A Procrastinator's Guide to Writing
by Lindsey Barrett
faced with a revision due your publisher or a writing assignment
that you dread (either because it requires more concentrated brain
power than you can currently muster, or because the deadline looming
is unreasonable in light of your mounting stack of To-Dos), do you
generally get right down to the task with a cheery, "Well, there is
no time like the present!"? If so, this article is not for you.
If, on the other hand, merely thinking about the dreaded task
causes your brain to freeze up like my old clutchless Volkswagen
stuck midway between first and reverse, read on.
Here are five tips to help you become a master: first, you
absolutely must prioritize. Your first priority will always be to
go get another cup of coffee. Not only does this provide brain food
(caffeine), but as a bonus it consumes quite a bit of time. Make
sure to run to the corner store for fresh cream (particularly
effective if you take your coffee black), and announce your
thoughtful gesture to your cream-loving spouse upon your return, so
that he or she will know that you were thinking of them, not wasting
time. Of course, this coffee-fetching itself can be developed into
an art form.
Develop a taste for double tall, nonfat, two packets of Equal,
extra- chocolate and whipped cream mochas. Not only does that
consume a greater amount of time since you have to venture forth
upon the mean streets for your caffeine fix, but the nonfat milk and
Equal cancel out the calories in the chocolate and whipped cream.
But I digress.
Which leads me to number two: digress. Absolutely refuse to keep
the task at hand in mind for more than a few seconds at a time.
Instead, think about what you will make for dinner. Then mentally
review the contents of your pantry to see if you have the necessary
ingredients, which will inevitably lead to the need to make a
grocery list, which will remind you that you need to purchase Q-tips
to deal with your dreadful ear wax situation. It's so bad that you
really need to go to the doctor to have your ears
flushed. So, of course, you need to make an appointment right now
while you're thinking about it. While you're checking your calendar
you will realize that you haven't confirmed lunch with your sister,
who has a real job.
brings us to number three: phone calls. No matter how remiss you
have been at returning phone calls, letting your voice mail messages
mount up, now is the perfect time to mend your evil ways. Call
everyone you've been ignoring, and, when you're through with them,
call everyone you've been avoiding. Yes, I mean even your Uncle
Bob's second cousin who is trying to sell you life insurance. After
he has you on the phone for what seems like an eternity, look up at
the clock and realize oh-my-gaw, your assignment must be FedExed
today and you've hardly started it yet.
After rushing Bob-Cousin off the phone with a hearty—and unexpected,
in light of the lengthy pitch you've allowed—"Thanks, I'll think
about it," turn back to your computer, your partially-completed
assignment, and tip number four: As you begin your
completion/revision, pay particular attention to the ghost-like new
email apparitions that float up from the bottom right corner of your
screen. Click on each and every one as they appear and read
carefully, for it certainly is possible you are the one
trustworthy person the wealthy Nigerian prince-in-exile can count on
to recover his funds for which you will be paid a handsome reward,
and surely someone has invented an effective device for
increasing girth or length—no, no—for decreasing hip and
thigh, and heaven knows what will happen if you don't forward the
message of love and abundance to at least seven acquaintances,
including your sister, Uncle Bob and his cousin, and let's see—dear
me, look at the time.
My deadline is up and I'm not finished with this yet. Guess four
tips will get you started—gotta dash!
Lindsey Barrett is
currently a student in the MFA program at Vermont College and has
completed the two-year fiction program at the University of
Washington. Her work has appeared in publications as diverse as
Cosmopolitan and Spindrift Art & Literary Journal.