The Great Procrastinator
I was thirteen years old when I first realized I was a writer. My family was visiting relatives from my mom's side down in Bristol, Virginia, and I was hanging out with my cousin Aaron. He showed me some drawings and writings he'd done for a book he was planning to write, and at that moment I realized that I too could take the ideas floating around inside my head and commit them to paper.
Once we were back home, I grabbed a single subject spiral notebook and began writing down story ideas. The very first story I ever wrote was called Thompson. It was loosely based on a very vivid dream I once had about a telepathic alien who came to live with my family. Since I was just starting out, the writing was mostly garbage, but it was a start. The premise is still there, kicking around my head; maybe I'll revisit it one day.
The best thing I wrote at that age was a story about a kid living with divorced parents. Since I understood those circumstances very well, I was able to write truthfully and passionately. It's still badly written, but it has a special place in my heart, and once the right moment arrives, I'll take my decades of experience and turn it into something worthwhile.
I ended up being very prolific in my teen years, churning out a few dozen short stories, a handful of poems, a couple of screenplays, and one very terrible novel about a private investigator framed for murder. Once I hit my twenties, the writing slowed a bit, but the ideas were still flowing, and I continued writing stories I was passionate about. I lived my life: moved from West Virginia to New Hampshire, got married, bought a house, had a kid. It was somewhere in this period that I began to put off my writing, even exiling the ideas I had to an imaginary bookshelf in my brain. I had become the great procrastinator.
Procrastination is defined simply as the delaying or postponement of something. That definition makes it sound almost innocuous, but the truth is: procrastination is the greatest enemy of productivity. The procrastinator in me told me to put off writing this blog and instead turn on Netflix. I said no to that guy, because it's his fault that I'm just now publishing my first novel at the age of forty-three rather than much earlier. If I had aggressively pursued my writing in my twenties with the same fervor I have now, I might be publishing my third or fourth novel. Who knows? Instead, I've spent my entire adult life working dead-end jobs that frustrated me to no end when I could have been trying to make a living doing something I loved. Instead of focusing on my talents and my future, I focused on momentary pleasures like television or video games. I wish I could go back in time to my twenty-five year old self and smack that guy around a little bit, but I also recognize God's sovereign hand in my life. I'm publishing a book at forty-three and not twenty-five because this is what He had for me. The best thing I can do is to live for His glory in this present moment without dwelling too much on my past failures.
However, the fact that God is sovereign over my life doesn't excuse my procrastination. I am deeply guilty of sin when I put off for tomorrow things that can be done today. Borrowing a thought from pastor and hip-hop artist Trip Lee (You can read his thoughts here.), procrastination is simply a form of pride. When I procrastinate, I am assuming that I am like God, having sovereign wisdom of everything that will happen in the future. When I put off the task, I am assuming that I will be able to do that task in the future. But how would I know that when I don't even know what will happen in the next five seconds? If we take a look at James 4:13-15, we see the biblical perspective we should have towards procrastination: "Come now, you who say,' Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there, and trade and make a profit' -- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you want to say,' If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' James is essentially telling us that we should hold all of our plans with open hands, willing to surrender them because they are subject to God's sovereign will. So when I put off working on my writing in order to watch another episode of Longmire, I'm making the assumption that the time to work on my writing will still be there later. What I'm actually doing is spitting in the face of God's sovereignty and embracing selfishness and laziness. Shame on me for that.
I won't sit here and pretend that I've conquered my tendencies to procrastinate. It's something I face every single day, because I am a selfish, sinful, rebellious child of God. My novel will be published this summer, and I've got plans for a sequel, but getting started is a challenge because Longmire just keeps getting better and better. I need to run from my selfish desires and instead bring glory to God by using the talents and abilities He's given me now instead of tomorrow. So do your work now, and Netflix and chill later. If you do it, I'll do it. Actually, I'm planning on doing it anyway. I'll start tomorrow. (Just kidding.)