious! (Good luck getting everything done…)

    Comment by Simonne — May 28, 2008 @ 6:17 am | Reply

  2. Heh heh. Guess what I’m doing right now? I’m PROCRASTINATING. 😀 Reading your fascinating blog posts makes for excellent procrastination, when I’m supposed to be writing a philosophy paper. Which is due, uh, tomorrow. I’m 1/4 of the way done right now.

    Thank goodness for you Tei, for procrastinating has never been so entertaining.

    Comment by Allison — May 28, 2008 @ 6:38 am | Reply

  3. Ahhh but there are always ideas being fertilized by all the shit, er, behind the music (clearly, VH1 needs to resurrect the show ~_^). In fact, w/out time spent in which all those idealings are NOT the focus, they’d never get all mixed together (while you’re dancing to those one-hit wonders) & sprout into the brilliant, unique ideas you produce!?

    Besides, the patrons of the Lusty Weevil would be sad indeed if you were productive ALL the time. ^_^

    “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” ~ Mark Twain

    Comment by Dorian aka coffeeister |_|) — May 28, 2008 @ 6:59 am | Reply

  4. Love it. I was a last minute kinda guy through university as well. There’s a whole cosmos of hidden glory in taking on the looming threat of a morning deadline on a project you should have started 8 weeks ago, only to breeze through and get top marks anyway. I’d probably have reason to be rather pleased with myself, except when you consider that my degree was essentially in critiquing films, eating popcorn, submitting continuity errors to geeky websites, and discussing the relative merits of Uma Thurman’s figure-hugging (and somewhat restrictive) biker suit as everyday fighting attire for a close combat specialist.

    Comment by Nick Cernis — May 28, 2008 @ 7:23 am | Reply

  5. Well, if we didn’t procrastinate, we’d all be boring, boring, boring, BORING work-o-bots. It’s good for you. The “constant state of panic = GTD” is a novel concept though. Heh.

    @ Nick – Shoot, why hadn’t I heard of that course when I was looking through all those uni prospectuses?? (“prospecti”? Oop, no, Firefox likes the first one. Sweet.)

    Comment by Sunili — May 28, 2008 @ 10:46 am | Reply

  6. I too get my best work done by procrastinating! And I mean *really* last minute. Like taking off one of the last two days I had left to copyedit sixty pages of endnotes, twelve pages of bibliography, seven tables, and two figures, plus draw up the style sheets for a 340-page book and do all the consistency checks and such. Book was due Monday. I took Saturday off. Sunday I worked eleven hours straight. Somehow I managed not to blog, read blogs, check email, get up every five minutes, etc. It was AWESOME. I rocked that material. I always do much better work. Tight deadlines for articles always turn my crank. I feel *alive*! If only it could be like this all the time! I’d never cry about being so distracted. However, the plus side is that my current form of procrastinating — that is, reading your blog and other good ones — is proving quite beneficial rather than lamentable.

    Comment by steph — May 28, 2008 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  7. Allison: Aw, thanks.

    Dorian: It’s very true. I like to keep my patrons happy. And drunk, because it makes the ‘happy’ easier to achieve.

    Nick: I know. That girl would’ve split a seam at a couple of points.

    Sunili: And boring people suck. Glad we all came with me on that one.

    Steph: Writing on this tomorrow. Tune in, sugardumpling

    Comment by Tei — May 28, 2008 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

  8. Can’t wait! And for the record, I love it when you call me sugardumpling. Mmmm, sugardumpling… I hope you like the way I portrayed you in my last post… 🙂

    Hey, look what just showed up in my email today! Haha!!

    Comment by steph — May 28, 2008 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

  9. Tei

    I think you’re GREAT!

    It’s so refreshing to hear someone be honest with themselves, and say they procrastinate and thrive on it. You show you’re human, just like the rest of us.

    I’m also chronic procrastinator…sure, I get stresed sometimes, but it’s always worked out for me in school and/or work.

    That’s my nature, that’s who I am, and I’m happy with it. The last thing I need is other people lecturing and motivating me on how I should organize my life.

    And like Allison, I’m procrastinating right now…commenting on your blog instead of doing my boring job! 🙂

    Comment by Friar — May 28, 2008 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  10. Ohhh, ratted out.. just stopped by to see what the Rogue was pouring today. I could be working away on that current painting, operative word could ( not should) …I ‘ll take my procrastination shaken not stirred…it’s about the zone then , isn’t it? When we’re in it, bloody look out…how we get there, pop tunes or insanely funny blogs…nobody’s business, but our own…hm, better pop over to see Friar and then actually get to work…yep, might need a beverage, too.

    Loved this Tei.

    Comment by Janice Cartier — May 28, 2008 @ 7:56 pm | Reply

  11. Your last paragraph (or technically second to last, I suppose) aimed, marked, and fired my ENTIRE ACADEMIC HISTORY with such accuracy and force that I’m now adopting it as my personal mantra. Brilliant!! Thank you!

    Comment by Joaninha — May 29, 2008 @ 12:07 am | Reply

  12. ROFL! I was going to say the exact same thing as Joaninha. Seems many of us had the same academic experience. This is exactly why I can’t seem to do the outline thing for fiction writing. My entire academic career was based on thinking about it and then doing it at the last minute with no notes, outlines and scoring A’s. Why screw up a good system with planning and organization? So maybe we’re not procrastinators but powerful, purposeful people who use our time wisely by getting tasks done exactly when they need to get done and not a second sooner. 🙂

    Comment by Karen Swim — May 29, 2008 @ 2:20 am | Reply

  13. Tei,

    Keep this up and you’re going to talk yourself into thinking there was something worthwhile in that college education, after all. 🙂

    I’m a hybrid, myself. (Schizophrenic?)

    Some things I am completely anal-retentive about, and keep rolling perfectly on schedule OR ELSE;

    Some, I play the head-in-sand game until things are desperate, then bust it out;

    Some I pretend I am going to get to, then acknowledge at last minute that I just don’t care and abandon the deadline. This is usually where household cleaning falls. I’m bloody well exhausted at the end of my week, and no matter how many times I write “scrub bathroom floor,” I always look at the note later and think it says “purchase new magazine at Barnes & Noble.” So I swipe at the bathroom for five minutes, and get the heck out of Dodge.

    Never let clients see you sweat. Relatives, friends? Oh, well.



    Comment by Kelly — May 29, 2008 @ 3:06 am | Reply

  14. […] 4:10 am Tags: john steinbeck, procrastination, pushing through, Writing Yesterday, we talked about procrastination, and why it works. Because when you get down to those last few minutes, you know you have to write, […]

    Pingback by Save your world. Write. « Rogue Ink — May 29, 2008 @ 4:10 am | Reply

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