Friday, March 10, 2017

Procrastination Advantage

Procrastination is defined as the act of postponing or delaying something.

Resistance is defined as the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent  something by argument or action. Or in a writer's case - inaction.

Which, when you think about it, is really what's going on with procrastination. We're postponing (and/or preventing) the work. I think of procrastination as a symptom of resistance. It's a non-useful safety mechanism, some primordial brain space activating when we contemplate pursuing something that matters to us. Steven Pressfield has built a career out of describing resistance and has specific advice for combating it.

But are there times that procrastination is an advantage? Maybe. In rare circumstances. But let's be clear. 'Advantage' is pushing it, in my opinion, because I have to say that procrastination feels TERRIBLE. It's an awful place to be. So any benefit it confers is weighed against chest crushing pressure it exerts. These are the rare circumstances where the advantage of procrastination edges past its ickiness.

1. Procrastination is a symptom of an ailment. Not mine. A book's. Procrastination can be a little bit like waking up with a sore throat. It *could* just be a silly thing that will go away after a cup of tea. Or it could be strep. For me, if I go two days procrastinating, then my book probably has strep. Diagnosing the problem can take days. DAYS. Because it means disengaging from a novel in progress enough to get the 10,000 foot view so I can ID what's wrong. The problem could be in the previous chapter, or it could be in the first part of the story. Once I figure out the problem, it may take another couple of days to work out how to fix it. Only then can I move on. This is procrastination acting as a signpost that says "Hey, dummy, here be plot hole!" Let's not get into the psychological reasoning behind why my brain cannot possibly leave that stuff until the editing phase.

2. Procrastination as means of knitting up a raveling brain. Modern life is full of distractions, noise, and demands on our time. You know. Your beloved can't find his or her car keys. One kid is having a melt down about the diorama due in history tomorrow (no, of course he hasn't started it), another is going to starve to death RIGHT THERE on the kitchen floor if food isn't shoved at her this instant, and the dog just threw up all over your dining room carpet. And you're trying to write. Our brains become noisy, crowded places when we're juggling all of the roles adulthood requires. Procrastination is occasionally a means by which we let some of the excess sturm und drang ooze out our ears. It's meaningless activity meant to soothe some of the frayed and ragged edges so we can restore mental silence and focus. If that's the case, directing procrastination activities to that end (meditation work, working out, going for a walk in nature - alone) can actually get you back to work faster than if you just try to suck up the randomization and work through it.

3. Procrastination as serendipity. This one hasn't yet happened to me. I've only heard about it happening to someone else who had a contract for a project that she just kept dragging her feet on. This frustrated her no end and she could never articulate why she had so much trouble approaching the work. She liked the story and liked the work she'd done to win the contract, so what was going on? Just as she bit the bullet to call her editor so she could beg for a deadline extension, word came that the house had closed. She ended up feeling like she'd dodged a bullet. Now who can say whether she, on some level, saw and registered the warning signs of a publisher in trouble and then signed with them anyway - or if the whole thing was a coincidence. She did write the book thereafter and ended up self publishing it.

I've heard it said that procrastination is your subconscious extending you a vote of no confidence. If you're procrastinating, it's because you don't have a goal and a plan in place to get you to it.

Is that true do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment