You know what is my good buddy? Procrastination!
Procrastination is not really my good buddy. Mostly it is a terrible buddy. As I’ve written before, I am an anxious writer, and the best way to avoid that anxiety is to procrastinate. Of course that’s an awful solution, because delay makes me anxious, too. And when you in the fact that I am a slow, slow writer (for non-cheerful things, that is; cheerful ones cook along much more quickly. Imagine that!), it makes for a perfect stew of self-recrimination. Especially during this month of Nanithingyboo (a wonderful thing! I applaud and salute you all!), during which it seems like all of my friends are writing THOUSANDS of words a day. Thousands! You all, I am lucky if I get in the hundreds, for Pete’s sake. Sometimes I try to comfort myself by remembering that part in Annie Dillard’s memoir where she says she might take all day to write a sentence, but then I remember I am no Annie Dillard and maybe ought to get on the stick a little. At any rate, I am kind of the worst, is the point.
But there is one way in which procrastination has served me well. There is a novel I’ve had in mind for years now. It’s tough and complex in every way, and every time I try to work on it, I wind up thinking of all the other ideas I have for books and wishing I could work on them instead. Indeed, I sit down to work on That Book and characters for new books flop about in my brain like tempting fish. And it seems like the worst thing in the world to be trying to write a novel so far beyond my skill set when I could be working on writing down the stories of these fish-flopping people. And then I think, you know what? I hate this stupid hard book! I hate it. Writing is hard enough without hating it! And I just refuse, that’s all. I just won’t. I am going to daydream about these other characters instead.
And then I do. In fact, I have invented six whole books I want to write while avoiding the writing of That Book.
And you know what? It really works! That procrastination has made me very productive. No, no, not in ultimately writing That Book—I still haven’t done that yet. Don’t be ridiculous. But I have written two of books I dreamed up in order to put off writing That Book. Two! I am beginning to think I can have quite a career Not Writing That Book. Why does it work? Maybe because I feel like I am getting out of something, even though the books I’ve written have been plenty hard to write, too. Or maybe it gives my brain something to rail against, functioning much like the college snack bar did for me way back. I did all my work there because blocking out its wall of talk and noise took the edge of my mind chatter and allowed me to focus. Or maybe I am just cussed. At any rate, it works. It keeps me in a state of ideas-having for all those books, all the time, so I feel very ready to write them when I do finally sit down to write. You know, after I decide yet again that I’m not writing That Book and no one can make me.
In fact, I’m working on a book as we speak. No, no, silly—of course not That Book. But since I still don’t know enough to write That Book, it is fine by me to put it off some more. Because it turns out the answer to “Where Do I Get My Ideas?” is “By Procrastinating the Writing of That Book”. Although I am starting to think that the only way it will get written is from beyond the grave, through the willing arm of an automatic writer. Hmm.
How about you? Any other slow, rail-against-things writers out there? Better yet, any reformed ones who have tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!