Practice Makes Perfect

I had no sooner returned from this summer’s Valdez Theatre Conference when I vowed to return next year.  Alaska is a stunning, bewitching place, and it makes for a spectacular backdrop for what’s essentially a summer arts camp for middle-aged theatre people.  (You can trust me on my math there.) Since I’d been there as a playwright, with my piece An Arctic Confederate Christmas (which, as a reminder, you can find on NPX here) the way to return seemed clear – write a new play.  From scratch.  Which is, of course, not the easiest thing in the world, but as I already had an idea in mind it was simply a matter of researching and drafting the project over the next few months.  I just needed to be sure the draft was ready in time for the submission deadline.

That deadline is this Tuesday, November 15.  And as luck would have it, a number of complications have arisen to keep me from submitting that day.  Tuesday’s already a tricky day for me, since I go from my day job directly to Theatre 80, where I co-host the Tuesdays at Nine reading series. (Which you can learn more about here!) And last week, I was invited to take part in Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre’s public reading of Shirley Graham DuBois’ Dust to Earth, a part of their Expand the Canon series.  This was a last-minute invitation of sorts; the reading takes place tonight, Monday the 14th of November.  So that’s the critical final two days before the deadline, and thanks to my other theatrical commitments, I would have no way to finish this new play within that window of time.

So instead, I finished and submitted the play yesterday, two days ahead of schedule.  And I’m not sure exactly how to feel about this.

It’s not like I didn’t procrastinate.  If I’d been more diligent, if I’d sat down at my laptop for a few uninterrupted hours each and every day, I’d have finished at least a month ago.  Instead, social media scrolling, online gaming, and general pacing marked these sessions as much as anything else.  Even this Saturday, a day I’d set aside for final revisions, was taken up just as much by not one but two separate walks around my neighborhood, about ninety minutes each, covering several miles.  (I also baked banana bread.  I added my leftover M&Ms from Halloween.  It was tasty.) This does not sound, by any stretch of the imagination, like disciplined working habits.  And yet, the task is done.  I recognized the need to adjust my deadline, and adjusted what I need to do accordingly.  And while it’s ultimately not my judgment to make, in looking over the script it doesn’t feel like I compromised the quality of the piece.

Could it be?  Is it possible that somehow I’ve perfected procrastination?  That I’ve internalized a way of working so that no matter what my time frame happens to be, I’ll always be able to alternate periods of productivity with spells of rest and relaxation, ensuring that I meet my deadline with a few minutes to spare, no matter when that deadline happens to be?

I’d ponder this question some more, Constant Reader, but I fear I must conclude this week’s remarks at this point.  You see, since I have the reading tonight, I have to be at work earlier than usual today and therefore need to turn in early on Sunday night and oh dear God I’m doing it again…

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