I am almost always on time, and very often early. I tend to be one of Those People who, when faced with a deadline, will map out a calendar — working backwards from the deadline — and determine exactly what needs to be done, when and how. I was one of Those People who, when in school, would read through the entire syllabus on the first day of class and have a pretty decent sense of how to map out the fifteen-week course, day to day, and week to week.
So, although not in any way an “anal” person (as anyone who has set foot in either my house or my car can verify), it is not generally in my nature to procrastinate. Except when it comes to writing. Because — following from from the “writing-as-torture” paradigm I set forth in yesterday’s blog, it generally strikes me as always a great idea to procrastinate on writing, and I believe I have come up with some interesting and creative ways in which to procrastinate while [mostly] fooling yourself into believing that you are actually working very hard on your writing.
First among these clever strategies is — research. What a wonderful thing the internet is; I mean, we’re all on it right now, right?
Trust me: there are always an infinitude of subjects you can find that absolutely must be researched before you can possibly go one step further with putting words onto page. For instance, right now I am working on my 3rd novel, which is narrated by a 100-year-old character. The character was born in 1913, exactly one hundred years old right now. Well, needless to say, I needed massive amounts of factoids and tidbits of information about all of the interesting things that happened in 1913 — who was born, who died, etc., etc. I mean, you can’t be a slacker here — this is research! You simply must take the time to do this carefully and thoroughly, which is bound to take many hours, possibly many days. And of course you must make sure that you do your [extensive] research in one of the places where you know you do your best work and are able to achieve your best concentration. For me, this is generally in one of my favorite local coffee houses. And — very important to remember here — if you find yourself at aforementioned coffee house eavesdropping on all of the myriad conversations around you, remind yourself that this is NOT procrastination! This is likely to be critical research which could spark an idea that is seminal to your writing. Perhaps years from now, but hey, research does not come with absolute guarantees.
Here is how a whole bunch of data collection got condensed down to one paragraph. Albeit a long paragraph. Obviously, more research is needed…
“The year that I came into this world was nineteen hundred and thirteen. That’s right: one thousand nine hundred and thirteen. It was a year not so unlike any other, I suppose, people getting fired up and killing each other all around the globe. There was some things that came down the pike just then that do still tickle me to this very day. For instance, somebody got the notion to put the first-ever prize in a Cracker Jack box. It was the first time somebody ever jumped right on out of a traveling airplane using this thing called a parachute. A Frenchman, of course, cause who in the world could possibly have the arrogant bastard confidence and the blind crazy stupidity to jump out of an airplane but a Frenchman. Also, the very first crossword puzzle ever seen got printed up in some New York paper. And guess what. That statue of The Little Mermaid that’s way over there in Denmark got finished and put out there on its rock; and if you don’t think it’s a nutty world then I guess you ain’t heard about that statue’s head getting cut off back there in the 1960’s, and then put back on and cut off again, and then the right arm, too. They finally had to move it out farther into the water, so you can’t hardly see it no more just so it wouldn’t get any more beat up than it already did.
Lots of folks got born of course same year as I did, including the likes of Richard Milhaus Nixon, Rosa Parks, the greatest coach who ever lived Woody Hayes, and Jimmy Hoffa.”