Deadlines (and Procrastination) Suck

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles in while I find myself staring at the screen. I have shit to do — things to write, but I’m really dreading the task. I have a deadline to meet and it’s the type of deadline I’m not used to dealing with. It’s a self-imposed deadline.

I think everyone is used to fighting with dreaded deadlines as they seem to be a part of life, especially for those in school/college or in certain jobs. Seeing as even high school imposes deadlines — study deadlines before tests, paper deadlines, essay deadlines, project deadlines, and the terrible speech deadlines — everyone has surely dealt with the stress of an ever approaching target that they fail to make progress on meeting.

Deadlines are obviously related to procrastination. I find it interesting that in over 100 posts I haven’t written anything about procrastination yet. This makes sense though because I avoid deadlines like the plague. I’m not in school and I have a stupidly cushy job that while having deadlines, these apply to our whole crew in general. It’s never a personal thing to deal with. Everyone suffers together.

Procrastination is a scary beast and I don’t have much to say about it that hasn’t been said already. A few years ago I discovered this magnificent blog post by Tim Urban from Wait But Why, and it says everything about procrastination that needs to be said. It’s awful, we know it’s wrong, but yet we do it. Instead of making progress on our goals well into the future distant from the deadline we take comfort in the time — the time that is always disappearing — that we still have left. Procrastination makes zero sense to the logical human, if you think about it no one should ever procrastinate. If you have time, just use it, right?

(He also did a TED talk on it. It’s like a watchable version of his rather wordy post.)

We all know this isn’t true and I’m guilty of it myself even if I know it’s wrong. I don’t even recall how many month-long papers I’ve had to write that I churned out the night before. And when I was in college I even involved alcohol in the process. I’d buy a bottle of vodka, dread the next few hours, drink, and start typing a multi-page paper. Reinforcing this process was the fact that I’d always get As on them along with a few Bs. There was nothing to turn me away from my procrastination habits besides the dread of it all, and the dread instantly disappears when you’re finally finished and receive a decent grade on the hastily and drunkenly written paper. Sure, I’d remember the dread, but then I’d procrastinate the dread of the dread itself. I’ll worry about worrying about it later. The layers of my procrastination are deep; it’s procrastination all the way down.

My life has been nearly deadline free for years now and it’s been nice. I don’t fuck around with deadlines. A popular way to be consistent with blogging is to force yourself to post on a set schedule: set a deadline. I’ve always thought that deadlines fuck with the creative process, plus the anxiety of procrastination was something I didn’t want to purposefully bring upon myself, so I never worried about a posting schedule. (I really think this dim view of deadlines and the creative process is really just me finding another way to procrastinate. Procrastination is a fucking demon.) Take a look at the WordPress display of my post: there is no pattern to it at all. I sit around taking my time and when inspiration hits I churn out a blog post.

Maybe there is some slight pattern? If there is, it isn’t on purpose.

The same is true with my creative writing. I only write when inspired. This is probably why only write at most three chapters a month. Progress has been terribly slow because I’ve had no reason to speed it up without a goal or a deadline.

Until 2020 that was.

One of my resolutions was to write a Morrowind fanfiction story. You can find a link to it here. I promised myself that I’d write a new chapter weekly and post it on Wattpad on Sunday. That’s tomorrow today by the way…I’m sure you see where this post is going and what inspired it. How hard would it be? It’s a fanfiction so I wouldn’t have to take it too seriously. I’d have a whole week to make a new chapter; that’s plenty of time, right? Yes, it is plenty of time until the procrastination kicks in and you find yourself starting the new chapter on Saturday. 26 hours until it needs to be posted. I need to write it, make it sound good, proofread it for errors. Read it again for errors. And then, after hours and hours of stress, writing, and editing when I don’t want to do any of it, I find success. Writing fucking sucks. And then another six days to piss away until it happens again. Repeat for a year or two until the story is finished.

The first few weeks weren’t a problem because I had already been dabbling in writing the story. I mostly had the first few chapters ready to go and I only had to clean them up before posting. But now? I’m in the thick of it. I’m out of pre-written chapters. This week was the first week I had to actually creating something out of thin air purposefully with a deadline. It’s awful and I’m dreading every weekend even more than I already have been. But I am glad to say it’s mostly done. I only have the dirty work of editing left. Yay…

That’s actually why I’m writing this post by the way: I’m procrastinating. I’ve realized for a few months now that this blog has turned into my procrastination project. Instead of doing the difficult work of writing fiction and being creative I get on here and bitch about stuff. It’s easy to do — well, easier than fiction — and I’m actually surprised I’ve turned writing blog posts into a project to procrastinate. It used to be video games and YouTube, so I suppose I am making some progress.

The anxiety is good though. I see why people set hard goals for their projects. If you always wait until you “feel like doing something” you’ll never get around to it, and if you do, it’ll be a much longer time than what it would’ve been. Procrastination sucks. Deadlines suck. Writing sucks. But despite this it is forcing me to make progress in the things I want to make progress in. It’s just highly uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing.

Well, now to work on that damn story…

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