Procrastination as an Extreme Sport

Much ink has been spilled in regards to procrastination: how to avoid it, how horrible and detrimental it is, people speak of it as a fierce affliction. Few people, if pressed, could give a rational explanation for their own procrastination. I have found one for myself and if you’d like to pilfer it for your own self-justification, you hereby have my permission.

Procrastination is my extreme sport.

Professor Wikipedia says…
An extreme sport is a popular term for certain activities perceived as having a high level of inherent danger.

Writing has few inherent dangers, apart from the twin specters of carpal tunnel and the paper cut. Both Goethe and Nietzsche say that we should live dangerously so, if our chosen avocation is found to be lacking in danger we find that our interest flags and we may be left unfulfilled.

One way of judging an experience is how well it converts to a story after the fact. It’s hard to make an exciting story out of getting your work done on time; the bomb squad guy has a much better story to tell at the end of the day than the office worker, even if it’s been the most productive day of the office worker’s life. The danger makes the difference. This brings us back to the topic…

I procrastinate to feel alive.

By this definition, procrastination is not just putting off work until a later time, but the act of starting work on a project at the latest possible time. When you do this, you are living on the edge of your abilities, your focus is much keener than it would be if you had the warm, soft cushion of time between you and the cold, hard deadline.

This is why NaNoWriMo works. If you had 30 days to write 5,000 words, when do you think you would start? Knowing myself, my answer is 5PM on November 30th. It’s 50,000 words because 1,667 words a day is putting you on the highwire, over lions, flaming, zombie lions.

This is the philosophy of Write or Die. The most common criticism I hear is that “I don’t respond well to punishment” or “I don’t want anything to take my words away” or “I don’t need more stress”. News flash, if you’re good at getting things done on time, Write or Die is probably not your best bet. The goal is not to hit you with a stick or steal your words, but to instill in you a sense of danger so that, in the act of creation, you can feel alive.

So my advice for you today is to know where your capabilities end and spend as much time there as possible. Find yourself a deadline and make friends with it. Don’t beat yourself up for putting things off, but revel in the adrenaline of starting something as late as you can and finishing it just in the nick of time.

11 Comments

  1. But this is *always* what I do in life; start late and finish in the nick of time…..except….except with my book. And there lies the rub. I can’t give myself a cast-iron deadline. Mine’s too flexible – it stretches like chewing gum way into the future.

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  2. @Jan That’s exactly the trouble that Write or Die is meant to alleviate. Because you can’t give yourself a deadline, you have to trick yourself into believing in a fictitious deadline.

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  3. Excellent! I keep forgetting about Dr. Wicked and that’s why I liked on Facebook–to remind me it’s here for my extreme sport needs. I love your excuse. Brilliant! :)

    I do agree with Joe, though. It was just getting interesting.

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  4. Great blog post, reminds me of who I am (a procrastinator) and why I need events like NaNo to make me take stock in myself and get myself in gear. Thanks Dr. Wicked. I appreciate you.

    Ciao,

    Ardee-ann

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  5. By the way, that’s *not* in fact irony, for several reasons.
    1) It is in fact quite apt that you didn’t finish a post about procrastination. It would be ironic if you did finish it.
    2) If you forgot about it, procrastination wasn’t even a factor.

    See this helpful Oatmeal comic, which I always refer to (and which is unfortunately correct about the most common use, of which this post is an example): http://theoatmeal.com/comics/irony

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  6. I’d just like to say that i totally agree with this post, and can relate to it. I’m also super thankful this website and application exists because, like you said, I’m doing NaNoWriMo and this is the only thing keeping me going everyday XD So THANK YOU! My future self is appreciative.

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