The reason I have posed the question above is that I seem to have spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks doing almost anything but writing. You will all have heard variations on the cliché about the appeal of cleaning the cooker versus writing the article/column/essay etc. That certainly sounds very much like procrastination to me. I mean, who would willingly choose to clean a cooker? Unless there was a real threat of death by food poisoning, that particular job stays very near the bottom of my ‘to do’ list and only a notch or two above cleaning the toilet. I declare here and now that no impending deadlines of any form will ever hasten my decision to clean cooker or loo. Glad to have cleared that one up.
I’m pondering the procrastination issue because recently I found myself in a situation where I needed to complete certain tasks, and furthermore I had to complete them within a specific period. The biggest of the jobs was baking and decorating my daughter’s thirteenth birthday cake. As usual, I was working to a specific brief (this is one discerning recipient) and felt that it was important to rise to the challenge she had set for me. I baked the cake on one day (actually two cakes to sandwich together) and then ended up spending the best part of the following day intensively working at the decoration. And in between those two stages I made some shortbread and posted it to my dad for his birthday; it’s a father daughter tradition that we’ve established over the years.
Now, the thing is this; does that time away from writing qualify as procrastination? That birthday cake task did need to be done and couldn’t take second place to writing a blog post, or indeed writing anything at all. Well, I suppose it could have taken second place but then that would have put me firmly into the ‘bad parent’ category. A definite clash of interests there methinks. Not only that, but I did actually want to make and design the birthday cake. Many moons ago I used to be a cake decorator and so I like to flex my confectionery muscles every now and then. I see it as another form of creativity (unlike cleaning the loo) rather than out and out procrastination. And finally, the requested cake design did have a literary connection; Thorin’s map from The Hobbit was this year’s icing challenge. Believe me, between the Lonely Mountain and the Moon Runes it was truly a challenge, to say nothing of Smaug and his gold.
So of course, I simply had to do it. Additionally I have to confess that I helped to eat it afterwards and very tasty it was indeed. Now fortunately for me I didn’t have any looming writing deadlines as I had already submitted my entry for one of the Listowel Prize categories, knowing that I would need the time elsewhere. My Fish Publishing memoir entry was also put to bed by that stage. No great clashes of interest occurred as the only delays were in my pattern of blog posts for various sites (including this one). However, what would I have done in the event of a serious clash? The writing is all about my aspirations and me. It would be selfish to put that first in certain situations especially as it doesn’t actually pay or have any benefit for anyone else.
How ruthless can one be in putting ones own interests over another’s? Any thoughts?