Never put off …

newspaper boat by Zarko DrincicACCORDING to one of my more forceful teachers, we should never put off until tomorrow what can be done today. Being a bit of a goody-two-shoes, and in awe of my teachers, I assumed he knew what he was talking about.

Turns out this particular cliché was wrong.

In fact, because of that particular teacher’s insistence, I’ve only just realised the reason for the eureka! moment I had a couple of decades ago. I’d battled for days to write a (commissioned) rap song, finally giving up on it in despair until one day in the bath the verses, unbidden and without warning, leapt into my head in almost perfect order. I remember jumping out to quickly scribble them down.

It’s been the same with most of my undertakings, now I come to think of it, although I’m not usually in the bath when the solution strikes. Just as well, or I’d be permanently soggy. Entertaining would be a bit of a problem, too!

I’m talking about procrastination, of course. I’ve always been a bit ashamed of mine, half-fearing it’s mere laziness in disguise. The odd thing is that this perverse state of mind isn’t reserved only for rotten chores like cleaning the bathroom or catching up on the filing – I even put off doing things I really enjoy. Painting a picture becomes a marathon – never mind coming up with the subject matter, I need a week at least just to gather together the paints and brushes. As for the mosaic table I started longer ago than I care to remember, it’s been stalled at the very last touch – Che Guevara’s chin – for six months or more.

But these dizzy-making delays, it turns out, aren’t a bad thing at all and I happened on this ground-breaking discovery quite by chance. I was reading the review of a motivational book – Breakthrough! 90 Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination, apparent wisdom from a bunch of creative types, collected and strung together by San Francisco-based designer and musician Alex Cornell.

It’s a wonder I read it – the title alone is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies. In bookshops I scurry, head down, past shelves of the genre, which I consider mostly to be the refuge of the down-and-desperate.

What drew my attention this time, and made me read on, was the reproduction of a handwritten list by unknown-to-me “creative polymath” Debbie Millman. As my eyes scrolled through the painfully predictable – 1. Sleep, blah, blah; 2. Read as much as you can, blah, blah, 3. Colour code your library (!); 4. More SLEEP (her capitals – see, she’s already scraping her barren barrel) – they landed on number 5, my eureka moment: “Force yourself to procrastinate. Works every time!”

The guilty feelings of all those years fell away.

I suddenly realised that what I’ve been doing isn’t ducking and diving at all.

It shouldn’t even be called procrastination, I reckon. It’s gestation. An instinctive, valid and necessary step towards creative success.

No longer will I guiltily blush when the beloved looks at me askance as I wander into the kitchen to make my fifth cup of coffee despite a deadline breathing down my neck. I’ll just enjoy the rush of knowing (groundwork thoroughly done, of course, and fingers admittedly crossed) that everything will finally fall into place. – Stevie Godson

 (A version of this column was first published in the Daily Dispatch. Picture: Newspaper Boat by Zarko Drincic)

This entry was posted by stevieg on Monday, July 15th, 2013 at 9:38 pm and is filed under General . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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