Oct 4, 2010

Yes and No, Now and Later

The New Yorker has a great article today about procrastination.

I am a terrible procrastinator.  In the sense that I am very good at it.  You know what I mean.  I have these small explosions of activity - like sending off queries to five agents and blogging about it all before 10 a.m. - and then I spend the rest of the day doing nothing but watching silly TV shows and breaking up with a friend (more on that later).

Until it's time to go to bed, but I decide to pop open the computer "just for a bit", get absorbed in said New Yorker article and blog again.  Not quite a model of productivity, but it beats staring blankly at television pixels.

There were a few points made in the article that I found particularly interesting.

First, that procrastination doesn't make people happy.  If they're putting off something to do something more enjoyable, that's usually not thought of as procrastination.  Real procrastination involves not doing something and agonizing about it.  It is therefore completely irrational. 

Yup.  Sounds like me.

The second thing is that procrastinators are more often than not insecure perfectionists.  Apparently:
"Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle. McClellan was also given to excessive planning, as if only the ideal battle plan were worth acting on."
Again, this all sounds eerily familiar.

Third and finally (naturally, the ex-BMer in me can't resist making three points), research suggests that procrastination often results from an inner battle within one's divided self.  Sometimes there really is a good angel and a bad angel sitting on your shoulders, and while they duke it out to decide which is the best course of action, you end up doing nothing at all or, worse, doing something vaguely in between and just messing it up altogether. 

Which brings me to my earlier point.  Wait, which point?  Fair question.  The one about the friend break-up.

I'm the kind of person that prides myself on being a good friend.  I may not always succeed but at least I try very, very hard.  But there are just some people, some people who know how to push all the right buttons and make me lash out at them in a way I am bound to be embarrassed about later, and profoundly regret.  And so I'll crawl back, make apologies - but taint the apologies in thinly veiled recriminations and buckets of self-pity.

I blame it on my divided self.  One of my selves really wants to be friends with these people (or this particular person who shall remain nameless for his sake).  The other self doesn't (because I bear a grudge, because I'm jealous, because I don't understand him).  Both selves are stubborn, doped up on steroids and refuse to admit defeat.  And so begins the endless "I hate you, come back" wars.

So tonight I think I broke up with my friend.  For his sake.  For both of mine.  Who knows.  And who knows how long it will be until I pretend it's all bygones and beg to be his friend again (because I love him, because I care, because he's wonderful) so we can start the whole miserable show over.

Think about it.  You have one of those people in your life too, don't you?  Well, now you know.  It's because of your divided self.  That's why you're procrastinating and haven't made a decision about whether to keep him in, or out, of your life.

The New Yorker said so, and thus it must be true.


Anonymous said...

I keep meeting INSEAD MBA program applicants here in New York who work at major publishing houses... but none of them work in fiction-- they all work for obscure trade magazines... The Ball Bearing and Surplus Truck Magazine Publishing Division of McGraw-Hill!

Carolyn said...

We are related!!

I too am an ex-you-know-what'er. I loooove making three comments!

I was in global services way back when, when it first started in the U.S., then here in Oz. How about you?

Good luck with the agents and queries. I hope to follow in your footsteps in the next year or two.

Cheers and happy new job. Wishing you great success.

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

Ahhh, the battle with the many selves/divided self. Yup -- this is one sitch I know really well. Procrastination, too. (Evidence: I am reading blogs today instead of writing that novel I could be working on, lol.)

I tend to procrastinate the breaking up with friends/husbands/lovers and so what happens is instead of a "time out" for me to gather my wits and become proactive about my own happiness, things get dragged on until they blow up spectacularly and often permanently in all of our faces.


It's a great article, and I really like how you wove the concepts into your personal life. I hope for whatever is best for you and the friend. Sometimes love and friendship means calling it quits, like you write, for everyone's sake.

Best, Res. And I hope the packing up is going okay, too. :) Now that's one that is going to be hard to procrastinate as it is breathing down your neck. Right?!

Anonymous said...

Hey Res,
Good to see you writing again. That's great that you have the self confidence to find a week of solace with no one to have to dress up for. When I went through a patch 3 years back, a great friend, suggested randomly I head off to a monastery for some contemplation boot camp. Didn't sound like a lot of fun, but my divided-self longed for that time to prove that I could make it in quietness and come through the other-side (stronger?). Then again, I'd have probably tried to pal it up with the monk dudes.
I'd like to know if the time alone reconciles the divided-self, or does Jiminy Cricket never leave. How do we make him a cheer-leader ("whoa! high fives! Throw down - It is ON!"), and not a miscreant Smeagol (I'll spare you the impression). Andre Agassi kicks the tyres on the this in "Open". It's a great read about why not to think, and just do. It's Jedi-Monk (with a racket and a tennis ball).

Thought I'd scribble on this old post which caught my eye - . Did you ever forgive your friend? He will miss your friendship too you know.
The comment is rambling on - I should start a blog. Res writing again - Throw down! It is ON!


Res I(p)sa said...

Hi W,
You very eerily remind me of someone i used to know... Have we met before?
As for my friend, well, there was nothing to forgive, and we did continue to hover in and out of friendship for a while, but it's been 6 months now since we spoke. While i miss him, i'm not sure the reverse is true.
Finally, to quenh your curiosity... Time alone does not chnage you. Once divided, always divided, i think. But it does make you feel slightly better able to cope with the messiness of the world, if not your own.
Thanks, W, you've inspired me to come back to the world of Res...