Sunday, September 19, 2010

50% Perfectionism, 50% Procrastination

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
—Mary Heaton Vorse

I discovered this wonderful quote as I started doing research about procrastination. Why was I doing the research? Because I thought it might help me with my lifelong issue. I really could be the card-carrying president of an organization called Procrastinators Anonymous if it existed!

In the process of avoiding (unfinished)work awaiting me, I learned a few things. On subject, I learned there is an apparent link between procrastination and perfectionism. I don't think of myself as a perfectionist, but when I state that out loud to close friends or colleagues they usually sputter in disbelief. It is interesting that these two "P" words are so linked, as
procrastinating guarantees failure, but apparently it helps perfectionists maintain our belief that we could have excelled if only we had tried harder. I am afraid that this rings a little bit too true for my comfort and I am hoping that this knowledge will help pry me out of my block to finish and prepare properly for my task at hand.

In addition, I also tracked down more information about Mary Heaton Vorse. After reading this quote, I decided to try Maira Kalman's approach of following a trail about an unknown-to-me but intriguing individual. Mary Heaton was certainly one of those - a woman of privilege turned art student (apparently untalented) turned writer turned social justice activist. She received the United Auto Workers first Social Justice award, and was lauded by Eleanor Roosevelt for her accomplishment. Quite a role model, she was, and nothing I could find indicated that she was a procrastinator, though her quote above indicates she might have known a thing or two about the subject!

Whether for a term paper or a college application, a board presentation or a competition submission, the sad truth is that postponing getting work done does nothing more than delay the work. It doesn't get easier; it doesn't get better. I should know this by now. And by the way, doesn't Mary Heaton look like a woman you'd like to know!

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