I’m a mess. Seriously, I’m all over the place and ragged around the edges.  My apartment looks like a tornado went through it.  I’m behind on a million projects (both personal and professional) and have a laundry list of deadlines I’ve simply blown past without even the slightest attempt at getting something in for them.  Hell, I can’t even keep up with updating this blog or working out regularly (two things I should have mastered and do without much thought by now).  But the Pièce de résistance of my deteriorated state is that for the past week and a half, I’ve been sleeping on dirty sheets while a set of clean bedding lay folded on the bed with me.  Why?  I just couldn’t get around to changing them.

guyHow did this happen?  What could have led to this downward spiral?  It’s actually pretty simple.  I’ve been really busy.  It seems strange to make this argument: but for a little over a month now—I’ve been running around with stuff to do and places to go.  From weddings to a somewhat working vacation, I’ve been traveling up and down the East Coast.  And the chaos of the past few weeks has thrown my routine completely off and I just let things slip into disarray.  This is nothing new and I’ve gone through this song and dance a million times before: my life gets hectic and crazy, I end up neglecting certain aspects, things get messy, and then I work to get my shit together, get organized, set up a routine, fight to stick to it, things get back together, and then the whole process begins again.  I feel like I go through this cycle every few months and I’m beginning to suspect that I like it.

I’m just realizing that it’s easier to pick up the pieces than to keep everything from falling apart.  There’s direction and energy that comes on this wave of excitement to fix everything.  Whereas when things are organized and you’re following a laid out routine, it’s kind of dull and aggravating to stick to.  The thing is—it’s continuing to follow though on that monotonous routine and keeping your shit together that gets you to your overall goals.  It always the actual work, not gearing up and setting to do it.  So I’ve got a new goal:  I’ve got to stick to the boring grind that I set up and not let it slip away.  Maybe this time it’ll work.

[Pic via about.com]

200310679-002It’s late.  It’s late at night and I’m writing this post.  I could have done this hours ago.  Hell, maybe even days ago.  But this isn’t another rant about my problem with procrastination or lack of ideas to write about (God knows I beat those two horses to death!).  See: there’s nothing better than staying up late writing.   Chabon calls it “the midnight disease,” and its one of the greatest feelings in the world.  Ever scored a game-winning touchdown? Or saved a child’s life?  And his/her supermodel mom thanked you…sexually?  Yeah, those are great.  I mean what I’m talking about makes you rundown and question your sanity over debating word choices when you need to leave for work in four hours.  It isn’t that the writing is any better than from a normal time, I just love the idea that while everyone else in the entire world is sleeping, I’m creating something.  I know.  I’m a weirdo.

I was the king of all nighters.  Just ask any of my college roommates—I even drove one to the brink of insanity by disrupting his sleep so much (Don’t worry, he was from Poland—they don’t count.).  I don’t think I ever started working on a term paper before 11PM. And for my graduate school thesis?  I was up till 2AM every night, except when I slept all day on Sunday.  I would even stay up late writing my own stuff just for me.  I could stay up the entire night without any sleep and make it into work the next day.  Of course, I’d be groggy, but that’s why there’s coffee.  Glorious, glorious, coffee.  The thing is: I always remember being able to do this.  Even as a little kid, I would stay up late reading or drawing my own comic strips until my dad came in and yelled at me to go sleep.  And then I would pretend to go to sleep so he’d leave me alone and I could get back to work.  I think it’s why my parents won’t let me move back in with them.

But that’s all over now.  Now, if I don’t get at least six hours of sleep, I’m a zombie.  And coffee, my sweet nectar of the caffeinated peppy Gods?  Well, you know how a drug addict’s body builds a tolerance to their narcotic over time and they have to increase the dosage to keep attaining the same high and then they end up just taking massive quantities to feel normal? My bladder can’t take it.

In the end, maybe it’s a sign that I’m no longer a kid anymore.  That I need to tackle my writing in a more mature, orderly manner, and not just with a childish manic excitement.  Still makes me feel old though.  Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to get some sleep.

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I have a confession to make: I’m always pushing against my deadlines.  As a semi-professional writer (I write articles for my day job but don’t get a byline…I think the phrase best describes my situation) this is never an ideal trait to have.  And with the blog to keep somewhat regularly updated and various freelancing projects, I’ve always got a piece that’s either in the pipeline or due.  Most likely due.

I don’t have any problem coming up with the ideas for stories, doing the research and legwork, or even actually writing; I just can’t seem to do all that in a perfectly timely matter.  I’ve ranted and raved here before about my habit to procrastinate, even written about not having anything to post because of it.  But this is a little different.  It’s not that I don’t get my articles/essays/fiction in on time (every now and then I do blow a deadline), it’s that I tend to get my stuff in at the last possible minute.

I wish that I could just plan ahead, write something, and turn it in well before it’s due.  Instead I’m always working on a piece literally within minutes of its deadline, and thus not getting a proper head start on the next project—so the vicious cycle continues.  On deadline day, I’m usually running around, muttering “Why do I always do this to myself?!’ while a certain colleague/friend who has already turned his stuff in and posted on his blog (twice!) will cry out “I’m so boooorrreed.”

But there is an upside to it.  I’ve found that pushing hard up against a deadline prevents me from going off into diatribes, fussing over clause packed sentences, or packing too much detail into a description, giving my under-pressure writing a concise and clean feel.  It’s also an adrenaline rush.  There’s nothing quite like turning those feelings of panic and desperation into fuel for manic productivity and the following sense of accomplishment.  And it’s addictive.  But lately, I’ve been thinking about what else I could accomplish if I just managed my time a little better.

I think that the reason that I’ve never REALLY tried to fix this problem is because I was always able to pull it off.  Not matter what, I turned in that paper I started the night before it was due and got at least a B or finished the short story in time for my workshop.  I never had the push to change my ways in a moment where it all came crashing down and I completely failed to get any of it done.  Maybe the fact that I want to change this habit without hitting rock bottom is a sign that I’m growing up.  Maybe this can be the beginning of something new.  Maybe I can move past the thrill seeking and concise writing benefits of running up against my deadlines and finally be the get-things-done-in-advance writer I want to be.

This my Monday post for the blog and I’m finishing it up on Sunday night.  We’ll see how it plays out from here.

[Pic via Fromdistance.com]

bush_confusedIt’s Monday. I’m tired and regretting not calling in sick. I also want to get a post up before noon, but I’m having trouble thinking up what I what I want to write about. So I’m staring at a blank screen while my brain sputters and skids—searching for something, anything, to pontificate on. I could cop out and just write up a list of something funny, like “Things I don’t care about” then copy and paste the current trending topics on twitter with a smarmy sentence or two for each entry [editor’s note: lists are super easy to write because they don’t require the hardest thing to work out on paper, transition of thoughts]. Or maybe I could just dump some embedded videos in here and leave it at that. The thing is: I didn’t start this blog to write those types of posts. I started this because I wanted to challenge myself into not just writing regularly, but with depth and aimed at some semblance of quality.

It’s not that I don’t have any ideas. I’ve got a whole Word .doc of things I want to write about. From something in a current events type of vein, like a rant that’s been building up inside of me about how stupid newspapers are for wanting to charge for online content, or something personal, like how I am physically unable to piss if someone is at the urinal right next to me. I can write up another review for my most recent completion off the Summer Reading List or do another Profile in Awesomeness. Or go in a new direction, like exploring the recently discovered pleasure of watching classic 80’s cartoon shows on YouTube. It’s just that all those posts would take more time than I have to write today.

I’ve posted here before about my problems with procrastination and I feel like maybe I should have prepared something to write ahead of time, but I’ve been crazy busy lately and have a lot more to do today for my day job (and other stuff). Basically, I just want to quickly crank something out that I don’t need to do a lot of research or thought to put together, but is still a memorable post.

Maybe I should write about how I’m trying to come up with something to write about?

[Pic via ScienceFaster.com]

procrastinationI’m a big procrastinator. Don’t believe me? This post was supposed to be done hours ago and I’m only getting to it now. I’m also lazy. So lazy that on more than one occasion I’ve sprayed myself with Febreze instead of taking a shower or at least change into a fresh T-shirt (I’m not proud of it).

Most people don’t recognize the difference between procrastination and laziness. One can procrastinate without being lazy (doing everything else instead of the really important work you’re blowing off) and you can be lazy while never procrastinating (you always make your deadline, the scant few that you have). I’m cursed with both and the two seem to work well together. I’d totally get to work on this project which I’ve been putting off for a couple weeks, but I’d rather just lay on my couch and watch that episode of House I’ve already seen a couple times (It’s Lupus, you fools!).

To be fair, it’s not like I just freeze up and never get anything down. There’s usually a manic filled all-nighter to get something in on time, and I always swear that it’s the last time. It’s one of the most horrible feelings—to be up against a deadline that you wanted to make and very easily could have, but it just never happened. You feel hollowed out by self-hate. The only thing that is holding me from accomplishing my goals is…me. God, the number of times that I’ve wished for a time machine to go back in and scream at myself to get off my lazy ass. And maybe watch the Roswell UFO crash, cause if you have a time machine you might as well do something cool—but I’m getting off topic.

I’ve tried numerous times to conquer my dueling faults over the years. Date books and personal organizers with just the first few pages filled up, constantly updated to-do lists that end up with “redo to-do list” at the top (before I chuck them), and I own more than a couple self-help books on organizing and self-motivation. It actually takes a lot of effort to be this lazy and procrastinate this much. I wonder how I ever got anything done at all.

Where does it come from? This urge to shirk our responsibilities to a later date. Procrastination seems to be a fairly modern condition. The notion that our ancestors suffered from it is doubtful. If cavemen kept putting off finding shelter or hunting and gathering for food then they would have died off and we wouldn’t exist. It’s also hard to imagine early pioneers and settlers deciding the chores around the homestead could wait till tomorrow. It could be because they had nothing better to do, no constant diversions. It’s not like there was anything equivalent to cable TV or Failblog.org in the caves. There’s so much instant entertainment out there, it’s all too tempting. Or maybe it’s because we as a society have crossed the point of no return for comfort. There are no more dire consequences in everyday contemporary America—so what if the term paper doesn’t get turned in on time, it’s not like you’ll starve. Meanwhile back on the prairie, if Pa Ingalls didn’t get that well finished than his family wouldn’t have any fresh water to drink (that’s a Little House on the Prairie reference, in case you didn’t catch it).

Or maybe it’s just that I spend all my time making excuses. That it doesn’t matter if there’s too many distractions or not severe enough consequences. What matters is just biting the bullet and getting your shit done. Maybe that’s what separates people who accomplish their goals and people who don’t, the willingness to do what needs to be done in a timely manner. Yeah, maybe that’s it. I’ll think about it…tomorrow.