Yes, it is January 3rd and I’m writing a New Year’s post. Such is the life of a procrastinator.
Today is the last day of my 5-day vacation. My kitchen is still full of the clutter I intended to clear two days ago, the writing that I did over the past few days improved a book I’m pretty sure I’m going to ditch (instead of the book I should actually be working on), and I’m sitting here in my jammies at 11:00 a.m. I think I am uniquely qualified to write this particular blog post.
In my defense — and notwithstanding the fact that I missed the New Year by a couple of days on this one — I will say that I rarely miss deadlines. I do, however, spend a portion of every day stressing over the fact that I am not writing. I could easily alleviate my suffering by, um, writing. And yet I dread the task so much that I would rather feel guilty and depressed than write. Writers call this lamentable state of affairs “block.” (Non-writers, I am told, call it “nuts.”)
I received a book for Christmas that made me feel ever so much better: THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield. Evidently the sinking sensation I experience whenever I contemplate sitting down at my keyboard to write is not only common, it’s well-nigh universal. He says anyone who ever bought a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic is up against the same thing: resistance. Resistance rises up to thwart us whenever we attempt to do something really worthwhile. Alcoholics fall off the wagon, dieters gain the weight back, and writers stop writing — all encountering much the same thing: a mysterious force of negative energy that fills our souls with reluctance and our brains with excuses.
So is writers’ block (and all the rest of it) really a matter of insufficient willpower? Is it sloth, one of the Seven Deadly Sins? Are we under attack by evil spirits? Or what? Why can’t people DO the things they want so badly to do? Why will most of those New Year’s Resolutions people made a couple of days ago be just a bad joke in another few weeks, if they aren’t already?
While you are contemplating all the excellent things you planned to do and somehow never did, here’s a tip from my playbook: Procrastinate. Put off your New Year’s Resolution(s) until everybody else has already made theirs. By the time you take your personal bull by the horns, everyone else will have left the field. You can resolve in private and fail in private, skipping the humiliation. Because nobody is going to ask you: “Hey, what’s your Lincoln’s Birthday resolution?” And, later: “So, did you KEEP your Lincoln’s Birthday resolution?”