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Essay: Procrastination - A Journey of Self-sabotage, Doubt and Attaining Perfection

By Chao Shete

When I began exploring writing as a potential career path, my work disappointed me — scratch that, it still disappoints me now, and more often than I care to admit. However, while being a full-time writer is the end goal, I am yet to master the art of writing, perhaps that is why I tend to procrastinate putting anything on paper. Take this essay for example, I am typing this a few days from my deadline, mostly because I can’t ask for another extension from my editor. Several versions of this first paragraph and essay have been written but they didn’t make it to the final draft. Why? Because I am my own worst critic.

There’s something to be said when you read your own work and see the potential of it being good, but just not quite there yet. You are not sure what it is that could be lacking but you know that it does not have this special thing that you want it to have; that it is not the best that you could have written; that you can do so much better, and that feeling is debilitating. The many hours I have spent in the shower and/or laying awake at night trying to find the perfect opening line and paragraph is almost embarrassing. The worst part is I can’t forge forward when I don’t have the foundation just right, hence the pushed deadlines and last minute revisions. Procrastination really is self sabotage.

I do my procrastination effectively in the morning, painfully hunched over my computer screen as I stare at the blinking cursor. "How do I write about not writing?" I type into an open tab. Not exactly the responses I was expecting but hey, it’s something. TV going on in the background, it acts as white noise to drown the crippling thoughts of overdue grad school essays, unanswered emails, written tests for job applications, and probably the most urgent of all, the prospective colour of the new curtains I am looking to buy. I want to be a bit more adventurous, something to lift up my spirits, maybe yellow? Before I know it I am in the forgotten alleyways of pinterest marvelling at a burnt orange living room theme and rethinking the yellow curtains altogether.

"How’s it going? Any progress?" My partner asks at the end of what I’m sure was a long day for him, but even longer for me. Nervous exhaustion brought about by rewriting the same sentence 10 times, in addition to looming deadlines and all the pending work I have to do is getting to me. "Great," My dismissive tone, startling. I want to apologise for it but I can’t. I finally got the perfect way to rephrase my opening sentence, these moments are rare and fleeting so putting it on paper this very second as he’s speaking is a matter of urgency. This is the kind of productive tunnel vision that I need to come up with a near-perfect prose, one that I aspire to have by midnight — all wishful thinking — but it’s a start, literally.

Frankly, the journey to beginning an essay is one that I dread the most. I experience a sense of exhaustion whenever I finally type the first word of a piece of writing that I have procrastinated for a while but it is not quite exhaustion. It almost feels like relief, relief for finally taking the leap to get over my limited belief that I could ever write something remotely interesting. I started this essay a few weeks ago as I procrastinated on the other things that I am currently procrastinating in order to write this one. However, I have been forced to come out of my rut and submit something, anything. In many ways, I am glad I can finally scramble a few words to come up with an intelligible prose embodying the whole ‘I work well under pressure' theme. Doing this insinuates progress; it is the end of perfection and the beginning of allowing myself to be vulnerable. To that end, I am allowing myself to write and write badly then doing it again until I attain mild satisfaction; as opposed to the absolute loathing of my writing, one which I have been wallowing in the last few days. This is not to say that I will like this essay once I am done with it, in fact, chances are I will still see the gaps long after submission as I do in most of my writing but I will take solace in the great Ocean Vuong’s words where he says that being able to look back at your work with regret and the desire to improve means you’ve grown. Besides, having this essay submitted means I can stop torturing myself to write something perfect and just write anyway.


About the Writer

Chao Shete is a writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She enjoys writing fiction, creative non-fiction essays and book reviews. When she is not writing, she spends most of her time getting lost between the pages of a good book.

Twitter: @hope_shete


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