“I am at my most creative, my most prolific, my most full of wonderfulness when there isn’t any time left to screw around. When it has to be done, I get it done. And more often than not, I get it done well.”
Today I was going to talk about procrastination, but I figured that could wait.*
All seriousness aside, procrastination is a worthwhile topic for writers to think about…eventually.** How many of us put off writing because the ink’s low in the printer? Or the kitten’s stuck in the printer? Or you have to purchase a new printer? Around my house, the Procrastination List of Topics is long and varied, but I’m here to let you in a little secret:
That’s not entirely bad.
Some of my best work has been created in the proverbial (and literal) Last Minute. Nothing transforms a Walter White of an idea into a Heisenberg of creative output faster than when there’s absolutely no other option besides getting it done. Deadlines are a wonderful thing. And I know them intimately because I don’t bother embracing them until they’re right in my face.
I recall my freshmen year in college. I was a newly scrubbed high school graduate, ready to take on the world with energy, passion, and hair. We had an assignment in Freshman English to write an essay about an embarrassing moment. Being the action postponer I had grown up to be, I dove right in to not doing it.
Not that I didn’t *think* about it, and that’s crucial to the Master Put-Offer-Of-Things. You must plop the main idea into the brain oven and let it simmer. Consider possible topics, themes, ideas, turns of phrase…BUT DON’T WRITE ANY OF THEM DOWN! That’s called Working On It, which will get you kicked out of the Procrastination Club, as soon as we feel like looking up the bylaws.
Eventually, I settled on the horrifyingly stupid and humiliating story of me hauling an automatic transmission around downtown Duluth in the back of my car, getting a flat tire, then not being able to jack up my car because of the weight of the 800-pound greasy piece of scrap metal lodged in my backseat. Oh, and I was on a first date at the time. (Yes, smarty pants, I did get a second date, which proves that sweat is charming to some people.)
Now it came time to put off the writing of the assignment.
I should point out that in high school, I had a mother who always checked on my homework. What was the assignment? When was it due? WHY AREN’T YOU WORKING ON IT RIGHT NOW? Through the prism of time, it’s easy to see that Mom’s nagging was essential for my high school success. But then I graduated, moved out of the house, and Procrastination said “Hey, college man. Let’s grab some lukewarm PBR and hang.”
So when did I finally compose this particular English essay? The hour before it was due. In the student lounge. Written out in longhand in my notebook. With minutes to spare, I set my still-smoking essay free from the spiral prison, neatly clipped all the jagged paper edges off, slapped my name on it and handed it in.
Ladies and gentlemen, not only did I get an A, the teacher read it out loud to the entire class as an example of how a personal essay should be written. Yes, I WAS REWARDED FOR MY DRAGGING FEET! The dye was set. The concrete poured. My destiny fulfilled. That day, I learned that I am at my most creative, my most prolific, my most full of wonderfulness when there isn’t any time left to screw around. When it has to be done, I get it done. And more often than not, I get it done well.
So embrace your inner Goof Off Guy/Gal/Gang. See if it works for you to put something creative off until the last possible second. When there’s no time left for second-guessing yourself, you might just achieve some incredible writing. Get out of your own way and shine.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another essay due in twenty minutes. Better get crackin’.***
*Comedy professional. Do not attempt at home.
**Again, comedy professional. Please stop trying to put this into your writing. You’re only hurting yourself.
***It’s called the Comedy Rule of Three. Look it up.
Brian Matuszak is a local writer/actor/director/producer, co-founder of Rubber Chicken Theater, and has been practicing the fine art of procrastination since birth. In fact, he didn’t finish this bio until you started reading it.