Last time I was in this situation, I made a promise to myself. “Andreas,” I said to myself. “This is the last time you’ll be in this situation. Never again!” And I swore to high Heaven that this would, indeed, be the very last time I was in that situation.
I refer, of course, to deadlines. More specifically, I refer to the situation that you get a writing assignment and a comfortable deadline in about three months’ time, but instead of actually making good use of all that time, you procrastinate endlessly, pushing the project ahead of you like a dead walrus* until it’s the very last week before deadline. At that point, you find yourself faced with the daunting prospect of having to write 3-4 pages of preferably high-quality prose a day in order to finish the damn thing in time for the deadline – in the evenings after coming home from your day job, of course.
So last time did not in fact turn out to be the last time. And the odds are pretty good that this time won’t be the last time, either. Resignation seems the best approach here. But the question remains why exactly it is that I keep subjecting myself to this torture, when in theory at least it should be fairly easily avoidable through better time management.
LIke most other things, there’s most likely a combination of things involved. For one thing, beginning a writing project takes a lot of energy – authors speak of the ‘fear of the blank paper’ with good reason. And of course, writing is not exactly an effortless activity for me. It’s usually pretty exhausting, sometimes even agonizing, to take those vague and shapeless thoughts I have in my head and put them down on paper in actual words.**
So in the end, it’s probably got something to do with immediate rewards vs. future rewards. The immediate reward of doing something more interesting than writing this stuff simply outweigh the future reward of finishing the project. The problem, of course, is that eventually the punishment of having to work non-stop for a week will probably outweigh those immediate rewards – not to mention the possibility of the even greater punishment of having your editor shout at you for having missed the deadline. That’s not really something you want to experience.***
So is there some conclusion to this? Not really, I guess I guess this is just me procrastinating even further.**** But I would love to hear your thoughts on this interesting psychological mechanism and suggestions for fighting it.
* – No, I don’t really understand that simile, either. Just smile and nod.
** – Or on Word document, to be exact.
*** – Trust me on this.
**** – The irony of sitting around writing a blog entry to avoid writing something else is not lost on me.