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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Paying bills (and other methods of PROCRASTINATION)

Last month, I walked into my husband’s home office for the fourth time in six hours and sweetly asked, “Hey Chris—did you get to the electric bill yet?” (Certain bills are in his name and the stupid companies won’t let me pay them for some reason). His thinly veiled scowl told me the answer even before he opened his mouth. “I’m getting to it,” he said.

WHAT I WAS THINKING: “Gee, but the thing is, you’re actually not ‘getting to it’ at all. I told you that if it didn’t get done last week (when you said you would do it), there would be a penalty. Now there’s a penalty, and you said you would get it done first thing this morning because I told them it we would call by noon at the latest. Then you got wrapped up in reading Philly stats and forgot. Then you forgot again. And again. Which is not incredibly bad in itself; just don’t say, “I’m going to do it next,” and then forget. That’s rude and makes you look like an idiot whose wife has to tell him to pay the bills that are in his name. Sack up, be a man, and quit making me do manly things like pick up the damn dog poop, mow the lawn, and pay the bills. (I know, I know—my head voice isn’t exactly a feminist these days)

WHAT I SAID: “Okay, thanks.”

Only weeks after the semi-monthly incident did I realize that it was, gulp, ME that was being a procrastinator. What the hell did I care? Sure, there would be monetary punishments, but that would just mean that Chris wouldn’t be able to play golf that month—big deal. The truth was, I was deliberately annoying him because it was something to do other than get my word quota in for the day.

There are some days where it seems like I will do ANYTHING besides face a plot gap in my current manuscript. I do the dishes and laundry, or I weed the garden. I throw out anything suspicious in the refrigerator, take the smelly garbage to the bear-proof contraption on the curb, plan a nice dinner, scratch the plan for dinner because we’re going to lose money on a bill and need to go cheap, plan a cheap dinner, make cheesy menu for dinner that includes “love and kisses” on the a la carte section so that my husband will forgive me for being a nag once a month, and read blogs.

One morning, when the baby was taken a morning nap and Chris was working in the city, I decided to fix our leaky bathtub faucet to avoid writing—my characters were offering me nothing to write about—it wasn’t MY fault. Anyway, after spending fifteen minutes online researching home repairs, I went down to the crawl space under the house to turn off the water so I could fiddle with the faucet. The crawl space light was on, which seemed weird. Then I heard a strange scuffling and saw a long thin shadow of a wire or something move across the floor. I froze. Then the shadow moved again, without the noise. I totally freaked out and thought somebody was down there! This was largely due to the fact that the previous night we had come home and the back door was unlocked when I was positive I had locked it. Anyway, I dropped the lid to the crawl space after loudly saying, “CHRIS, I THINK I’LL JUST FIX THE FAUCET TOMORROW,” and went over to the neighbor’s with the baby and called the local cops, who have nothing better to do than check out stuff like that. He cruised up twenty minutes later, and checked it out. Turns out there was a “decent-sized animal” who had taken up residence down there; the cop saw the droppings (must have been a thrilling morning for him).

I’m pretty sure that whole morning was subconsciously driven by my reluctance to face a blank page. Okay, maybe not, but on the whole, I procrastinate with writing at least once a week. I love writing—it’s my passion and I want to get better, so why the hesitation? I’m not sure, but I think it’s okay once in awhile, as long as I’m aware of what’s going on.

I think a lot of it has to do with goal-setting. Several posts ago, I mentioned the problem with deadlines creating a “work” mentality, which can be a double-edged sword. Goal-setting can be like that too. For me, I’ve learned that it’s best to knock out at least a few hundred words first thing in the morning, and leave then myself at a place where I know exactly what’s going to happen next in the dialogue or scene. That way, it’s not nearly as intimidating to come back.

It’s the same thing as exercise for me—I get my push-ups and sit-ups done first thing, and you know what? It feels good to accomplish things that you tell yourself you’re going to do. It’s very easy to lie to yourself about writing goals—nobody’s there to listen to you and say, “I’m GETTING to it, okay?” …which means that nobody’s there to say, “Um, actually, you’re not.”

POINT BEING, you can’t bullshit yourself—you know exactly when you’re taking a break to read a few blogs that are essential to your writer’s education (that’s what I tell myself anyway), and you know when you’ve moved across that line and are flat-out PROCRASTINATING. So watch yourself and your writing habits—it’s okay to take a break, even for a few days, but don’t be gone too long.

Just so my massive readership doesn’t take this post personally, please realize that I’m fully aware that this post is basically a letter to myself, not to you good folk who probably don’t use the “P” word . And yes, I’m also fully aware that by writing this blog, I’ve avoided thirty solid minutes of time with my manuscript. That’s okay though—blogging is part of my writer’s education, right? :)