In this article I aim to illustrate, by means of extended analogy, the various ways in which procrastinating can benefit extra-curricular activities, particularly theatrical activities. I will explore the machinery of the Writers’ Craft, detailing how the strands of distinct projects can be woven into a single tapestry, and so can overcome the constraints of time. Finally, I will conclude with a conclusion.
As Thom Yorke once said, ‘this just feels like spinning plates’, and never is this more appropriate than during the 3rd year of an undergraduate degree. This is the year when the work that you reluctantly submit to MMS will influence your final grade and so, of course, the rest of your mortal life. From an early age, I discovered how to soften the blows of legitimate academic work through distraction. Just as computer games reward the application of time and intellect, so too does theatre provide the satisfaction of a “job well done”, without the crippling horrors of actually having a job. Ironically, the best antidote for plate-spinning weariness is adding another plate.
Nonetheless, even new plates can soon become tiresome. I continue to find immense enjoyment in theatre, largely because I am not necessarily required to do it. In one sense, theatre is a means by which I procrastinate from my degree. Despite this, concerted effort in any kind of activity will eventually lead one to develop a standard of quality, setting a precedent for the activity’s outcome, and so creating another set of targets to meet and excel. Thus, one is again tempted to add another plate.
A crucial component in such theatrical distractions is my dear friend and concomitant Vahan Salorian, with whom I have been privileged to work on a number of occasions. He recently asked me to write the libretto for a one-act contemporary opera, which must be finished by the end of the year. I naturally agreed, attracted by both the size and the voluptuousness of this particular plate and set about the task with eagerness.
The opera takes place during a warehouse rave located in the heart of London’s Vauxhall culture, where drug-induced psychonautics and debauched antics thrive. A fresh-faced individual is introduced into the scene and is glorified in the community. Although the apparent sensations are intensely joyful, the residual damage to their body becomes too great as the night wears on. Two parallel processes occur: the divine rebirth in the trappings of spectacle, and the destruction of the physical form. To depict these events in a mythological context, the narrative is modelled after the lifecycle of the phoenix.
So far, so good. However, as the initial pleasure of a new distraction wears away, one is left with a writhing bolus of half-contemplated projects, a looming horde of deadlines, and the desire to divert one’s attention to other things. This cannot go on indefinitely. Eventually, one is required to actually do something.
The pattern is recognisable to anyone. The best laid plans and ambitions rapidly erode. The intention to borrow every opera from the library and watch one each night becomes the action of watching five-minute extracts in between episodes of ‘King of the Hill’. Likewise, the intention to read every text on the primary and secondary reading lists becomes the action of skimming encyclopaedia entries in search of any word which appears in the essay title. Panic sets in, nestling itself behind the pineal gland until every thought is stained with its presence. Ideas wither away and dry up as the quest for a set of coherent sentences drags on, and on. The human drive to find meaning in the world falters.
At these times, the ability to improvise is unparalleled. Armed with Sellotape and blu-tack, you begin to merge the toppling dinner service into one massive plate. Projects blend together, becoming inseparable from one another. An opera in two months, an Old English test in two weeks, a philosophy essay in two days, a theatre article in two hours…
There is an Old English poem entitled ‘The Phoenix’ which can be a source for both the style and content of the libretto. Translating it will aid my English revision. Writing an article about the opera helps me to outline its form. Using a distinctly philosophical manner enhances the presentation of my imminent essay.
I procrastinate from my degree by writing a libretto. I procrastinate from my libretto by writing an article. The article becomes the means by which I accomplish the libretto. The libretto becomes the means by which I accomplish my degree. The plates keep spinning, Thom Yorke keeps singing, I keep working, and everyone gets something done. Everyone wins.
Except you, dear reader. You have accomplished nothing by reading this. Or have you? Weave the strands, dear reader. Prove me wrong.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons
Like this? Try this: ‘How to Combat Procrastination’