A couple of years ago a producer asked me to write up a sitcom idea I’d recently pitched to them. Let’s say, for the sake of argument it was called, 6 Black Friends Hang Out In Unfeasibly Large Apartments (it wasn’t but writers are secretive). It was one of those bottom drawer ideas writers often have that we’ve fallen in love with years before but have never gotten around to doing anything with.
But now, here I was with someone not only keen on the idea but asking me to write up a treatment (a pitch document describing the characters and their world) as soon as possible.
Every writer knows this is potentially the start of a beautiful relationship. First comes the treatment then comes marriage (or a screenplay) then comes a baby with a horse and carriage (and a nice big cheque) as the saying goes - or at least it should.
So I set time aside in my diary to begin work but for some reason over the following days I found myself reluctant to start. Instead of committing my idea to paper I found a plethora of other things to do. The producer would gently nudge me every few days to see how things were coming along and I’d assure them everything was going to plan. In my head I’d scramble together excuses and justifications for why I hadn’t started and why I absolutely would - just as soon as I’d organized my shoes.
Recently I was thinking back to this episode and in general about procrastination. I often see articles about how it's a negative trait and one we should seek to obliterate but perhaps, I pondered, it serves a purpose.
With this treatment I was supposed to write, I realised that the reason I was reluctant to get started was because I didn’t know what the end game was. When the producer, in one of their nudging emails, gave me an indicator of how they’d like to proceed, I finally felt I had a clearer understanding of their intentions and after weeks of delaying, cupboard cleaning and towel organizing, I completed the treatment that afternoon.
But what made the difference - It was that I ‘felt’. I could feel in me that it was the right time to get cracking. The resistance had shifted because things were clearer now and I was able to work unencumbered, towards my goal.
Perhaps, procrastination is just preparation time, thinking time, getting into the right headspace time, rather than time wasted.
When I’m planning on writing a screenplay, it can be months, sometimes even years before I get to it but in the interim, I’m considering it, coming up with great characters, story beats and twists all in preparation for when I finally commit the thing to paper.
Now that I’ve seen this process time and time again in myself, from leaving thirty minutes to pack for a three week trip, to writing this blog an hour before I’m suppose to post it, rather than fearing my procrastination I kind of enjoy observing it and trusting that at the right time a switch will flick in me and I'll know it's time to begin.
I don't know if I can recommend this to everybody but I've started to trust my own internal clock. I like the idea of moving on something when it feels right not just when I think I should, like when a gut instinct tells me the time's right for black friends in big apartments and I think, ‘now I can begin’.
It’s all part of a bigger process of trusting your own instincts about what’s right for you. I call it 'navigating by heart'. I believe our heart knows what’s best for us, is set to our true north and will never steer us wrong. I’m learning everyday to listen to those quiet thoughts and instincts that are there to guide us towards what’s in our best interests, the quiet word that says, go on that date, don’t buy that dress, trust this person, write that treatment.