Saturday, April 12, 2014

Procrastination rocks

My sister Sarah shared this very cool video with me earlier this week:


Somehow, even an hour and half away, she must've known I've been a little … well … neglectful of current projects.

Lately, procrastination has made itself quite comfortable in my house. Just an hour ago, it cozied up in my bed with me and a bowl of chunky peanut butter ice cream and an episode from season two of "Downton Abbey" (Cousin Matthew* can walk again huzzah! But did Bates kill his wife?!).

What was I procrastinating on, you're no doubt wondering. I'll tell you what. 

Writing this post. 

That's right. I was procrastinating on my go-to method for procrastinating on finishing my novel.

And I wasn't even making disturbing stick horse heads while procrastinating on procrastinating. Does that mean I was procrastinating on procrastinating on procrastinating? I can't even keep track of my own stall tactics anymore.

In my defense, the reason I decided to watch "Downton Abbey" in bed with nary a stuffed sock with button eyes and yarn mane in sight was because I'm bone tired from the day's earlier procrastination.

Namely, moving rocks from one portion of my yard to another.

See, when we moved into our house five years ago there was this giant pile of rocks lining the length of our sunroom. And I hated that pile of rocks -- because it was ugly and as far as I could tell its only use was collecting piles of leaves and serving as a habitat to giant spiders like this one:

This picture doesn't really do the spider justice. But you can get a sense of her immensity with a couple of clues. On the bottom left corner of the picture you'll see an acorn cap and on the bottom right corner there's a dead oak leaf. The spider falls on the upper end of the acorn cap to dead oak leaf spectrum. It's an obscure spectrum. But a really big spider.

And more recently, it's offered endless rounds of ammunition for a little game the girls like to play called "Throw the Rocks at the House and Sometimes at Each Other" (it's not a very catchy name … they need to work on their succinctness … wonder where they got that problem from hmmm?)

Anyway, five years ago, I did nothing about the rock pile. Nor did I do anything the year after that, or the year after that or the year after that … you get the picture. 

Here's the rock pile. And the red wheel barrow, on which I actually did depend a lot on today. 
But today -- today the sun shone overhead, the birds were singing, the breeze was blowing and the rocks were ready to be moved.

So even though there was writing to be done and a husband around to monitor the little ladies, I began relocating them. 

First I'd loosen them from the dirt with a shovel, then I'd pitch them into the wheel barrow, then when the wheel barrow got full I'd roll it to the opposite side of the yard and dump them. I did this for a couple hours.

It was pretty tedious. But still way, way better than working on that novel. At least that's what I told myself.

At a certain point during the proceedings as I was attempting to dislodge a potato-sized rock from the grip of some very unwilling clay, I started thinking about how stuck I was on my novel. I have probably 75 percent of it written. But I'm terrified that that 75 percent is awful and also that I have no idea what to do with the remaining 25 percent (or, that I have ideas, but those ideas are also awful … which, if I'm doing the math correctly, would mean that 100 percent of the novel would be awful). 

And then what would I have to show for my life?

I wrote this awful novel and all I got out of it was this lousy blog. 

And the reason I think that my novel falls on the upper end of the orange-juice-and-toothpaste to Nickelback spectrum of awfulness (another obscure spectrum) is because I'm worried that 1. I don't have a strong enough central conflict or 2. That that central conflict won't be compelling enough to read about for the length of an entire novel. 3. That my characters and their conversations are way more poignant, hilarious or enlightening in my own head than they actually are in the reality of the novel**. 

Sigh. 

Johnny Kelly is so right about procrastination.

"It's not being able to decide what way to do something. It's overcomplicating things for yourself. It's being afraid to finish something. It's not knowing when to finish something. It's not knowing how to finish something.

So, much like the past several times we've revisited this seemingly unending project, I'm still mired in self-doubt. A big 'ol pile of it.

My pile of rocks. Also, a convenient metaphor for my self-doubt!
But mostly just a pile of rocks.
On the bright side, the back of my sunroom is no longer mired in unnecessary rocks! 

Here's where I need to give a shout out to Brad, because he took over rock-moving after I burned out at the the halfway point. He transferred the remainder of the pile to the other pile, then braved a spring Saturday in at the Lowe's garden center (twice!) to get the necessary amount of dirt to fill in the rather large hole I'd created, and then he also filled in the hole. 

Maybe I should just get him to finish my novel … I kinda want to watch the next episode of "Downton Abbey."

*British nobility doesn't help itself when a romantic protagonists proclaims her love for Cousin Matthew. Maybe just call him Matthew. You know, so that way we don't have to picture your future children as 11-toed hemophiliacs.

** This fear has been especially aggravated after finishing Maria Semple's perfect "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," whose protagonists now top my list of favorite characters in literature. And how I loved this line: “People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.” Who knows, perhaps my writing is actually a menace to society, but not writing is a menace to my soul.

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