is not what it seems. What looks from the outside like our delay; our lack of commitment; even our laziness may have more to do with a slow, necessary ripening through time and a central struggle with the core realities of any endeavor to which we have set our minds. To hate our procrastinating tendencies is in someway to hate our relationship with time itself, to be unequal to the phenomenology of revelation and the way it works its own quiet way in its very own gifted time, only emerging when the very qualities it represents have a firm correspondence in our necessarily struggling heart and imagination.
Procrastination, when studied closely, can be a beautiful thing: a parallel with patience, a companionable friend, a revealer of the true pattern, already, we are surprised to find, caught within us; acknowledging for instance, as a writer, that before a book can be written, most of the ways it cannot be written must be tried first, in our minds; on the blank screen, on the empty page or staring at the bedroom ceiling. Procrastination enables us to understand the true measure of our reluctance.
An endeavor achieved without delay, wrong turnings, occasional blank walls and a vein of self-doubt running through all, leading eventually to some degree of heart-break, is a thing of the moment, a mere bagatelle, and often neither use nor ornament. It will be scanned for a moment and put aside. What is worthwhile carries the struggle of the maker written within it, but wrought into the shape of an earned understanding.
Procrastination apprentices us to the very nature of our own reluctance, to understand the hidden darker side of the first enthusiastic idea, to learn what we are afraid of in the endeavor itself; to put an underbelly into the work so that it becomes a living, satisfying whole, not a surface trying to manipulate others in the moment.
Procrastination does not stop a project from coming to fruition, what stops us, is giving up on an original idea, because we have not got to the heart of the reason we are delaying, because we have not let the true form of our reluctance instruct us in the way ahead. To procrastinate is to be involved with larger entities than our own ideas, to refuse to settle for a too early, underachieving outcome and choosing to wrestle with something worthwhile, like Job with his angel, finding as Rilke said, ‘Winning does not tempt that man, This is how he grows, by being defeated decisively, by greater and greater beings.’
PROCRASTINATION: excerpt from The Reader’s Circle essay series. ©2012: David Whyte.