The Ticking Clock of Procrastination

January 20, 2016

TingeyPhotoblog2I have one of those terrible sounding clocks that blare’s its alarm like a warning of impending doom. The maroon digital clock radio was a Christmas present from my grandfather when I was 8 or 9 and my brother received a matching one in teal. It’s followed me from Connecticut to Chicago and wakes me each morning with one or two blasts of its heinous alarm. The next half hour or so is spent quietly scrolling through my phone, reading the day’s headlines, and trying not to wake my slumbering girlfriend who has only come to bed a few hours earlier after her late night shift at the bar.

I wander into the living room of our apartment, plop down onto the couch while simultaneously turning on the television, and open up my laptop. And despite the fact that I’ve spent the previous half-hour checking Facebook and on my phone before I open up the Microsoft Word document that awaits me, I can’t help myself from watching the top ten plays on Sports Center and logging into Zuckerberg’s time wasting machine.

I’ll eventually get up and get myself a glass of juice and maybe a bowl of cereal, check Instagram on my phone because, hey I haven’t touched it for a solid ten minutes, and return to the couch to see my laptop growing dim, threatening to turn off if I don’t pay attention to it. It usually goes out. The light on the power button blinks and beckons to me, calling “press me. Start writing.” When I’ve eliminated all my procrastination options and checked the list twice I finally begin the process of writing.

If I’m continuing work on a piece, I’ve generally left off at a point where I know which direction the next paragraph or section is heading (a tip I picked up from Hemingway). I labor over each sentence, write five words, erase four, write three sentences, go back and change two of them. I struggle to get on a roll. But then it happens, the words come to my head quickly and perfectly, the articulation is correct and my fingers are true. One sentence links to two then quickly a paragraph. Sometimes a page or two pages will come over the span of only a few minutes, the words seemingly writing themselves.

And then it stops. I set the laptop aside, I stand up and stretch. I resume checking social media, fall into a Wikipedia hole, turn the television off and look through the vinyl collection to find a record to play (which of course means that at some point, I’ll have to get up to flip said record over and thus allowing myself another few moments absent from the keyboard). After I exhaust my procrastination, which has inevitably lasted as long as the time that I’ve just spent writing, I re-read what I’ve written and tidy up some sentences. I try to note places where I can expand, explore more. Sometimes I’ll start to write again and let a tumor of sentences plume inside an already healthy paragraph. New ideas take over and need the precision of a scalpel to excise and survive on the page.

It is at this point that hunger usually overtakes the urge to perform surgery on the paragraphs that I’ve now built into other bodies. The essay is the rabbit hole where words and thoughts spiral to no end. After a meal or a snack, I usually loathe returning to my computer and often don’t. But on the days where deadlines must be met or assignments must be handed in, I continue to pound the keys relentlessly until my fingers freeze from lack of inspiration or the clock strikes the hour in which I must submit or print my piece. At least, this clock signals quitting time and isn’t a call to work.

Evan Tingey, Assistant Editor


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