"Why I am a procrastinator." By Cecily's friend. And P.S. It took me a year to write this.
A year ago I wrote this post entitled Practical Tips To Stop Procrastinating. It triggered an email conversation with Sarah, a gorgeous early childhood friend of mine about the topic. At school she was always a better writer than me. She'd get an A and I'd get an A-. You may imagine that I was suitably impressed (read: extremely jealous) by this and always imagined she'd have a (excellent) novel written by 25. I asked her what happened. Our emails ceased, and amusingly and perhaps ironically, a whole year later she came back with this.
I am a Procrastinator. This is something I admitted recently when challenged by my incredibly focused, mother-of-four, published writer and friend, Cecily. Being Cecily, she messaged back without skipping a beat: Why didn’t I try building a story around those procrastinations?
Aahh, clever girl. She gets me every time, always did! (Our friendship dates back to the age of 6 where we were quickly bonded by a shared love of drawing, writing and developing Jane-Austen-meets-Little-House-on-the-Prairie fantasy worlds in our strangely parallel universe as daughters of missionaries in Pakistan).
Procrastinators such as myself will of course tell you lots of things about the art of procrastinating. It is one of the most self-sustaining arts of all. One of the things we can tell you is that there is a hierarchy of excuses. There are the excuses at the top of the head and there are the excuses buried in the heart, and many levels of excuses in between. So I shall begin with the top.
Nearest the top is the reason of pure economics. The fact that I am a squeezed middle class statistic – SMCS, living in Recession Britain. I am fully aware that this problem is not unique to me – the catch-22 of having the time/energy, but not the money or the money but not the time/energy. If you are from a SMCP background, it is unlikely that you have either the courage or the privilege to take a leap in the dark and follow your writing dream for as long as it takes until you are successful enough to get paid.
Instead, you fall on a compromise and promise yourself that when you start your full time job you will somehow find a way to put aside a few hours every week to write your book – a Tuesday evening, a Saturday morning, a Sunday evening. Only to find that when you do get the conventional, long awaited job and the debts start to subside, somehow the will, the focus to put aside that time, dissolves into the ether of suburban life.Or if you manage to stick to your guns, then, well, the creative energy seems ten times harder to dredge up. This is especially the case where if, as many women do, you find yourself in a ‘caring’ profession, (e.g. education, healthcare or community work). As I discovered, my job proved to be a diversion of creative skills as well as energy. While the creative elements of these jobs gave me job satisfaction, they did not leave much to play with at the end of a day. In my case I would come to Tuesday evening, and all I would really want to do (actualy, all I was actually mentally equipped to do) was flop in front of a terrible sitcom with a pot noodle.
Or there was Saturday morning, where I would actually depend on that lie-in in order to be able to get myself up and repeat the whole ‘real work cycle’ on Monday morning. And then if I felt recovered by Sunday enough to answer the phone, this would lead to a long-overdue phone call with my Mum who hadn't seen me for a month, or my friend who was worried about her dying dog. And rightly so.
This isn’t to mention the DIY tasks that pile up in a SMCP’s life, because we cannot afford to employ someone to do the job properly. Several IKEA flat pack disasters later (which in some cases result in the destruction of our love life) we eventually fork out for a ‘vocationally skilled person’ (VSP) to do the job for us. This can also be a disaster, particularly for a Arty type SMCP because, not being very versed in the technical language of said house maintenance task, be it the inner workings of boiler, or the mind-boggling mystery of how electricity travels from the light switch to bulb – we are very susceptible to being taken in by a Cowboy VSP.
Especially if said Cowboy resembles Clint Eastwood.
But, here I am, a hater of stereotypes, painting myself into my own caricature.
Artistic types do have personality variations. I am not arty-farty, airy-fairy or dizzy-lizzy enough to ever be blase about falling into debt. I have an abject fear of it. It consumes me in much the same way that I suspect I should be being consumed by the desire to write, if I am ever to become the next Zadie Smith, or Arundhati Roy (Please Note – referencing of ROLE MODEL writers).
But all of the fear of debt really ties in with the next procrastination on my list – the one about my parents’ unusual (depending on the diversity of audience here) choice of vocation.
And I suspect that, by the time I get around to writing that one, you will have sourced and phoned my family and got the story yourself, which may well prove to be a more succinct and interesting version. Or ask Cecily herself. I'm sure she'll tell you about it. So we could just leave it that. Please, Cecily….