Well, I fucked up pretty badly recently. Not a complete failure, mind you. No one died, property wasn’t damaged, and all of my appendages are still attached. But at the same time, I still made a huge, huge mistake, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to correct it, although there’s a good chance that ship has sailed.
Now, I’ve been known to procrastinate. Not a little bit, but an absolute master of putting things off until the last minute. I would finish homework on the bus to school, I would prepare for a test the night before. Once, in college when I was building a bridge out of popsicle sticks for a class in strength of materials, I was haphazardly gluing bit of wood from frozen treats the day before. I cut myself pretty badly, and the bridge ended up with a bunch of blood all over it. Needless to say, the bridge wasn’t the best in the class, but to my credit, it also wasn’t the worst.
Normally, I’m one hundred percent aware that I’m putting something off. It never sneaks up on me, I’m never caught by surprise. When a deadline is looming, I’m staring that asshole down the entire time, making sure not to break eye contact. It’s not that I want to put it off, it usually that I’m a sucker for short bursts of dopamine hits that are provided by doing anything else but the task at hand. I’ve developed some very poor habits over the years, habits that I’m trying to break.
I’ve been focusing a lot on a book I’m reading, called ‘Learning How to Learn’. It’s by Dr. Barbara Oakley, and it’s basically the study of how to focus your mind, stop procrastinating, and start getting to work. It’s an incredibly fascinating read, and I’ve been picking at it for a while now, doing the exercises, writing down my progress. It’s been a really enjoyable process.
Let’s get to the part where I fall flat on my face. I’m part of a writing group, called the Bow Bottom Writers. It’s nice to be part of a little group of writers and have the opportunity to chat with other folks about it. It’s also cool that even though we’re all writers, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. All sorts of people from different walks of life are there, and it’s refreshing to be in a room full of people who you respect but disagree with on a number of subjects. We meet once a week, on Thursday at the college. We either do a writing exercise or we have a guest speaker come in and talk about craft.
We’re not a huge group by any stretch, so there isn’t a budget to have a speaker come in and chat with us all the time, so we take turns picking a topic, making a little presentation, and giving a lecture to the rest of the group. It’s a fun exercise, and it changes things up a bit.
To anyone who knows me, you can see where this is going.
Now, last night was my turn. Apparently. I say apparently because it’s the first time I had been completely caught off guard forgetting to do something. I’ve never been that blindsided before. And I should have known! I had it on the calendar, had started on the presentation already, done some research, and was slowly putting the pieces together. Here I am, and I have to give a presentation in fifteen minutes about a subject I’m not ready to give. So I leave the room, get some water, and float some ideas around in my brain. Should I set fire to the building? Should I leave right now, head back home, pack up my things and leave town forever?
All of those ideas were actually considered, even if very briefly. In the end, I sat in front of six adults, and through a combination of information I hadn’t looked at in a week, bullshitting skills I had thought I had forgotten, and the help of the woman who organizes the writing group as she asked a bunch of questions to light the dark recesses of my brain, I managed to stumble through the presentation while only losing most of the respect of my peers.
At the end of the day, everyone walked away knowing that I’m not nearly as intelligent as I play myself off to be, and that’s what really counts.
It’s weird to think that even though I’ve been reading and studying a book that supposedly helps deal with your procrastination, I hit the worst case of it in my life. Maybe that means I should go back to doing things the old fashioned way, on the back of the bus an hour before class.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. Oh my god Leslie, I am so sorry about last night. I absolutely hate Tim Hortons, but I owe you a damn coffee.
p.s.s. Seriously though, this is straight up old school Mr. Charlton right there.