There’s a project on my desk that I need to finish. It’s a good project. In fact, I think it might even be a great project, but after doing a couple weeks of work on it, I tucked it into a file on my computer and I haven’t touched it since. What's odd about that is that I'm really excited about it. So excited that I can’t seem to return to it. This has led me to thinking about the subject of procrastination. In fact, I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about on this subject for some time, but I keep putting it off. Ironic, no?
On my worst days, I can really beat myself up pretty viciously about this flaw in my character. I ask myself why I’m such a self-defeating wretch and have even been known to call myself mean names like “loser” and “coward.” After all, people who stall don't wind up with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, now do they? But then, I have to pay attention to the fact that many of the most successful projects I’ve ever been involved with were the ones I put off until the last possible second.
Wondering if maybe there was a little method to my madness, I decided to go online and see what some of the great minds have had to say on the subject of procrastination…
“Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” -- Robert Benchley. This really spoke to me since the other day I managed to get an amazing amount of trivial bullshit done, while thinking about all the writing I needed to be doing. The “odds-and-ends” excuse always works amazingly well for me and I’d like to highly recommend it to anyone seeking to avoid important work that might actually further your goals. You see I would have worked on my script, had I not needed to check my Twitter account, return a few emails, call my agents, read the paper and do every piece of laundry in my house. Whew! Now that that’s out of the way, I can start writing… First thing tomorrow!
“We shall never have more time. We have, and always had, all the time there is.” This comes from Arnold Bennett, British novelist, playwright, critic, and essayist. Leave it to the British to come up with such a pithy way of shattering my favorite illusion -- That there is (and always will be) plenty of time. As anyone past the age of forty can tell you, time has an odd way of speeding up the longer you live. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not an unlimited resource and the big surprise is that if you’re going to spend it well, you better spend it wisely. In the words of self-help guru, M. Scott Peck: "Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it."
“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” – Jerome K. Jerome. Although I’m a little suspicious of anybody with the same first and last name, I did like this one. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy writing. But sometimes I like to tell myself that “thinking” about writing is an essential part of the process (which it isn’t). Only writing is writing.
Occasionally I justify stall tactics by assuring myself that at least the project is half-done, so that means I’m “working” on it. After all, it’s a great idea! So great that it will almost certainly finish itself. Unfortunately, the American humorist Will Rogers disagrees: "Even if you're on the right track - you'll get run over if you just sit there." But then there’s the issue of uncertainty. Can’t it wait until I have a clear vision of where I want to go with it? Not according to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: "You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."
I was already feeling the noose tightening around my neck, when these last two quotes really did it for me. The first is an old proverb: "If and When were planted, and Nothing grew." Coming from a semi-agricultural background, that one sort of hit home. And finally this (from author Denis Waitley) which made me realize that everybody who tries to create something probably feels the same pressure: “Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy and carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the “someday I’ll” philosophy.”
So friends, as much as I’d like to keep finding worthy reasons to fart around, I actually do need to get back to work now. Well, maybe not right now. But after lunch for sure.
Copyright 2010 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at http://www.partsandlabor.tv/
Shameless self-promotion: http://daviddeanbottrell.blogspot.com/2010/04/thank-you-los-angeles-times.html