NEVER PUT OFF TILL TOMORROW...


I had thought – among a million other random thoughts – that I might recommend a Blog of the Month, but having done a bit of research there are just so many brilliant writing blogs out there that that would be too limiting. So I am just going to recommend away, in a freestyle sort of way, and suggest other bloggers who might be worth following, if you aren’t already.


First up is not an actual writing blog at all, but one dedicated to procrastination. (Respect, I say, as the poor blogger must feel doubly guilty if too much time elapses between each post.) I came across it when I was looking for my favourite poem about procrastination. It sums up perfectly the fact that procrastination is not only a state of inertia - though hell knows, that is part of the mix – it is also a state of distraction.  About which we in the modern world must know more than any other generation of humans, surely? Or then again, on the evidence of this poem, possibly not. Perhaps the art of procrastination has always been with us.
And here it is:

The Old Sailor (AA Milne)

There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn’t because of the state he was in.

He was shipwrecked, and lived on a island for weeks,
And he wanted a hat, and he wanted some breeks;
And he wanted some nets, or a line and some hooks
For the turtles and things which you read of in books.

And, thinking of this, he remembered a thing
Which he wanted (for water) and that was a spring;
And he thought that to talk to he’d look for, and keep
(If he found it) a goat, or some chickens and sheep.

Then, because of the weather, he wanted a hut
With a door (to come in by) which opened and shut
(With a jerk, which was useful if snakes were about),
And a very strong lock to keep savages out.

He began on the fish-hooks, and when he’d begun
He decided he couldn’t because of the sun.
So he knew what he ought to begin with, and that
Was to find, or to make, a large sun-stopping hat.

He was making the hat with some leaves from a tree,
When he thought, “I’m as hot as a body can be,
And I’ve nothing to take for my terrible thirst;
So I’ll look for a spring, and I’ll look for it first.”

Then he thought as he started, “Oh, dear and oh, dear!
I’ll be lonely tomorrow with nobody here!”
So he made in his note-book a couple of notes:
I must first find some chickens” and “No, I mean goats.”

He had just seen a goat (which he knew by the shape)
When he thought, “But I must have boat for escape.
But a boat means a sail, which means needles and thread;
So I’d better sit down and make needles instead.”

He began on a needle, but thought as he worked,
That, if this was an island where savages lurked,
Sitting safe in his hut he’d have nothing to fear,
Whereas now they might suddenly breathe in his ear!

So he thought of his hut … and he thought of his boat,
And his hat and his breeks, and his chickens and goat,
And the hooks (for his food) and the spring (for his thirst) …
But he never could think which he ought to do first.

And so in the end he did nothing at all,
But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl.
And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved -
He did nothing but bask until he was saved!

I grew up with the poems of A.A. Milne, read to me by my Dad in battered old 1930s editions, and this takes me right back to my childhood. I was quite unsurprised by the antics of the Old Sailor, as I was by all adult behaviour, as I just considered that these were unfolding aspects of the Grownup World. And I liked him a lot. I wasn’t too young to see in him a kindred spirit.
The blog is  http://procrastinus.com/the-procrastinus-blog/http://procrastinus.com/the-procrastinus-blog/ and it’s written by Piers Steel, one of the world’s leading researchers and speakers on the science of motivation and procrastination, and a professor at the University of Calgary. This is surely a man who can teach us writers a thing or to about why we are cleaning behind the radiator when we should be writing Chapter Three.


Comments

  1. Thank you for noticing! I did write a step-by-step guide to overcoming procrastination as a writer in the new paper back version of the book, "The Procrastination Equation." My favorite thing about writers is all the inventive precommitment strategies they come up with to force themselves to write (e.g., http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-procrastination-equation/201104/bondage-and-procrastination).

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  2. Thanks for commmenting Piers! Ingenious procrastination sounds like a great subject for another post, so watch this space...

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