My column was late this week.
A spaceship wasn’t hovering ominously over Rhode Island. Our base house didn’t burn down. My computer didn’t seize up with “the blue screen of death,” although that did happen back in ’07 just after my husband deployed to Djibouti. None of our kids came down with double pneumonia. And miraculously, I wasn’t arrested for fraud after filing our tax returns.
Nope, I don’t have one decent excuse for my column being late. Truth be told, I procrastinated.
Normally, I submit my column to newspaper editors on Fridays for publication the following week, so that I can spend the weekend watching the kids’ sports, barbecuing with the neighbors, and walking the dog along the water.
Come Monday, I know it would be smart to write 200 words on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; leaving Thursday for rewrites and editing, and Friday for polishing and submission.
But that makes way too much sense.
Friday is eons away, I think to myself. Today, I’ll get laundry done, mop the floors, wash the minivan. Getting housework done will free me up to write more tomorrow.
But between the puppy being afraid of the vacuum cleaner, the hour-long call from my mother, the search for missing socks under the kids’ beds, and that riveting episode of “Cops” I had to watch until the end, I barely manage to defrost the pork chops.
On Tuesday, I wake with a purpose. I’m going to make some headway on that column … as soon as I think of an idea. What will I write about this week?
My notebook in hand, I sit in a sunny spot in the backyard to let the dog sniff around while I search for inspiration.
Hmmm … the beds could really use a bit of weeding. Three hours later, there are piles of garden debris out by the curb, my fingernails are packed with dirt, and I’m on my way to Home Depot for grass seed, tomato cages, and annuals.
On Wednesday, I determine that, if I spend the day in front of my computer, I can turn out 600 words and still have Thursday for editing. All I need is a subject. I troll the Internet, looking for topics, current events, some nugget of news that might feed an idea.
Let’s check Facebook to see what’s trending.
Big mistake. An hour later, I have scrolled all the way down to 2012, got sucked into a comment debate over whether mustard or ketchup is better on hot dogs, and watched a string of YouTube videos of dogs with human voiceovers.
I figure I’ll switch out the laundry and try again after lunch, but the afternoon brings a case of the sleepys. I convince myself that a 20-minute catnap on the couch will do wonders, but you can probably guess how the day goes from there.
Thursday I wake up stressed, which should provide adequate motivation to meet my 24-hour deadline. But by dinnertime, I have done everything BUT my column. I organized the junk drawer, swept out the basement, clipped my toenails, put our National Geographic magazines in chronological order, and dug the fuzz out of the keyboard with a toothpick.
I plan to let my editors know on Monday, I just can’t do this anymore.
Friday and Saturday pass in hopeless defeat. But on Sunday, I notice that the sky did not fall. The Earth did not implode. I am still breathing. My editors probably haven’t even noticed that my column is late. I realize that my fear of failure has caused me to create conditions where success is impossible. With the dangerous awareness that I could play this cat and mouse game with myself every week if I so dared, I finally sat down and tapped out this column about procrastination.
I hit send and promise myself: I will put an end to this self-destructive habit, and I’ll do it first thing — tomorrow.