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Procrastination and cocktails!

Categories: MFA Confidential Blog.

I haven’t started my Steeplechase assignment yet. I’ve pondered it a great deal, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to actually start writing. Today I’m going to use this forum to list the justifications of my procrastination, in the hopes that once I name the problem, I can start solving it:

1)I’m terrified of The Steeplechase. If you want to know why, please see my previous post. It’s an intimidating assignment to say the least.

2) I have a stack of 150 student papers that need grading.

3) I’ve been wrapped up in another writing project. I feel like this happens a lot in an MFA—you’ve got your wheels spinning in a hundred different directions, and you’re writing journals and responses to readings and personal essays and fiction, but there’s usually one project that takes your attention the most and suddenly all the others get put on hold. This week, that project is my assignment for my short story class. I have to write a story with a specific time frame—like Jhumpa Lahiri’s “A Temporary Matter” or Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” I have this scene that I’ve been wanting to build a story around, and I’ve finally figured out a way to do it. I tend to be an over-writer, so I’ve found that limiting myself to a certain time frame prevents me from going off on tangents—if you have this problem, too, I suggest you try it: decide ahead of time what the time span will be for your story. I’ve been working on this project compulsively, and meanwhile the Steeplechase assignment sits next to my computer, gathering dust.

4)I have a life, dammit! Working full time, going to school at night, and writing constantly can make one forget this important fact. I feel like I haven’t seen my friends in a very long time, and therefore, I am not ashamed to say that I went OUT last night. We started at Benchmark, a new bar in Old Town, for my friend Katie’s 30th, then we went to Fireplace Inn, Burton Place, Carroll’s, the Irish American Heritage Center, the Emerald Isle, Teaser’s, Morrison’s Roadhouse [no relation], and then, finally, home, because the cops were blockading the door at Morrison’s for reasons that they would not disclose (you’ve gotta love the northwest side of Chicago). And then when I got home, after hemorrhaging my hard-earned money at no less than eight different bars, it was an absolute necessity to make potato and cheese pierogies, because why wouldn’t those sound like a good idea at 5:30 a.m.? You can imagine how I felt when I woke up this morning [afternoon].

I want to turn in at least part of the Steeplechase this Tuesday, but tomorrow the Bears are playing the Packers on Monday night football and my friend’s dad is appearing on Wheel of Fortune and there will be more papers to grade and I’m tired and eventually my excuses will run out and I’ll just have to do it.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with an update.

How does one balance writing with life? Do you procrastinate? Are there any techniques you have for avoiding procrastination?

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7 Responses to Procrastination and cocktails!

  1. Montrouis, where he was vivienne westwood brooches was approached by a man who

  2. Jessie Morrison says:

    Thanks guys! I’m glad to see that I’m not the only ones who puts things off. Thanks for the motivating comments. Hope your writing is going well this week!

  3. Kristin says:

    I hear you!! I’m working on my thesis at Lesley University right now… and for the past couple of weeks when I should have been hammering away at revising all my short stories, I was coming up with a ton of excuses. The dog needed to be walked. There was a load of laundry I had to fold. My friend needed help with a grad school admissions essay. Dinner isn’t going to cook itself. I mean, you name it, I was doing it to avoid my writing. And I realized that the core of my problem is FEAR. I’m terrified of my thesis and I’m paranoid that it won’t be "good enough." And really…. as a writer, the true fear is that I’M not good enough. Today I’m going to get my butt in gear, though..

  4. Dana says:

    "How does one balance writing with life? Do you procrastinate? Are there any techniques you have for avoiding procrastination?"

    When I was a student, I was a terrible procrastinator. The day I started working as a copywriter, I learned how to be something else.

    For one thing, the agency I worked for gave me ample time to do the writing that needed to be done. They didn’t give me a phone: that is a rare and beautiful luxury.

    Now, I only write for myself. I would LIKE to write for ten hours per week, hell, even twenty hours per week. But because of my job, my family, my other responsibilities, I write for much less.

    If I don’t have time to write in a day, I don’t write. It is not procrastination, it is time management. In college I might have called it procrastination, now I am in such a different emotional and spiritual space (a much more comfortable space) I would never dream of calling myself a procrastinator.

    If I am avoiding something because of some psychological block, I usually try to trick myself into getting to it. Say you will just get started with one sentence or some loose notes. Say you just want to put in about fifteen minutes to get started. Set the fifteen minutes aside; if possible, set aside fifteen minutes before and after the fifteen minutes of work time to give yourself a little buffer. I’ve found for every minute of writing, I usually have a minute of unstructured activity for some reason. Warm up and cool down. If you do fifteen minutes today and fifteen minutes tomorrow, you will have a good start. You will have started.

    It sounds like the first step is to go back in the notebook and find some piece you already started. That is easy. If I had an assignment like this, I would go back into my notebooks for all the different parts. I have a lot of old writing that I want to work on revising, and this would be the perfect opportunity. I have very specific methods for coming up with material from scratch. I would never come up with stuff from scratch for an assignment like this. The stakes feel too high and that would stifle my little creative fire. (My creative fire is actually big and bright, but most days it is small and needs to be protected and cultivated just so.) I wouldn’t even tell my professors or fellow students that I did it that way LOL. I think it would be a lot easier.

    Also, I would try to rely on my support network. I would tell some people (my readers on this blog, for instance) the specific time I have set aside to write this evening. Then, after having completed the writing, I would report back to the group and wait for the ‘atta girls to start rolling in :)

  5. Christina says:

    As a Columbia Alum (BA Fiction Writing 2007) I completely understand your Steeplechase apprehension. Trust me when I say its all for naught. Once you get into the exercise, you’ll find that it opens up numerous story possibilities you never imagined. It expands horizons. Have fun!

  6. Kristan says:

    YEESH, you’re busy! I think a little "procrastination" is totally justified. At the same time, I can also tell (just from what I’ve read at this blog) that you can totally kick this assignment’s butt! So don’t stress, just write. Like you said with the last time you did this assignment: you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you just do it. :)

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