Leveraging the future

Hello, I’m Andrew, posting the first of what I hope will be many notes on this blog. Don’t worry, I haven’t stolen Catherine’s computer and stuffed her in a bin somewhere – I’ve been here all along, albeit in (uncharacteristic) silence. As that suggests, I’m a fairly irregular writer. I opine that I don’t write enough, start drafting, get through one or two paragraphs, feel elated that I’m actually writing – and then roll over and go to bed. I know some of you are nodding your heads, but I also know that some of you have completed whole novels, so I’ll allay my sheepishness addressing the latter group by imagining that you remember a time, perhaps not long ago, when you were also frustrated by a proclivity to procrastinate.

Recently, I’ve been given reason to reflect on this tendency more than usual, as I’m moving to Japan in March. This gives me a hard break between my life now, and the future, and I’ve started to divide prioties into sheep and goats, things that will and won’t be done before I go. Given this, I’m sure you can easily imagine how tempting procrastination becomes. Not only am I loaded with preparatory work, I’m also lulled by visions of myself, settled into my new place and schedule, serenely typing away in a park. And thus “non-essential” tasks like writing are the first thing to emigrate.

But as we all know, every future is vast with time to do all the things we won’t get to today – until it too becomes today, and we discover that we’ve yet again failed to beat the clutter of our lives to that pristine, capacious future. So if any of us, except for the extremely disciplined schedule-followers, are going to make writing a regular part of our lives, we have to begin where we are – not where we’re about to be. So, inspired by the sense of urgency surrounding this change in my life, I’m trying a different strategy for deciding to write each day – turning that imagined future, where things will be different, from a promising temptation into an opponent.

Instead of focusing on how much time I’ll have to write in Japan, and in all the projects that I’ve been wanting to work on and haven’t gotten around to, I’m trying to focus on what I’ll be leaving behind. When I move, I won’t wake up to the same kind of mornings, or see the same faces, or even have the same daily grind at work – there will be new ones. Images will fade from vivid immediacy into nostalgia-tinted memories, and the awareness of what being this version of myself, in this time and place, in an everyday sense, will be displaced. So instead of putting off writing until it will (won’t) be easier, I’m pressuring myself to capture as much of how things feel now, before it’s too late.

I know that this seems more like a reflective personal piece than general advice, and there’s an element of truth to that, since it’s easier to think in this way when you’re about to move. But if you’ve ever noticed how quickly even a minor change in circumstances can change your mood, or what you think about on a daily basis, then you’ll realize that we’re all constantly in the process of losing touch with our old selves. So leverage whatever future tempts you to procrastinate, and turn it to urgency to write – not later, for your future self, but for who you are, now.

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