Procrastination – or time-wasting, if you prefer to call a spade a spade – is written into my DNA, as intrinsic to my makeup as my eye colour. An example: I once just about managed to hold down a dreary office job. Like many a dreary office job, once you stripped away all the highfalutin terminology my duties basically consisted of moving pieces of paper around, in between brewing tea. There being a limit to how many times you can rearrange stationery, I was frequently at a loose end. I suppose I could have gone and begged my boss for more work; indeed, some would say that I should have done just that.
I didn’t. I’ve always believed that a sound way to approach hateful day jobs is to kill time without killing brain cells. To this end, I soon discovered the joys of Project Gutenberg, whereby I could download copyright-expired books for free. And, crucially, from a distance it looked like I was swotting up on work documents. I still feel a tad guilty when I think about my fraudulent reputation as a paragon of worker-ly devotion, at least amongst my employers. Those on my own level knew better, not least because sometimes, on Friday afternoons, when the bosses had all swanned off on their yachting or golfing trips, my fellow drones and I would bring out the bouncy balls we’d all constructed out of elastic bands, like this one…
…and usher in the weekend with an impromptu game of catch. Happy days. Sort of.
The office job has gone the way of all things, but that doesn’t mean that my genius for procrastination has diminished. Oh no! Yesterday, for example, I had an entire morning set aside for writing. An entire morning! This doesn’t happen often, so it stands to reason that I should try to make the most of it. I promised myself I’d get a lot done; I even set myself a word target.
So what happened? Did I tempt the Muse out of hiding? Did I fly high on the wings of inspiration? Or, failing that, did I sit down and put in several hours of craftsmanlike, hard graft? Did I meet my target?
Er, no. No, I didn’t.
What actually happened was as follows, roughly:
9a.m.: Sit down and switch on laptop. Cup of tea at elbow, distractions at a safe distance. It’s time to go!
9.01a.m.: All right, I’ll just have a quick look at my email inbox first. There follows an hour of reading emails, tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts and articles.
10a.m.: The morning is not lost; it’s still fairly early. But first, the dog’s hammering at the door, demanding to be let out…
10.01a.m.: Cup of tea is cold. Might as well make another. And while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, I can load the washing machine.
10.05a.m.: Return to laptop. Sun comes out. Spend approximately five minutes staring out of window, wondering whether the good weather will last over the weekend.
10.10a.m.: Open WIP Word file. Find place in manuscript. Read preceding paragraph. Not good. Spend half-an-hour tweaking, rearranging, rewriting. End result not substantially different to original.
10.40a.m.: Slowly write another paragraph. The going is tough; I seem to have hit a brick wall. Perhaps a short break will help?
10.50a.m.: Take the dog for a walk. Pause on garden path to pull up some weeds. Reflect that I’d better buy some weed killer at the supermarket. Wonder whether weed killer is dangerous to humans as well as plants, and if there is an organic alternative. (This question is still bugging me, by the way. If anyone knows of anything, please tell me.)
11.15 a.m.: Snack time. Crack open the biscuit tin. Read a blog post while I’m eating, and leave a comment.
11.25 a.m.: Set to work once more. Again, the going is tough. It’s not surprising: this tiny laptop screen is destroying my eyesight. Wonder whether to invest in new laptop, or whether this choice of font is best. Try out different fonts. Revert to initial font. Sternly tell myself to stop wasting time.
11.55a.m.: Another paragraph written! I’m making progress! Pity it isn’t any good. In fact, reading it back sets my teeth on edge. Realise I have written a grand total of 400 words so far this morning.
12p.m.: Open new Word file, and tap out this post instead. It’s not what I planned to do, but I can at least console myself with the thought that I’m doing something…