This past Friday, April 30, was Walpurgisnacht. The night before May Day, folklore and tradition has long held it to be the night of a grand Witches’ Sabbath. In literature, it’s the night when Mephistopheles reveals untold wonders and terrors to Goethe’s Faust, it’s the night when Jonathan Harker makes his first perilous journey to Castle Dracula. So naturally, I was preparing for a nice relaxing evening at home.
My plans changed, however, when I saw a playwright friend’s social media post about a new submission opportunity. It was the rare submission opportunity for which I met the exact criteria they were looking for, and for which I had a suitable script ready to send. I had the night free to take care of the application, and a playwright’s bio all ready to upload. The only wrinkle, the only additional thing that was required, was an artistic statement from me. There was no specification on its length, I just had to write it – and since I had the evening free, that shouldn’t have been a problem, right? A few paragraphs, not much longer than a blog post, all of it stuff I’ve written or spoken about at length already – that shouldn’t have taken more than an hour or so to type out, right?
It took six. I was up until three in the morning.
And it’s not like I was spending that time fine tuning a deathless piece of literature. (Note, if you’re one of the judges for this submission opportunity, that sentence was a lie and I was absolutely fine-tuning a deathless piece of literature.) I wasn’t desperately trying to think of something today, I wasn’t struggling with the mechanics of writing. No, I was just stopping myself every two or three minutes to pace around my apartment. To binge YouTube videos. To do dishes. To feed my cat. To read random books from my bookshelf. It was procrastination, pure and simple, as epic a case of it as I’ve had in some time.
As most psychologists will tell you, procrastination tends to be rooted in a fear of failure. You’re reluctant to start a project because you’re hyperaware of all the possible ways it can go wrong, paralyzed by the notion that the idealized version of whatever that you have in your head will come out marred and mangled in reality. You become too terrified of failure to even try. Given that, being asked to come up with an artistic statement when you’re a playwright practically guarantees that you’ll procrastinate. Not that the consequences for a badly written statement are dire – it’s not like they revoke your playwriting license or anything. No, if you’re a playwright, or any other creative writer, it’s your fervent hope that the works you write will make an impression, will say everything you have to say in and of themselves. If you need to come up with a statement of intent to explain them, it implies that they don’t speak for themselves. That they cannot speak for themselves.
It implies failure. The act of writing an artistic statement for something you’ve created implies that at some level, your creation has already failed. Of course you’d rather binge cat videos rather than contemplate such a thing.
Don’t worry, Constant Reader – I powered through and typed out my few hundred words, uploaded them to the proper place and hit send. But I really wish they could figure out some other way of doing this. There’s already enough terrors to contemplate at 3am on Walpursisnacht.