Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Distraction and Procrastination

Greetings Friends,

Modern writers have to deal with a lot more issues than our predecessors. First of all, there's the equipment: from pen and paper (quill and parchment, chisel and cave wall, etc.) to typewriter and paper, to word processor, to multi-tasking PC that does everything but your dishes. We have a plethora of accoutrements and the pile gets bigger by the hour. The writing part is easy; it's the distractions that get you into trouble.

I'll be the first to admit I can be a world-class procrastinator. It's easy when your "pen and paper" is housed in the same apparatus as your television, DVD player, phone and Internet connection. I write a little, I go online to check my e-mail,, last night's webcasts of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report...and now I have to visit with my new friends: Snooki, The Situation, JWoww and the rest of the crew on season one of Jersey Shore over at I hang my head in shame at that one, but it's the classic train wreck I am incapable of tearing myself away from. These people, rather, these "guidos" and "guidettes", make the Tony Manero wannabes from my high school days look like altar boys. I am stuck to them like gum in the treads of a sneaker.

Honestly, I don't feel guilty about my little "habits". Think about all the distractions writers like Henry James and Edith Wharton had to put up with: There were the 8-day Transatlantic steamship crossings, the "motor-flights" across England, France and Italy before fuel injection was a germ of an idea, and all those letters they wrote that had to be burned. Where did they possibly find the time to write such classics as The House of Mirth, and The Portrait of a Lady? Did time pass more slowly in the early 20th century than it does now? It must have, or maybe I chose the wrong profession. Then again, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs did pretty well, and all they were doing was driving back and forth across America. But, they were three sheets to the wind most of the time.

The "process" as I like to call it, is different for every writer. I wasn't the type of student who pulled all-nighters and drank cases of Red Bull when it was paper-writing time. But, there were times when I was printing out my final draft minutes before I had to leave to get to class. The sense of relief after the project was submitted was euphoric; I was a "mature" student, and past the point in my life where I was willing to sacrifice a good night's sleep. Things always got done - eventually. It reminds me of a scene from another favourite movie of mine, Broadcast News: the one where Joan Cusack has to run a newsroom obstacle course to get a tape to the control room to be fed into the live broadcast. She got it there in the nick of time. And that's all that matters.

I don't always push things down to the wire, but I would be lying if I said I never get waylaid or veer off course a little bit. It's part of the job; It's what I love so much about what I do - I do it on my terms, and I do it well. Besides, that little "delete" button on my fancy apparatus comes in quite handy sometimes; no trashing of paper or wasting of ink here.


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