I’ve never denied being a bit of a procrastinator. It drives overly anal and organized people like my dear husband crazy, but honestly, I can’t help it any more than I can help the fact that my eyes are grayish-greenish-blue or that I sometimes walk and talk in my sleep. Somehow, it’s hard-coded in my DNA. So, instead of trying to fight it, I have embraced this very laidback, relaxed pace and found that, if I just go with it and find my own groove, I can usually cross the finish line right on or even ahead of schedule with some pretty outstanding results.
Case in point, my poetry explication paper for Dr. Nakhai’s English 102 class my 2nd semester of college. Poetry has never been one of my favorites. I appreciate it, and even have a list of favorite poets whose works I can recite from memory, but on a whole, poetry is definitely in the bottom half of my list of favorite things to read and analyze. So, when the class was given an assignment to choose a poem or a poet to analyze and write a 5-page paper, I waited until the last minute, partly out of some sense of rebellion, and party because I had no idea what I wanted to write about.
I chose my poem immediately–The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats–but instead of getting started on my essay right away like the rest of my classmates, I waited until the night before, and then sat down around midnight to write my first draft.
You might call me stupid, or arrogant, or even believe I must have some sort of death wish, because if you’ve ever met Dr. Nakhai or had her butcher one of your essays with her green pen, you know that sitting down to write a paper just a few short hours before class is like purposely dressing up in Lady Gaga’s famous meat dress and throwing yourself into a cage with a pack of ravenous wolves. Sadly, some students never even make it through the Add/Drop period. Their loss, I say, because it’s hard to improve yourself and get better at anything without taking some criticism along the way. Sure it can hurt, and it can bruise your mighty ego, but if you accept it and learn from it, you can make sure that you never make the same mistake again.
The thing about my procrastination though, is that it is not really procrastination. To the untrained eye, it may look like I’m putting something off, like I’m pushing it to the side and ignoring it or even forgetting about it. Instead, what you see as my apparently loafing or dilly-dallying is actually a very finely tuned method of brainstorming or prewriting. I’m working, even when it looks like I’m doing anything but working.
See, I’m a girl who needs to let things marinate. I’m a girl who likes to think, who likes to observe, who likes to sit back and watch the ideas form and come together. Pictures and phrases build in my mind, and I begin to see the shape piece I am going to sit down and write. Like a movie, it plays in my head in flashes of movement and words and sound. Instead of getting an assignment and sitting down immediately and trying to force words out of my empty mind, I wait until the strange brew has had ample time to simmer and cook, and just when it is all ready to boil over, I grab my pen and let the words flow as if my hand is nothing more than the vessel needed to transport them from my mind to the paper. And instead of sweating and fretting and tearing my hair out to finish, I simply release my ideas and let them spill onto the page. And when the process is that painless and organic, the results often speak for themselves.
That little poetry paper? I got an A+ on the rough draft, and Dr. Nakhai doesn’t give A+’s.
And yet, there is a fine line between actively marinating my writing projects and downright avoiding them. And right now, I have to admit, I’ve been avoiding my Nanowrimo novel.
Six days into the challenge, and I’ve barely even begun.
Perhaps it was a little overzealous to even take on the challenge this year. Between photo sessions, building my photography website, keeping up with this 365 Project challenge, chasing my crazy 22-month-old around all day, trying to close on a house this month, spending time with my husband, finishing up writing projects for clients, cooking meals, cleaning house (or, at least keeping it from becoming a biohazard), and the million and one other random things that pop up and distract me during the day, there is just not a whole lot of time left over to devote to the challenge.
Yet, I haven’t given up because, like all of my other writing, the idea for this Nanowrimo novel is in there, swirling around, gathering strength and momentum, and slowly, slowly taking shape. Right now, I’ve got a few pages, a rough outline, some notes scattered here and there, and for someone like me, that just might be enough. I’ve just got to let it simmer a little longer.
So tell me are you more of a sit-down-and-get-it-done-right-away kind of person, or a procrastinator like me? Does your method generally work? Or has it ever backfired?