PHOTO BY FLICKR USER HUGOVK
People often say, “I’m the worst procrastinator.” These are people who wait until the last minute (or longer) to pay bills, grocery shop, fold laundry, apply for a passport, feed the dog, or get that report together that the boss needed (yesterday!). We all do it. Even something as simple as sending an e-mail — the easiest and laziest means of correspondence — will be put off until the person who should be on the receiving end finally gives up and calls. And nobody wants that.
But I don’t like the negativity of that statement: “The worst procrastinator.” I happen to be the best procrastinator. I’m possibly the best ever and I meant to look that up, I’ll do it tomorrow. When I worked from home for several years, I got the dishes done, the laundry washed, and the house picked up daily, all instead of doing my work. See? I was very productive. But I also regularly checked in on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, and would lose myself down the rabbit holes of music videos or old Dick Cavett interviews on YouTube. (I generally rationalized that this was research and, therefore, a productive use of time for a writer).
Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times last week, “. . . while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity.”
So Grant and the Times back up my rabbit hole explorations.
Megan McArdle writes, in a 2014 essay for The Atlantic, “Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators”: “As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.”
This seems to wrap up two of any writer’s characteristic shortcomings — procrastination and self-doubt — into one delicious and contemptuous egg roll.
I assumed this essay of mine on procrastination — merely a lead-in to what I eventually want to say about the 2016 Fiction Contest — wasn’t going to be any good, so I waited and waited to write it. The above quotes I found by Googling, which is an easy, effective, and occasionally rewarding means of putting off whatever it is that is due . . . Now!
So go ahead and wait to get that short story in to us because I feel your pain, writer. In fact, take an extra two weeks as we’ve just extended the deadline to February 15th. Put it on your calendar and then savor those newfound hours and days. What will you do with all of that time? I suggest you climb out of your rabbit hole (eventually) and write!
2016 Memphis magazine Fiction Contest Rules and Guidelines
1. Authors must live within 150 miles of Memphis.
2. Entries must be postmarked by February 15, 2016.
3. You may submit more than one story, but each entry must be accompanied by a $10 entry fee, with check or money orders payable to Memphis magazine.
4. Each story should be typed, double-spaced, with unstapled, numbered pages. Stories should be between 3,000 and 4,500 words long.
5. Stories are not required to have a Memphis or Southern theme.
6. With each story should be a cover letter that gives us your name, address, phone number, and the title of your story. Please do not put your name anywhere on the manuscript itself.
7. Manuscripts may be previously published as long as previous publication was not in a national magazine with over 20,000 circulation or in a regional publication within Shelby County.
8. Manuscripts should be sent to Fiction Contest, c/o Memphis magazine, P.O. Box 1738, Memphis, TN 38101. Please do not send faxes or e-mails. Authors wishing their manuscripts returned must include a self-addressed stamped envelope with each entry.
The winning story will earn a $1,000 grand prize and be published in a future issue of Memphis. Should the quality of entries warrant, two honorable mention awards of $500 each will be awarded. Winners will be contacted by April 2016. This contest is cosponsored by The Booksellers at Laurelwood and Burke's Book Store. If you have further questions, please contact Richard Alley at email@example.com. We look forward to reading your stories!
Read past winners —
2015 winner: David Williams, "Itta Bena Slim"
2014 winner: William Boyle, "Shoveling Out"
2013 winner: Amy Lawrence, "To Be Happy"
2012 winner: Courtney Miller Santo, "Wind Gap"