A Particular Procrastination

I am SUCH a procrastinator.

This is not a surprise to anyone who knows me well. I get a big rush from plowing all my energy into things at the last minute. It’s intoxicating. I think I’m probably an amateur adrenalin junkie. You won’t find me on thrill rides at amusement parks, or jumping out of airplanes. I’m not into extreme sports. But I do like a low-key, constant buzz of–what is it? Energy? The Life Force? Microscopic buzz saws in my blood? Yes, maybe that.

I toyed with the idea of having a NaNoWriMo-type November. Lots of words written! No editing! Pure, creative force flowing through me! God, I love that notion. Just letting myself float free, tossing sentences out like so many shiny Mardi Gras necklaces to land prettily on the page. Unfortunately, I suck at letting myself go that way. I am the least free-form writer on the planet. I edit sentences three and four times before they even make it to my fingertips, let alone onto the page. I was always a color-inside-the-lines kid. And don’t get me started about making outlines. I waited way too long to start doing that before November first. I’ve never worked from an outline that was anything more than a couple of lines on what might happen in the next chapter or two. I keep threatening to outline books, but when I do, I realize that I’ve lived the whole story in a day, and I get bored. Nexxxxxxt!

Oh, I still need to get the words done in November. Not 50K. 15 to 20K is more like what I need. It’s doable, if I buckle down. But I still have that whole procrastination thing to deal with. And there’s not just writing to procrastinate about. There’s Thanksgiving for 14. Prepping for reading at a Kaskaskia College next week. Keeping track of Weight Watchers points so I won’t end up as a float in the local Christmas parade. Care and feeding of the Benedict Corporate Staff–including the critters. Blah. Blah. Blah. Procrastination opportunities abound.

In the spirit of getting things done in a NaNovember kind of way, I’ve decided that I’m going to upgrade the quality of my procrastination. You’ll most often find me procrastinating with my iPad. Sometimes I’m stalking making friends on Twitter. Sometimes I’m looking at shoes on Zappos. Or checking sales numbers at BN or Amazon. Playing Candy Candy Match obsessively. Or watching crime shows on Netflix. Which isn’t like procrastinating by watching mindless television at all. I swear. It’s directed viewing. I watch entire seasons of programs like Midsomer Murders, the Swedish Wallander, Black Books, Ghost Hunters or Bones. Since most of these programs are about crime and the supernatural, I could even call it research. Right?

No, I’ve decided that I’m going to procrastinate with books this month. Paper books. Legacy books. Books I have on my dusty bookshelf.

Books are how I got into this whole writing game, anyway. In addition to my pleasure reading, I read several books a month for review during the year I was writing my first published novel. One of the reasons Isabella Moon crosses so many genres is that I was busy reading so many genres at once–they all ran together in a good way in my head.

You would be appalled to know how little some writers read. I know many writers (they shall remain nameless) who profess that they don’t have time to read any books at all. Let me repeat: They don’t read books–the things that they create. It’s like being a gourmet chef who refuses to eat–or only eats food to keep herself/himself alive, but not well-fed. That seems insane to me. Yet, it’s all too plausible.

Reading a novel is akin to slow-cooking five or six dinners for the family. It takes time. (I’ve never understood why anyone would speed-read a novel they weren’t being paid to read.) It’s a huge investment if you’r reading for entertainment. Right now I’m reading Jo Nesbo’s The Leopard at various points during the day, and watching Wallander while I ride the Schwinn Aerodyne in the morning. Talk about shifting mental gears. It’s surreal. I keep finding myself impatient with the novel. “Wallander would have this solved in 90 minutes!” I can’t help but think. I want to page ahead. But I don’t. What would be the point? If I did, I would have the answers and only the answers to plot questions. I would miss the nuances. I would miss the human-like inconsistencies that define excellent characters. I would miss the chance to learn something useful to me.

Books engage us on so many levels. They exercise our thoughts. They carve out grooves in our passivity-smoothed brains. And for writers, they are sustenance. Proof that someone has gone before us, proof that there is somewhere for us to aim, too–even if the target is well beyond the book we’re reading at that moment.

I don’t have a reading list made up for November. For the past three years I’ve been reading a significant number of crime and mystery novels. I know their rhythms and pathways and tropes all too well. They have become my comfort food. I think I’ll pick some non-fiction, next, to see if I can’t carve out a new pathway or two for myself. You know. While I’m supposed to be doing something else.

One thought on “A Particular Procrastination”

  1. It’s interesting, I was just talking about types of procrastination to my mom. This past weekend was a working weekend for me, and there were some types of work (that shall remain unnamed) that I really didn’t want to do. At one point, my mom called me. When she asked me what I was doing, I told her I was procrastinating. She said, “I can’t believe it. I’ve never known you to procrastinate before.” I then proceeded to tell her that I was procrastinating by being productive—just not on the one thing I needed to be productive on.

    I’ve always said the best way to get me to clean the house is to give me a writing deadline. =)

    But there’s something to the idea of using the urge to procrastinate to your advantage. Can’t make yourself write? Reading seems like the perfect answer. Still feels like procrastinating, but is so much more productive for a writer. I love it!

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