All Articles

The Upside of Procrastination

Recently, I cleared the decks in my design bizz for a few weeks of uninterrupted screenwriting. It’s amazing how animated and compelling the world looks when there is a meaningful goal to avoid in life.
I hadn’t known how much pleasure procrastination could yield until I created the time and space to do what I most love, write and paint.

The sounds of the birds outside? So loud, I imagine myself in a jungle drinking a Mai Tai out of a coconut in an exotic part of world. There are massage therapists instead of monkey’s hanging out in the trees, anxious to serve. And the taste of food is so good when avoiding meaningful goals, that suddenly all those cookbooks I never read spill out onto the living room floor. How to make something out of beets that doesn’t taste like dirt is the new goal of the day. As I’m doing that, Dakota runs by — no I’m not thinking rabbit stew. Jeez, get your minds out of the gutter! — and I wonder if I’m patient enough to pull all the fleas out of his fur. The next hour becomes all about finding them. I never do, which is no surprise since he lives indoors.

I listen to the Roaches. I sympathize with her asking for her job back. I’m a little envious. My bosses are many clients and sometimes they take me back and sometimes they don’t. It all depends on if what I’ve asked them for triggers long or short procrastination cycles.

I come back to the computer. I decide computers are boring and instead cut out photos of my cast; my wish list for the film I’m writing. Suddenly, they start having conversations. Dialogue that has nothing to do with the original material I’m adapting. But now the computer is interesting again–It’s fast. I can get all this dialogue on the page. Then the doorbell rings. It’s FedEx delivering books, music and cosmetics that are part of a scam. Okay, so for a minute I thought I’d get the laptop. My gardener laughed at me. Nobody ever gets the laptop dummy! I fired him, just for 30 seconds. Because, I need him. I know nothing about the variety of plants in this new land that I live. Anyway, I spend the next 2 hours unraveling the hairball of the scam. Now getting 60 email scams a day, I forfeit my business email address. Normally, I’m smarter than this. But it was so much fun doing that instead of learning something new like screenwriting and feeling dumb, because I’m a newbie.

I think I’ve found a new drug of choice: Procrastination.

Even washing dishes takes on a whole new dimension. So much better than struggling with the page, getting more intimate with my characters issues and, yes, there it is, confronting those issues while holding it together to tell the damn story. Writing can get a bit… uh, messy.

But what a great feeling at the end of day, a day of not being seduced by procrastination. When instead of aiming for results I find myself in new places that I never could have planned.

That first layer of a story is so much like the first layer of an oil painting, shaky and completely unknown. But ecstatic because you never know where it will take you. And believe me art has its way with me never the other way around.

I often think the real upside of procrastination is that it provides that contrast to deep artistic satisfication.

Some days, there’s this feeling that by sheer virtue of not giving up, it’s so much more satisfying than I ever thought procrastination was. So there it is, the choice of hours of wasted time trying to find fleas in rabbits that have none, or battling it out with internets scams, or learning how to cook beets better when I know I’ll never like them anyway. Or, to throw myself into my work and see what surprises there may be at the end of the day? Procrastination makes the choice that much more clear. Perhaps that’s its real upside.

Dakota’s staring at me right now, and I know what he’s thinking. To him, what’s the big deal? Life is a large bed of procrastination pleasure because there is no goal. Easy for him to say as Caila licks his ears and I feed him strawberry treats and indulge him in many rabbit purring sessions a day.

Maybe we create animals lives as we feel we want life to be for us…I dunno. He’s the thinker; I’m just the messenger.


Trackback URL:


  • kathy Leftwich on Jul 17, 2007 Reply

    I’d love to post a comment; maybe tomorrow…. 😉

  • Rosemary Carstens on Jul 17, 2007 Reply

    Niya– How right you are about the charms of procrastination! I am a master/mistress of finding ways to distract myself from butt-in-chair, fingers-on-keyboard, those essential disciplines that are the stepping stones to our goals. But when I manage to make myself START, I am then totally engrossed and don’t want to stop for anything. It is the best of feelings at the end of the day when I’ve managed to get a few pages of draft copy done! I love your blog–this is the kind of content that makes us think! Rosemary

  • David B. Leikam on Jul 08, 2007 Reply

    As I’ve said numerous times before Niya, “I always look forward to your writings and creative thought.” It puts a smile on my face, a giggle in my ear, and inspired thought in my head for hours.
    Tonight is a moment(s) of procrastination for myself actually but I’m listening to hours of music and opening my ears wider then before so I am being productive. I’ll get to my business school homework soon and I still have Sunday, you know. 😉
    Well, thank you for your vision of thought and being Dakota’s representive to the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.