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Ever since I learnt this word, sometime back in primary school, a visceral vortex of guilt sends my conscience on its heels, whenever I think about it. Not in a scary way, just in a puritanical way. In a thou-shall-not-let-this-vice-afflict-you-kind of way. So warns my esoteric, philosophical-bullshit laden mind. And who’s being warned over here? Haha those morons; instinctual impulses to be precise .They’re often calm as well bred poodles. And then there are those days they’re hard to leash like sex starved mongrels at the sight of a bitch . Not that they (impulses) listen anyway.
You know that guy you expect to have a great conversation with, only to find yourself gasping amidst their verbal diarrhoea? You know how you listen to that guy right? You assume an attentive facade at first. They notice how keen you are . That’s a great incentive, by the way, for them to go on and on. Your mind drifts, your presence ebbs away like the glow of lifeless ambers. Soon pretence becomes tough and the only rescue is a phone call that will, just, never happen.
That’s how my impulses would listen to some quixotic warnings from my mind . And now it admonishes me against this evil
It’s a hot afternoon. The sweltering heat cuts right into the flesh so that you feel like a piece of red hot charcoal. There’s a piece I’ve been meaning to write. But what’s one to do wading through a swamp of mind numbing heat? And now I hear familiar sounds. They reverberate through me shaking some sluggishness out of me. I scan for the source. My eyes fall on Tamara. She’s sitting at the far end of the coffee bar . Her animating presence is enticingly sketched out by the sporadic shrills of her laughter. Hell no! I’m, not going to write this piece now. I grab a caramel macchiato, a perfect concoction of expresso, foamed milk and caramel that conspire to produce a heavenly aroma. My attention was long ago sacked by her seemingly; spellbinding story (not quite sure she is narrating a story or arguing). She is with two other friends. They’re all exhausted from laughing. It’s written all over their faces. “It’s the usual jibber-jabber” I think to myself. It’s ordinary but juicy. Today she’s all righteous about how heartless it was for one Abdi to post sarcastic remarks about “Mr. and Mr. blah-blah beauty pegeant. Mind you the other “Mr” is the miss whom he thought didn’t deserve the title. Anyway our madame is taking a swipe at Abdi today . She has turbid brown eyes that are always on to something; illustrating this, pointing at that with the help of the mouth and nose as though she’s about to throw a flying kiss. Her bronzed skin matches well with her dusky curly hair that neatly tucks a buldged forehead underneath the bangs. She acknowledges my presence with a rather, indifferent nod as she always does when shes not yet done with an arguement only supported by her feelings. She’s a creative working with some international ad agency. She abandones her half baked argument to bitch about a project she’s been putting off. Fuck no! She’s reminding me of my unfinished piece.
But wait a minute, I’m growing ecstatic. Adrenaline is coursing through my veins. Suddenly there’s more clarity in my thought . I know this feeling all too well. It means I’m having an ‘ahaa’ experience. It’s as if an angel were revealing scripture. When this happens, as it often does, know that I’m about to piece some obvious stuff into a dry logical explanation. In my previous life, I should’ve spitted a theory. But no, I keep mum. As I was saying, I’m about to uncover that I’m postponing my writing as she’s doing with her project. Similarly, I can recount 3 more, 4 more, no! It’s a multitude of people who postpone stuff. Here’s the interesting bit. They’re all creative or at least most are. What does this mean?
The steamy excitement is condensed at the surface of a socially acceptable exterior. I’m back on earth squeezing the last drops of attention to listen to Tamara. She’s stopped whining about her project. She’s at them (relationships) again. She will go on a tirade about how all men are dogs. It will feel like she neither has a dad nor a brother. She will reveal stuff about men who were after her. She will express disgust at the jerk,whose aggressive intentions camouflaged underneath a chivalric front. Then she will reminisce the sweetheart who fell on her feet, crying his heart out. She will compare them all to the flighty, adventurous and rebellious play boy, with a twinkle of passion in her eyes. Her voice will turn hoarse! Her manicured fingers will gracefully land on the half empty glass of Ice cold latte. With a characteristic gentleness, she will hold the glass in a way that leaves the dew intact. Her fleshy glossy lips will gather around the straw to sip the contents. She will resume, this time describing the Range rover sport driving honcho who offered to pay a year’s worth of rent in a single instalment. The only problem is that, he had two wives and diabetes. Then, she will notice how bored we’ve grown.
Meanwhile, I will be comparing her to an app on Google play store, she being the app, and the bunch of men she’s mentioned the number of downloads. The more the downloads the greater the appeal. They call it ‘social proof’ in social psychology. For a moment I will gaze into her eyes. I’ll see a young girl struggling to draw attention, perhaps sub consciously. I’ll notice how her words are perfectly weaved to dress underlying insecurities. I’ll smirk as though I’ve discovered a child’s fruitless attempt at pulling a magic trick. She will steal glances at her watch. She will rumble about pulling an all nighter on the project that is due next day. As though I woke from deep slumbr, I’ll be reminded of my unfinished piece.
“In my tray are 4,500 words that need to be written by dusk. Things that have piled up. Things I have left to pile up. Now they are here and they are staring at me in the eye knowing I will blink first,” writes Biko Zulu. He’s describing that word, the one that soaks my mind with guilt.
Biko has a short goatee that somehow makes up for the missing hair. His moderate dose of melanin constrasts well with the dark rimmed glasses so that it easens your attempt at stereotyping him as a writer . He’s nothing close to what I expected him to be; a dread locked writer, eking out a bohemian existence in the fringes of life.
“I’m sick from procrastination!” complains Biko. And yeah the word is procrastination! “I need to have a doctor look into my eyes with a torch and see how procrastination has sucked up my haemoglobin” you must be seeking camaraderie in his words, huh? At least we’re many in procrastinating. But you know what’s cool about it?
In 1920s, a young soviet psychologist discovered that we have a better memory for incomplete tasks than complete ones. Her name was Bluma Zeigarnik. And so the discovery came to be known as the ‘Zeigarnik effect’ . When a guy is trying to be all mysterious, he wants to remain an ‘incomplete task’. He wants to plant himself in your mind and boy does he reside there with the power of this phenomenon. Ladies! isn’t it fun to act dumb and play along? That aside. When we procrastinate, the task remains in our minds. This is, especially, effective in creative tasks since the project is in your mind and it automatically pushes you to seek information until you complete it. When Tamara and Biko Zulu are procrastinating, they’re actually seeking enough information for their creative activities. So substitute ‘procrastination’ with ‘seeking information’. Notice how the guilt fades.
In yet another study by Jihae Shin a professor at University of Wisconsin, Procrastinators’ ideas were found to be 28% more creative in experiments done in companies. In other words, procrastination is a virtue for creativity. In equal measure it’s a vice for productivity and shouldn’t be extended to chronic levels. But then its not as bad as people make it to be. Leornado da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton, Aron Sorkin, Albert Einstein and Steve Wozniak are but a few, of the famous procrastinators. Next time you’re wondering why most writers are, or have to be , procrastinators you have the explanation right here!
If you enjoyed this piece, just know its a product of procrastination!