The Joys of Procrastination

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When I started this blog, I thought I would use it the way Annie Lamott might. In case you’re unfamiliar with Annie Lamott, she is a very good and successful writer (based up in Marin County, California, where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a writer) who wrote the single funniest and most encouraging book about the process of writing I have ever read. “Bird by Bird” is one of those books every writer should have on his desk at all times so that instead of throwing the computer out the window and possibly injuring someone on the street, or committing ritual seppuku in front of your wife and children, or becoming an orthodontist, you can pick up “Bird by Bird” and be reassured and encouraged and inspired. And maybe even laugh a little.

Annie Lamott’s advice is to write something, anything, some specific minimum number of words (previously agreed upon by the ambitious, motivated, and optimistic You and the current You with writer’s block clinging desperately to the bottle of Wild Turkey) every single day, no matter what. The idea is that the process of writing anything encourages the creative process that will later churn out that PEN/Faulkner-nominated novel that will be turned into a dreadful movie and make your name a household word.

The theory is great, and probably has some real validity to it, but right now I’m just using it for purposes of procrastination.

Writing a novel is akin to a very small bug crawling up a long flight of stairs. You have the idea and set to work and skip happily along until you reach the first riser. Then the work begins. With enough motivation (“Bird by Bird,” Wild Turkey, the collection agency beating on the door, whatever) you struggle up the first riser and then skip happily along the first step until…. You get the picture. But somewhere on this Himalayan trek you confront a riser that makes the north face of K2 look like the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, and you begin to think how you really should wash the windows, and the car hasn’t been waxed since you bought it, and maybe you should get a jump start on your tax returns, and…and…. You can write a blog!

I’m at a point in my latest book where I know what I need to do, I know what I want to do, I know what I must do. I’m just resisting diving back into the cold black water of words lapping ominously at my ankles.

In the interest of furthering my procrastination, tell me, oh, please tell me, what do you do to put off the job at hand. Brush the dog? Trim the cat’s nails? Conduct human sacrifices in the basement? Pursue a career in aluminum siding?

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