Me and Procrastination

These daily posts aren’t really all that daily. They’re more nightly. There’s a very good reason for that, most of which isn’t the fact that night is the time when I can relax and think about getting something like this done. No, it’s mostly because I’ve put off doing it most of the day, and it’s only now, with two hours to go before deadline, that I can actually force myself to closing whatever thing is distracting me right now, and bang out a few hundred words.

I treat procrastination like a drug, a mild narcotic that I can use and abuse as I see fit, taking the highs (hur hur) with the lows, and come out on the other side like a semi-functioning human being. There’s a pretty great article on it here, that basically outlines the pros and cons, in general terms, or at least what we suppose. I think that’s the majority of it, right there, but like any experience, my treatment of such a thing is subjective, and thus worth me indulging myself for a day’s worth of writing. So there.

The basic principle being, procrastination is an internal Grolsch guy holding up a hand and going ‘Stop, it’s not ready yet’. At least partly. It’s your brain kicking in and saying ‘I’d like a little more time with this idea, I want to mull it over, let it ferment on my tongue, see if anything interesting pops up’. And, being a freelancer at the moment, I’m only as good as my ideas, for the most part. I can only pitch so many reviews, after all, so when an idea for an article that isn’t just a passing fancy I can lob up on here comes along, I need to let it mature properly before I commit it to page, at risk of it all falling apart in a sea of waffly half baked concepts and pitiful arguments. And, for the most part, that’s how I like to see procrastination. Because if I saw it as an enemy, I’d be on a fast track to self-loathing, because I’d say a good 60% of my time is taken up with the activity, if you can call it such.

My saving grace is that, when I write, I write fast. All I need is a little time with the basic sprout of an idea, and when I finally get around to writing about it, I just need to make sure to get out of the way of myself, let my fingers and my brain become some sort of detached being that I have little involvement with, and just hammer out whatever it is I want to do. I might, at the most, think up a nice intro, but that’s about all I’ve got for high concept cleverness. Unless, of course, I’m setting about to do some high concept cleverness. I’ve yet to see it truly pay off, however. In time, in time.

The flipside is two-fold. Firstly, there’s the fact that I spend far too much time not working. Messing around online just bored, when I know full well that I’ve got multiple article ideas that I can put together with a little effort, ready to be done and shipped off to prospective buyers in less than an hour. It’s infuriating, and the more I think about it, the more frustrating it becomes. It’s partly why writing this daily has been so useful to me; it’s proved that with the right rigorous self-restrictive scheduling, I can get a hell of a lot done, it’s just whether I can bring myself around to doing it. Give me a deadline and I’ll definitely meet it, but when I’m required to be the pro-active one, suddenly that discipline saunters out of the window to spend a day in the sun.

The other thing is that sometimes, those ideas don’t ferment, but sour and turn to vinegar before I can do what I want with them. They fester, sitting in my list of ideas like the one moldy fruit in the basket, threatening to fuck my shit up if I don’t fix them pronto. But the incentive to cultivate them into something more is disappearing fast, and the longer I leave it, the worse it gets. My little to do list on my Google Desktop has had one article idea on it for about five months, constantly bumped lower and lower as I add new things to it. I’m sure I’ll get around to it someday, but somehow it already feels like a failure, despite being nothing but a five word task.

But maybe that’s all part of the process. Maybe it reall is a bad idea, and leaving it for a few days/weeks/months was the best thing to do, letting me slip out of the moment of its conception to realise that yeah, I don’t really want this baby after all. Maybe I should abort the ideas that don’t stand the test of idleness, that my brain can’t file away and grow something proper and impressive from.

It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it, procrastination? Irrational, yet eminently useful, despite us not really knowing what it’s for or what it does. But we deal in vagueities, uncertainties, because if everything was concrete then we’d only have use for the scientists.

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About Phill Cameron

I've graduated, had a look at the world, and spat. Now I'm devoting my time to moving from 3/4 of a games journalist to 9/10ths. I figure I can get away with 9/10ths.
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