Back to the Future

When I was a kid, particularly a teenager, the only time I would clean my room was when I had a report to do. Might seem like faulty logic, but the crippling thought of sitting down and starting a report actually made cleaning my room look like a fun endeavor. I had to clear off the desk before I could sit at it to write, no? And Mom had been after to me to clean for some time now. It needed to be done!

By the time it was apparent I could not put off said report-writing any longer, I would become a conglomeration of the many phrases my mother often used to describe me: running around like a chicken with its head cut off, burning the candle at both ends, pulling through in the eleventh hour. And while it was undoubtedly stressful and quite a haphazard way of doing things, I would always finish the report – and usually quite well. I’d get some inspiration at the last minute and write like a fiend until I’d proven my point – much to my mother’s chagrin. While she did not want to see me fail in school, she frowned upon my methods. Clean room or no, I think I made her more nervous than I did myself.

Procrastination and spontaneous ‘Hail Mary’s have always been my way. Being out of college for over a decade now (ugh – how did that happen?), the phenomenon hasn’t been as apparent, but it still exists. Knowing I have a week until my daughter’s birthday party, I’ll putz around the house all week and stay up until 2 AM the night before scrubbing toilets and baking cakes (not at the same time). Well aware that the parade that runs close to our house happens the second Saturday of June every year, I’ll be planting containers with patriotic-colored flowers at dusk the night before. I’ve just shifted the focus from class work to housework. Though maybe if I had more papers to write, my house would be cleaner – ha!

But I am writer. As a writer not under contract, I use self-imposed deadlines to keep me active and productive. I follow my writers’ group guidelines of submitting a week before our meeting. I post to my blog at least once a week, every Thursday. Except for weeks like this. I’ve fallen off the wagon, people. And because, as far as I can tell, most cases of procrastination are born of crippling ideas of perfectionism, I am paying for it. Oh, the guilt.

I’m in the middle of revising my young adult novel. I’ve heard a lot of writers say they love the revision process, struggling through the draft process just to get to it. As someone who loves to wait till the last minute and work off an epiphany and has problems with spatial relations (chapter reorganization, wha?), it’s trying to say the least. So instead of figuring out how to fix the problem in the chapters I was due to submit to my group, I went into cleaning mode. Luckily, I had the perfect excuse for rationalization. My friend was coming over with her baby and he needed a clean floor to frolic on, no?

We had a lovely visit, and spirits buoyed by my ordered surroundings, I even strapped myself to the computer after they left and fixed the problem (I think – we’ll see how next week’s meeting goes!). But, like a game of dominoes, my cleaning pushed the writing tile back a day, which pushed the blog tile back. Hence, today’s post should have been yesterday’s.

But no sense living in the past with its failed promises and rumpled to-do lists. I may relive my bad behavior patterns from time to time, but it’s a waste of time to punish myself for them. Trying to change them bit by bit would be good, but being aware of them is a start, right? I also need to acknowledge what such behaviors say about me. I do work best under pressure. And while it’s starting to make me as crazy as it used to make my mother, it still does offer a certain level of success. And all of us really are just stuck between past and future. I guess it works to operate within some combination of the two.

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6 Comments

  1. Erin

     /  May 4, 2012

    I use to get nervous for you lol

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  2. Jennifer Butler Basile

     /  May 4, 2012

    Yes, you did, ha! Sorry for that! The perils of being a good roommate – thank you! We balance each other out!

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  3. Sheri

     /  May 4, 2012

    I still remember waiting for you to run out your front door with your report freshly printed and we’d try to make it to homeroom on time; I wonder if your girls will inherit your gift for writing and for pulling off a great grade at the last minute?

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  May 4, 2012

      Thanks, Sheri! As long as the ink doesn’t smudge and my luck doesn’t run out!

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  4. Danielle

     /  May 9, 2012

    My clipping service alerted me that I was mentioned in this blog. Booyah! Take that Class of ’95 who didn’t think I was good enough to be voted Class Clown! Now I’m FAMOUS!

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    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  May 9, 2012

      And how ironic that your fifteen minutes is in a post that mentions me cleaning my room!

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      Reply

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