My fall semester, Frosh year—that’s what we called first year instead of the male-centric “Freshman”—I stayed in my room most of the time.
I passed up invitations to go to the student center, to go play pool, to go hang out “with the guys.”
My friend Risa, locking her room across the hall and dangling her keys as if they were a doggie treat, always asked, “You suuuuure you don’t want to come?”
“I wish.” (I did.) “But I have to work on my essay.”
I had to write a personal essay for an application, and I couldn’t think how to start. I think it was just supposed to be a page, but writing about myself was the hardest.
“Okayyyyyyyy,” Risa said.
And then she left me to it.
Well, procrastinating. But hell if I remember how.
I didn’t scroll social media. I didn’t binge Netflix.
It was 1987!
I didn’t even watch TV. Didn’t have one in my dorm room.
What were my devices for avoidance?
Did I read a book? Flip through the Frosh Facebook again? (That was a real thing, printed on paper, that you used to look for people you found attractive, either to pursue them or compare yourself to them.)
Did I put on my cassette labeled “workout songs” and do aerobics in my room?
One woman down the hall was always doing aerobics in her room, in a terrycloth headband, while defrosting Birdseye mixed vegetables on her radiator.
I wasn’t that f’d up, but it is possible I avoided at least a half hour of work by doing moves like The Pony to Bananarama in front of my $12.99 full-length door mirror from Caldor’s.
I definitely didn’t clean my desk or organize my sweaters. Unfortunately, that’s never been how I procrastinate.
I’m at a loss. All I know is, Risa always came back hours later, with me no further in my essay than when she left.
She knew not to ask.
She herself, when assigned a term paper on Frederick Douglass, started conking out on her bed every day instead of working on it. We called her sleeping sickness, “Frederick Douglass Syndrome.”
Like me (51st bday this week), it’s as old as time. No wifi required!
I don’t think I’ll ever get over creative resistance, especially when what I’m working on is something assigned to me, something that’s “due.”
As much as possible, I’ve tried to design my business around having a #nohomeworklife.
- When I took private clients, I worked with them in real-time, creating copy on the spot. I didn’t want to have to “turn over” a bunch of—kill me—DELIVERABLES. I knew any deadline would hang over me and depress me.
- My group program, Shrimp Club, consists mainly of hot-seat calls, where I coach Shrimpers or look at their copy on the fly. Nothing to prepare or think about till we’re on Zoom.
- I love writing emails, and never feel like they’re “due.” When I sit down to write one, I know that it doesn’t have to be epic or perfect, and it certainly doesn’t have to be long. Nobody ever unsubscribed because your email was too short.
I’m glad I’ve taken homework out of my business as much as possible, because I’m not much different than I used to be.
I have a thing to write right now—not for a client but not just for myself—and I’m avoiding the everloving doodoo out of it, in all the modern ways.
Last week, I plowed through all of Cobra Kai on Netflix. This week, HBO’s The Vow.
That’s what reminded me how hard I used to procrastinate and made me wonder, “How the f did I pull off this torturous avoidance before?”
Today, I’m going to cut the shit, take my own advice from last week, and just write *something*.
I can at least start there.
Do you hate homework?
Are you a procrastinator? Where do you think it comes from?
And do you think you could ever not be one?