The Pain of Procrastination

The subject of procrastination fascinates me, because it seems to mean whatever people need it to mean. If you’re taking the time to be mindful about things before you act, and not acting merely to meet some arbitrary timetable, then it’s a good thing. Allegedly the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all embraced this, depending upon who you read and what you choose to believe. Yet for those who want to control costs, manage resources, and — let’s be honest — keep other humans beings under their thumb, procrastination is bad. It’s considered not only wasteful but lay, a poor reflection on one’s character. Time is money and all that soulless, ultra-capitalist rot.

I’m more fascinated with the psychological and creative aspects of what we call procrastination. Katie subscribed to what Ray Bradbury called “provoking the latent beast”. Essentially, rather than diving directly into a creative work when one is inspired. put it off until you can’t stand it any more. This gives the idea time to work itself out. You will have such a desire to get into the work because the satisfaction of doing has been delayed that it will simply pour fourth. This of course is the opposite of what is generally thought of when we speak of procrastination, putting things off because we don’t have any ideas and we don’t feel like doing the work.

What I’m more inclined to agree with is the notion that procrastination is an avoidance behavior driven by fear. We don’t feel like we’re good enough, so we put it off because actually doing it will only prove that we’re not good enough. There is a deep-seated fear of failure, and better to not play than risk losing. Procrastination becomes a twisted form of self-care, trying to keep us away from emotionally painful situations. Of course, it doesn’t work. The longer we procrastinate, the worse we feel. The worse we feel, the crappier we do when we actually buckle down and dive into the work.

I try to think of all of the confident idiots out there who have managed to, if you will excuse the cliched phrase, fake it until they make it. When you tell people who you are, even if you’re lying, they tend to believe you. Do the work and, serious, most people won’t notice the flaws that you can’t avoid staring at. You know it’s not perfect; they don’t, and if they do, most of the time they don’t care. Do your best, get it over with, learn something from the experience, and do better next time. That’s the process. That’s how it works. It’s painful, but that’s life.

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