SECTION IV - CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
An absolutely Foolproof Way To Procrastinate
Historically women have outdistanced men in the successful utilization of this technique. Their role of caring for others has interrupted all but the most determined writers. However, with the emergence of the "New Man," men are applying these principles with greater and greater success.
For centuries women have instinctively known how to delay their writing indefinitely by helping others. They are the trailblazers in this particular mode of procrastination. There is some question about whether this proclivity is genetic or hormonal, but so far as we know, this has not been adequately studied. Whatever the case, women are usually more successful in this arena than men. Although we realize that this last statement might be considered sexist, we sincerely hope that it is not too inflammatory and we beg you not to be offended. We are interested in the creation of an effective non-writer, not in gender differences.
Now, on to the topic at hand. People are always coming to you for help. Even if they don’t come to you directly you, as a sensitive person, can often see ways in which they might need your help even if they are unable to ask for it. If you are a good person, you want to do things for others. If you are always available to help people, then you will naturally take time from your writing to do so. Your non-writing approach to life will be supported and, at the same time, you will be doing a good deed.
For instance, now that you have learned how to use the computer proficiently, friends will call you with computer problems. “My system has just crashed. What should I do?” Another one will tell you that her cursor is stuck and seems frozen. Another one will want to know why his Quicken program didn’t handle his last bank reconciliation properly. Once you become known as an available expert on computer lore, there is no end to the questions that will come your way and the time it will take to answer them. Each question provides an excellent “break” that can easily be far more effective than all the coffee, cigarettes, snacks and naps combined.
There are innumerable ways that you can help people. A friend may be moving to a different apartment. Helping such a person can be a real gift. Someone’s car breaks down and she needs a ride to the garage. Your best friend calls. He is very unhappy at work and would like to talk with you about it. Your girlfriend is trying to decide whether or not to take the promotion she was offered. Your best friend is having relationship problems and needs some advice. Your mother needs you. Your children need you. The cats have to be taken to the veterinarian. Your son’s pet python is having an identity crisis. Everyone needs you!
Who can say no to a child who phones and wants to talk to you? Who can say no to a child who feels insecure and needs comfort from you? Who can say no to a child who just wants to be with you and sit with you while you are writing. After all, you have their promise that they won’t disturb you. Children come first; of that there is no doubt. So give them the time they need so that issues of guilt will not cloud your writing.
A very strange thing happens once you start to write. The moment you close the door to your work room, it appears that everyone suddenly requires something of you. We’re not sure exactly what it is that happens. Where one would think the closed door is a hint that people should stay away, what happens with amazing frequency is that it ends up being an invitation for people to come in and ask you to do things for them.
Recently someone wrote to us about his own experience with closed doors. He and his wife hadn’t had sexual relations in over six months. His wife seemed to have lost interest. On the day he started writing (before he read our book), his wife saw the closed door, entered his study, and successfully seduced him. Such is the mystery and allure of the closed door.
When you think about it, what happens here is quite clear. Closed doors make people feel insecure, so they become amazingly creative in finding ways to get the door open. Do you want to be the kind of person who isolates yourself from your family and/or friends? No! No! NO! The answer then is to be available; to give, give and give. If your book takes a while longer to write, so be it. You are a good human being.
If you believe in reincarnation, better yet. In this case you realize that you will have many opportunities in the future to write your book. Why be in such a rush. Life and death are simply doorways into each other. Besides which, imagine what the computers will be like in your next incarnation. If you don’t believe in re-incarnation, don't worry. There are plenty of other reasons to be relaxed.
If you feel yourself weakening and starting to become selfish to protect your writing time, then we recommend reading a biography of Mother Teresa to help you become more balanced
By now it must be obvious why this chapter is so important. Being available to enough people is almost enough, by itself, to see that your book never gets written! It is the height of selfishness to put your writing first before your duties to your fellow human beings. People will see you as selfish whether or not they tell this to you directly. The real gift here is to learn how to use all your relationships as proper vehicles for effective procrastination and, in so doing, to attain the status of a successful non-writer.
CONTINUING TO FULFILL YOUR SOCIAL OBLIGATIONS
Writing a book is a time consuming affair. You might well be seized by the creative muse, gobbled up by her so to speak, and disappear into oblivion. There is real danger in this. You might finish your book and discover that you no longer have any friends because you had so thoroughly neglected them during the writing process. In considering this entire issue, do spend some time thinking about the karmic consequences of this kind of interpersonal neglect.
In the last chapter we discussed the general principles of helping others, i.e., of being available to them in their time of need. Now we want to look at the general meaning of social obligations and see how adherence to a few fundamental rules of social behavior can help deter, or perhaps even totally obliterate, any serious writing tendencies.
Writing a book is a time consuming affair. You may well be seized by the creative muse, gobbled up by her so to speak, and disappear into oblivion. There is real danger in this. You might finish your book and discover that you no longer have any friends because you had so thoroughly neglected them during the writing process. In considering this entire issue, do spend some time thinking about the karmic consequences of this kind of interpersonal neglect.
What all this means on a practical level is that you need to maintain your system of social relationships. You must do whatever needs to be done to achieve this goal. Most likely, this will involve staying in touch with others by phone, mail, fax or eMail. It is very easy to neglect this and feel that it is of no importance when compared to the idea of writing a book. Such is not the case, however. After all, what is the ultimate meaning of the writing with all of its fame and fortune, its prestige and status, if you end up with nobody left to talk to except your publicity agent and the 500,000 books you have sold?
This maintenance of social contacts requires a kind of mothering function in the writer. One needs to call people and “tuck them in.” This is akin to having children and putting them all to sleep in the evening so that you can finally do what you really want to do. The problem here is that you probably know a great many people so this “tucking-in” process can take a considerable amount of time. Sidra is an outstanding “tucker inner” and she offers three day workshops on the subject four times a year.
There is a very strong positive correlation between “tucking-in” tendencies and one's ultimate success in non-writing. For this reason we recommend that you practice the exercises we have listed at the end of this chapter. If you do not heed our advice, you just might get seduced by the glamorous image of a successful writer and limit your social engagements and interactions so that you can get your work done. But if you do so, you run the risk of finishing your book!
Last but not least, remember the age-old concern: "What will people think?". You certainly don't want people talking about you as "the big-time writer who doesn't have time for his or her friends anymore." You certainly do not want to be the kind of person who abandons old friends or uses the telephone answering machine as a way of avoiding people. Successful non-writing means being available. Let other people use their phone machines to dodge calls. You want to be the sort of person that people can count on! To become a genuine non-writer, you must live a normal, ordinary life and do everything that you are supposed to do to take care of peoples’ needs.
1. Make a list of everyone in your family whom you need to call. Add to this the names of any other relatives you haven’t called during the past three months.
2. Using the same criteria, make a list of all the others, not in your family, you need to call or whom you haven’t called during the past three months.
3. Compare these lists with your spouse (or partner), if you have one, to see if there is anyone that you have overlooked.
4. Make a list of the people to whom you owe a dinner invitation.
5. Over a three day period, phone everyone in your life who needs calling. Relax, enjoy yourself, and take plenty of time with each one. Promise them you'll call them again next week.
6. See how much better you feel now that you have spoken with everyone. You have accomplished two major objectives. (1) You have not written anything during this time, and (2) everyone you know is still talking to you.