The Fine Art of Procrastination

This past year, constant reader, has been an epic story of procrastination on my part. Or so it feels, anyway – I’ve been trying to wrangle the draft of my newest project into shape, and it has been very reluctant to accede to my wishes. And so, frustrated by lack of progress, I keep looking for distractions. Of course, being a responsible sort, these distractions wind up being other important things I need to do, either professionally (showcase productions, new headshots, and so on) or personally (cleaning the apartment, mostly – my life’s boring). This past week, I found what might seem to be the most pointless and narcissistic way of avoiding doing any new writing – sitting on the couch for an afternoon and reading something I’ve already written.

This was not, however, mere self-indulgence on my part. Instead, it’s one of those professional distractions I mentioned. My play The Tragedie of King John Falstaff is receiving a public reading at the end of September – details to come, naturally. Though simply a staged reading, we will be on a stage and have tech elements – and so, as preparation for this, I went through my script cataloguing where the sound cues should occur, and what exactly they should be.

This took an afternoon. To do it right, it had to take an afternoon.

When we think of the writing process, we usually think in terms of rough draft, edit, and final polish. Then somehow, magically, the play gets staged or the novel gets published or the movie gets made. Alas, Constant Reader, it doesn’t work that way. And if you’re directly involved in the initial production of a playscript – as is almost always going to be the case – there are a whole bunch of other passes through the script that you’ll need to make.

You go through the script listing all the different tech elements – scenery, costumes, props, etc – that you’d somehow forgot you’d made part of your story when you first wrote the thing.

You go through the script itemizing all those elements and attaching a dollar value to them, to try and estimate just how much this thing is going to cost.

You go through the script isolating the different parts of the text you’ll use for audition sides.

You go through the script to estimate how long it’s going to run in performance.

You go through the script to estimate how long you’ll need to rehearse for that performance, and which parts will logistically need more time than others.

You go through the script to correct all the typos you managed to miss during the original edits but which are now, after these last few passes through the script, staring at you plain as day.

And every one of these passes through the script takes time. And there’s only so much multitasking anyone can do – meaning that time spent doing all of this is time not spent doing other things – like writing new scripts, so you can start this process all over again.

Man, it was so much simpler when I was younger, and procrastinating just meant playing another game of Oregon Trail or something.  I'm not sure I'm doing it right anymore.

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