A PhD in Procrastination

Posted On: 07.05.12

I tell myself things. That everything is material. That creativity begets creativity. But the truth of the matter is that I have a PhD in Procrastination. Most recently, I have been procrastinating writing my novel with other creative endeavors. I have fallen in love with taking pictures of everything from my creatures to concrete. I have fallen in love with doctoring said pictures – adding cool effects and interesting words to them. I have taught myself iMovie. I made a fun ADR video I will share (once I teach myself Vimeo).

Here’s the thing: I have also fallen in love, re-fallen in love, with blogging. I’m not sure it was the ADR facelift that did this, but this fresh start has certainly been invigorating and inspiring. But something happened – and recently – and I am so excited to write words here, and get your comments, and respond to your comments even though it takes time.

All of this stuff? It takes away from my book-writing. And that makes me feel bad, but maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe I’m not exactly procrastinating as much as I am taking my time, and finding my way? I’d like to think that all of this stuff I’m doing matters, that all of it is part of something bigger I’m working toward. I’d like to think that in being so creatively (and happily) scattered, I am actually headed somewhere.

It’s highly likely that I am just rationalizing again. Alas.

Do you have your PhD in Procrastination? Do you think we should let ourselves wander creatively? How much wandering is too much wandering? How much focusing is too much focusing?

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22 Comments for: "A PhD in Procrastination"
  1. Kathryn

    Since I happen to know that your dear agent is on vacation, perhaps I should be stepping in to say: “Write the damn book!” (haha!)

    Seriously, though, writing is a fine mix of creativity and discipline. The balance is ever-shifting. That’s why it is an art, not a science.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Yes, you should be stepping in and I appreciate it – joke or no joke 🙂 Alas, it is time that I write the damn book. And I am 🙂

      ‘Tis an art, not a science. Sometimes I wish it were more of a science. But even as I wrote the last sentence, a thought streamed through my head: Nah, I am glad it is not a science…

      Thanks, Kathryn!

  2. I think all the creative stuff adds up and it definitely plays a role in the big picture of things. You are finding your way and following the passion for other things which is great 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Ayala. In my heart of hearts, I know all of this stuff – in so far as I feel a real passion about it – is contributing to something whether it is a scene from my story or a future version of myself. It’s just that I am left pondering the whole hours-in-the-day thing and wondering whether I am using my time in a truly productive way. Who knows, right? This stuff is so tricky.

  3. Gina

    I recently, in June, wrote about being awarded my PhD in the big “P”. One of my readers and I decided it should be an Olympic event but we procrastinated filing the right papers to enter. So it will be winter of 2014.

    Today, right now, and more than ever, I am convinced we are all on a path. My path meanders currently. Maybe yours does, too. Looking at the big picture, everything we’re doing matters in some way. Yes, writing takes discipline and creativity…occurring at the same time. It will happen but this is coming from a master procrastinator so take it for what it’s worth. I just know I must live each day completely and that’s my goal at this very minute, whether that means writing or not. I really believe it means, for me, spending time with those important to me because I now understand how fragile life is. Sorry for the deep ending. Quite sappy lately.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Gina. Never ever apologize for anything here – deep, shallow, sappy, etc. As many of my readers know and put up with, I am all over the map in terms of my words here. Some days, I am a silly and light thing. On other days, I am deep and dark, inky and thinky. I think this is okay, better than okay, and I encourage it from all of you too. I think, on some level, this is about being honest, you know? I do think you are right about being on a path and honoring the twists and turns of the path even though we aren’t always certain where we are going. In fact, I believe that it is the abiding sense of not knowing that keeps things interesting, and alive.

      As for the fragility of life… I get it more than you know. Lost my Dad four years ago next week and have witnessed far too much illness and loss around me to remain unscathed. I think it is imperative for us all to remember to cherish the life and the health we do have.

  4. You can’t force creativity. So, I fall in the camp that believes that by exploring your other creative outlets, you are marinating your creative juices as a whole. You will come back to the writing thing and you will be great. Plus, when on a family vacation, one must certainly enjoy their time, rather than force oneself to be productive (so says the girl planning her own family trip to Cape Cod later this summer!).

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I so believe that you can’t force creativity. My issue – and it’s a wonderful one to have – is that I do not do these other creative things when I am feeling blocked with my novel. It’s actually when I am feeling particularly creative and prolific that I want to do all of these things… And, yes, sometimes I end up spending time on the blog, or with my pictures or videos, because it is “easier.” Writing a novel is an amazing experience but it involves a fair bit of strife and struggle, too. Alas. Fun that you are going to the Cape this summer? Where to? I love it here. Love.

      Thanks, Nilsa!

  5. I think it’s hard to write when you’re not inspired. Perhaps these other activities are giving you space and time to rejuvenate your novel writing juices.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      That’s the odd thing. I do these things, and get lost doing them, when I am feeling most inspired, most porous to the material of life. So I guess it’s really not a form of procrastinating, but rather a choice in how I’m spending my time? I am thinking more and more that I need to make writing my novel a bit more light and fun and less serious… How to trick oneself into chipping away at the manuscript? That’s the million dollar question, huh? Thanks!

  6. Amy

    I know I’m not the only person who thinks that it’s wonderful that you’ve “fallen in love, re-fallen in love, with blogging.” Thank you for another timely and beautiful post!

    I, too, have a PhD in Procrastination, but, for me, it’s gotten so bad that I haven’t been able to do the projects that I actually need to do. Lately, I procrastinate by waiting to read your words before beginning my “official” day…not too bad since your posts usually come at 10AM local-time…but I find that your words inspire my own creativity which I so vitally need. I have also become addicted to pinterest and think that my days would be complete if I could look at pretty things all day.

    These methods of procrastination sometime show us what really interests us, what really propels us to move forward, what really matters to us. I know you’re working on your book so don’t feel badly about creatively wandering because it’s not actually interfering with your goal.

    As for me, I have to focus more on what I get paid to do and think about what would be more creatively inspiring…

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      You say something here that resonates so deeply for me… That the way we end up spending our time highlights what we love, and what has meaning for us. Perhaps this is a self-serving way of looking at it, but I think my creative meanderings collectively indicate that I am interested in a broader breed of creativity than simple book writing. I think I am realizing how important pictures are to me – seeing things in my life and in my characters’ lives… Ultimately, I can only see all of this enhancing my writing, but then again, I could be making excuses.

      Thanks so much for these wonderful words. That I say things here that spark your creativity is the highest of compliments 🙂

      Thanks, Amy!

  7. I have this exact same problem, and I think when it comes down to it, it’s a really fine (ie tricky) balance. I have a hard time “organizing” my writing time as well as I should, though I’m working on it. Procrastinating, but working 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Love this. That we can procrastinate figuring out ways to manage our procrastinatory tendencies 🙂 Ultimately, I think all of this – how to allocate our time and energy and creative soul – is so wildly universal, and ultimately a really wonderful problem to wrestle with, right? Thanks, Rebecca! Happy belated 4th.

  8. Monica

    I know how you feel Aidan, I feel the same way. Procrastination is not necessary a bad thing, if you use your time learning other creative things. I really don’t think wandering, in the song by LeeAnn Womack,”I Hope you Dance,” it states, “I hope you never loose your sense of wander.” Wandering is what makes us human. When it comes to focusing, I am very task-orientated, it’s definiately a good thing. I think I also have a PhD in Procrastination also. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I totally agree that wandering – and having the desire to wander, and the desire to think about wandering – makes us human. Thanks so much, Monica.

  9. Tessa S.

    Ooooh, I love this discussion. So much along the lines of other things we’ve been discussing lately. I’ll just add this. I don’t do this whole ‘procrastination’ thing. I put it in the same bag as ‘discipline’ and ‘achievement’ and ‘expectation’ and ‘goal’ and other words that don’t come to mind right now – the bag that contains the words that keep making us feel unworthy and not good enough.

    So let’s do this. Let’s just do what we are doing, when we are doing it, and absolutely love the doing of it while we are doing it, without fretting about the other things that we think we should be doing right now, the goals we’ve set and the discipline we need to keep achieving things and the fact that we feel we have failed, because we are, yet again, procrastinating.

    When people tell me they are procrastinating I just say “This is obviously not the right time for that task”. Because, let’s face it, if you really, really wanted to do it, and if you really, really had to do it, you would do it, wouldn’t you?

    You remember my vacation list of 35-things-that-I-absolutely-had-to-achieve-no-matter-what? And I mentioned that I think we are very good at setting ourselves up for failure? I went a full nine days in absolutely fine style just doing nothing – absolutely nothing – loved every minute of it – and didn’t beat myself up about it – and day ten I woke up and said “Now, where’s that list” and I’ve been checking things off every since. We have to stop beating ourselves up. Just go with the flow. The right time will come. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Another awesome comment. I’d never thought about it this way, namely that the word “procrastination” is a human concoction, another way we make ourselves feel unworthy. Imagine if we called it “exploration.” That would make this conversation wildly different, huh? And, yes, I believe that there is a time for everything, that often there is a good and meaningful reason for putting things off. I guess that I also believe that there are not so good reasons for putting things off and avoiding what must be done and what we want to do so that’s where things get tricky… Thanks, Tessa!

  10. Hahaha. I definitely feel I deserve a PhD in procrastination. I am in the tail-end of an almost-year long dissertation-writing fellowship, and it’s been a constant yo-y0 between working furiously, and (more often than not) procrastinating and feeling guilty about it. But I’m trying to remember that while our society idolizes productivity and equates procrastination with laziness and irresponsibility, at least some procrastination is 1) giving our brains a break to work things through, and 2) a way of dealing with anxiety about what we’re working on, particularly areas in which we’re stuck. I think sometimes procrastination is kind of like sleep. When you’re sleeping, your brain solidifies the information you’ve learned that day, and prunes unnecessary neural connections. When you’re working on any important creative or intellectual project, sometimes time away doing other things (such as putting off the data analysis and writing I should be doing in favor of reading blogs and commenting on them), will give your brain a break and eventually trigger the “aha” moments you need to get through the blocks and obstacles that lead you to procrastinate.

    Or at least, that’s how I’m justifying my procrastination at the moment 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Oh how I love this. Thank you for shedding some light on the virtues of procrastination. I don’t think this is justifying (or not entirely). I think it is important that we realize that there is something compelling about loosening the reigns from time to time, letting our brains and bodies slacken, letting things come to us. And those AHA moments? They are the absolute best and they do usually come for me at least when I give myself permission to pause for a moment or two. Thanks, Michelle 🙂

  11. I set up a second blog for my book. I did it because I thought it would help me focus and get things finished faster than had I not done it.

    But I am not sure if that is really true or not. I keep staring at the words and wondering if I have created junk or something more.

    At least that is how I was feeling and then it just hit me one day that the time away from it was providing a different focus and energy that I would be able to lend to it.

    Sometimes procrastination is just a chance to find/create perspective.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I don’t think I knew you were writing a book, but I am so glad you are! What is the blog? Tell all of us… Apologies if I should know this.

      I do think that there is a value in procrastination in that it leads us important places sometimes. Just not good when it takes over, right?

      Thanks, you.

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