A Procrastinator’s Tale
I am, if nothing else, a very thorough procrastinator.
Take this blog post. When the always impressive Marsha Q first gave me the deadline of June 2nd, I assured her that, since my daughter was due to be born on May 27th, she would be receiving my post many weeks before that time, because in addition to being a procrastinator, I am also an idealist.
Time passed, as it tends to do, and I found myself thinking about this blog post as a thing I should do, which really is a delightful feeling to have. I love having things that I should do, because it makes me feel important. I love the feeling so much, that I tend not to do a great many things I should do, because then I will continue to should be doing them.
Of course, like all states of conflated ego, there’s a moment where the importance turns to shame. It’s no longer a thing I should do, but a thing I should have done by now. That is when a special kind of reasoning kicks in.
“I’ll just do it after my child is born.” I thought with no sense of irony. After all, I had a whole five day window between my daughter’s entrance into the world and this post’s due date. Not only did I earnestly believe this to be a completely rational plan, I romanticized it a little bit. I pictured myself in the hospital recovery room, sitting next to my sleeping wife with my brand new baby daughter in a bassinet at the foot of our bed, my laptop open on my lap. I’d write about how all my life I wrote books for children without having a child of my own. How everything would be different. How my worldview had been transformed. There wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house.
Not only was this a stupid plan, it turned out to be an impossible one. It turns out my daughter is just as much a procrastinator as I am, and at the time of this writing (June 2nd), has yet to make an appearance.
Procrastination is nothing foreign to the writer. We have all these fantastic stories in our heads, and the only obstacle to sharing them with the world is the hours and hours sitting at a desk translating the language of your brain into something other people can understand.
I can have, in my head, the greatest story in the world, but it means nothing if I don’t put in the work translating. It’s this work that separates the career writers from the hobbyists, and without trying to pander or flatter, I can honestly say the value of work is a lesson that I learned at Hamline.
One thing I’m sure other alumni can attest to is how easy it is, outside of the strictures of Hamline, to procrastinate. To fall out of the habit of writing. No more deadlines, no brilliant teacher eagerly awaiting your work. It’s just you, the page, and a cruel uncaring world.
So, how do you continue to write under those circumstances? How do you avoid procrastination?
It’s a question I don’t have an answer to. I still procrastinate on a lot of things in my life. I don’t cash checks in a timely manner. I’m always late to bed, and often late to rise.
But I’m proud to announce that I still write. I’ve completed five additional drafts of my novel since leaving Hamline, and this next draft will most likely be my last before I seek an agent. While I still struggle with procrastination, I still write, and I know exactly why.
I write because I have to. I write because I have a burning passion to write. Even when it’s tedious. Even when I’d rather put it off.
Because some things are worth forcing yourself to do.
Andrew Steeves is a 2013 graduate of the MFAC program. He lives in Wisconsin.