I am here by accident. Well, not here on earth…well…actually, since there is an 11 year span between me and my sister I stand corrected on that score…
I am on my blog by accident – today. I was sitting here thinking of ways I could procrastinate (again). I’ve already cleaned the bathroom and dyed my hair. I’ve read the newspaper and played with the cat. I’ve answered the door (thank you, Fed X!). Fresh out of ideas, I was in the process (or so I thought) of logging onto Facebook.
My fingers had other ideas. They know what I should be doing and set about typing WordPress instead of Facebook.
As every writer knows, procrastination is the devil on your shoulder. The little voice that says, “Hey, wouldn’t you rather motor up the Don Valley Parkway and look at fall foliage?” or, “Hey, wouldn’t you rather scrub the toilet?” Rationally speaking, the answers to both questions would be no. The DVP is a pain in the ass and so is the toilet but this is what happens when a writer feels compelled to procrastinate. Suddenly, inexplicably, there is nothing more important than a bunch of yellow and red maples or the disgusting state of the toilet.
Writers, as stated by many famous ones, are world champion procrastinators. If procrastinating were an Olympic sport, we’d all be gold medalists. The smart writers sit placidly in front of their screens and daydream. The ones with ADD (like me) paint rooms. Let’s just say partners and spouses can tell that you haven’t been writing all day if the house is a different colour when they get home.
Why do writers procrastinate? What is it about our genetic/personality/dysfunctional make-up that necessitates avoiding doing the very thing we claim to love so dearly?
I have a theory: fear. Every time I sit in front of my screen, I am terrified that no words will come. This fear is now magnified by the fact that I’m on antidepressants. I’m cheerful and calm these days but the creativity seems to have dried up like a desert lake. I break out in a cold sweat just thinking of writing; I walk in a wide arc around the computer.
When push comes to shove and my fingers get moving, I’m usually fine. If I’m not, I vow to write my “one square inch” and be done with it. However, it’s really hard not to feel enormously guilty about less-than-stellar efforts or results. Guilt does not always yield creative results.
Worse than procrastination is hard work that doesn’t necessarily yield a tangible product at the end of the day. By sitting down at the computer for four to six hours, I’m not building anything that you can sit on, I’m not solving the debt crisis in Greece, I’m not finding a cure for cancer. I’m not earning a dime from that four to six hours of effort.
So, why? How many writers, day in and day out, ask themselves that very question? Is it worth the guilt? The ever-mounting bills?
The other evening, my daughter was discussing what she wants to do when she grows up. Her (current) career choice is not one that will garner her a huge income, ever. I blurted out, “If you love what you do, that is the most important thing.” I caught some looks. I felt guilt and sadness wash over me. Is love enough? What a question.