82/365 Procrastination and its flirtatious younger sibling Displacement
I’ve not written for ages. I’ve not had enough head-space. It’s been taken up with daydreaming about a different creative medium: video.
Over the past few weeks (ever since my visit to Kathmandu), I’ve been conjuring and concocting all sorts of different visualisations.
That process has been incredibly invigorating. It has been as though someone has unlocked a door to a room in our house which for years I’d forgotten we even had.
On the other side of the door is a freshly decorated room, with a bed covered in cotton sheets, and a big Georgian window through which strong warm sun is shining. This room is the kind of rediscovery that makes my eyes widen.
Day after day I’ve coldly passed-by the room I’d previously been occupying (the space in my head I usually visit when I write) in favour of my recently rediscovered playroom on the top floor. Sometimes run to that new room. Sometimes I realise I haven’t even left it. There are even moments when I think I’d quite like to stay here for as long as I possibly can.
Writing has been passed over in favour of video.
If I step back momentarily into that writing room what I find is a little disappointing.
The room is cold and dusty. The bulb has blown in the overhead light, and it appears that someone has popped whilst I’ve not been here and taken the desk light. They’ve returned the light, but haven’t bothered to plug it back in again. They just left it on the desk. They thought I won’t notice they’d borrowed it. But I do. “Well,” they’d said if I mentioned it over breakfast, “you weren’t using it.”
Piles of books have been left on the floor. Now they wait to be put away on the oak shelves that line the walls of the room. Everything looks rather unloved, perhaps even dispensed with.
This sometimes happens. I can go weeks or months without even realising I haven’t written anything. There a few stages in my growing realisation. First I’ll not notice anything has changed except for a strange nagging feeling. Then when I start to put two and two together, I’ll wonder how it was I hadn’t noticed something had changed sooner. Only then will I try to work out what happened to stop me from writing in the first place.
My diary — a journal I’ve kept since I was a teenager — is littered with gaps in time. The longest leap is twelve months. Most are between weeks and a couple of months.
When I return to the writing its always with a sense of disappointment. Probably a bit of guilt. Expectations loom large. Writing becomes rather difficult all of a sudden.
But soon after I’ve got cracking, I’ll quickly realise that the writing process isn’t anywhere near as onerous to get started as I’d tricked myself into thinking in the intervening weeks or months. Then the inevitable: why didn’t I do this before now?
Procrastination and its younger more flirtatious sibling Displacement are the unhelpful habits at play here.
It’s no surprise really that video has taken over my thinking in recent weeks. It’s more colourful. It’s more immediate. The different effects don’t need to be described in words in order to conjur up a feeling, the visuals trigger the emotions themselves. Suddenly, words get in the way.
Video promises a quicker kind of gratification. Importantly, it’s also a kind of storytelling which is more manageable. Great long passages of rambling prose risk putting the reader off. Video insists on succinctness.
If writing were a person then that person appears to me right now as a little huffy. It’s pleased I’m back but its not going to let me get off lightly.
The irony is that writing demands constant, regular attention. It requires routine. Yet that very routine is susceptible to distraction, especially that which delivers a faster and quicker kind of gratification.
It’s difficult to know how to reconcile the two, or indeed whether they even need to be. I don’t know what is the best way to strike a happy balance.
At least, I don’t know yet.