By Bridget Kelso, member of the 2009 Emerging Writers Group
Procrastination. You are the siren call that lures me away from all the important activities and projects that must be accomplished. Our love affair started in college, where I discovered that I could actually research and write a twenty page paper in 24 hours, and get a decent grade. To this day, my brain has become so accustomed to generating great ideas at the last minute that it continues to be the best way for me to work. Unfortunately, it wreaks havoc on my nerves, and damn near kills me. You ain’t no good for me baby, but I can’t put you down.
Two weeks before the deadline:
I’ve got a play draft due in two weeks. (Or maybe a blog post – this one actually). It’s all pretty much written in my head. I jot down a brief outline of what I want to write. Maybe even a few lines of dialogue. But the Olympics are on. Who can resist that? And I’ve got two weeks. My draft will only add about 4 or 5 pages to my script. It’s already written in my head, so it’ll only take one or two nights to get it onto the page. And did I mention that the Olympics are on?
One week before the deadline:
Well, I really should get down to work. I stare at the pages. And then go on Facebook for a minute, just to clear the cobwebs out of my head. Usually I spend a few minutes a day in the morning or the evening checking my newsfeed. (I’m lying. I’ll sometimes spend hours there, but that is not the focus of this article. I will deal with the love that must not be named some other time.)
Five days before:
“This is ridiculous” I tell myself. “You had two weeks, and now you’re going to be rushed.” But five days is five days. I turn the laptop on, but I don’t even open the document. Instead, I play some solitaire or Words with Friends, “to get the juices flowing.” Yeah right. Nothing gets written. I realize that I’m losing some of the stuff that was “written in my head.” And even worse, Procrastination’s evil twin, Easily Distracted, has arrived. I can’t focus on anything. The deadline looming is like a monkey on my back. Why did I do this to myself? Never mind. It’ll come to me. Is xypy a word?
Two days before:
This is absolutely the last block of time in which any reasonable writer would allow themselves to accomplish a task. At this point, I could conceivably still take my time and get the draft done. All I have to do is plan accordingly. I put my son to bed, grab a light snack (maybe some cheese and crackers), and turn my laptop on. After an hour of my fingers hovering over the keyboard and watching TV (“I’ll write during the commercials,” I tell myself), I realize – I got nothing. There is nothing in my head. And there is nothing new on the page.
The night before:
Out of desperation, I just start typing. I end up hating what I’ve written, but it’s too late. I have a crazy busy day tomorrow and know that I won’t get a moment to write. So I’ll just have to go with it. It’s not bad, but it’s not my best work. I don’t have that feeling I get when I know something rings true. I’m missing that feeling of smug satisfaction when I’ve written something that’s so good, it surprises even me.
Two hours before I need to email my revised draft:
This is it. I can either hunker down and get this thing together, or turn in the crappy, sloppy work I slapped together last night. And suddenly, it kicks in. Those elusive lines that have been missing since they first appeared in my head now jump onto the page. I keep one eye on the clock, and continuously readjust my time needs: “I can keep writing for another half hour and take a quick shower and be out the door in an hour.” Forty-five minutes goes by, and now the half hour needed for the shower has been reduced to 10 minutes, because the stuff I’m writing is LEGENDARY, and I cannot stop. If I had started earlier, I’m not sure the writing would have been this good. There is something so very satisfying about that last-minute brain surge. If writing this way is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right...
Bridget Kelso is an Adjunct Lecturer at the City College of New York. She will get back to working on her solo performance piece entitled SLIDE SHOW: THE EVOLUTION OF RADICAL FEMINIST THEOLOGY, as soon as she...
This post is part of a weekly series from the Emerging Writers Group community of playwrights. The EWG is two-year playwriting fellowship at The Public Theater seeking to target playwrights at the earliest stages of their careers. In so doing, The Public hopes to create an artistic home for a diverse and exceptionally talented group of up-and-coming playwrights.