Can you name your greatest talent? The subject on which you could teach a peerless Master Class? I can. And it’s probably not what you’d guess. Sure, I’m a creative goddess who can paint a reasonable facsimile of a pet’s portrait on a leather jacket, organize a closet like a mofo and write a pretty entertaining Christmas letter once a year, but the thing I truly excel at, what I do better than any other human I know, is … PLAPPing. Also known as Procrastinating Like A Phucking Pro.
You know the old saying, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach?" My theory is, if I teach it, I won't be able to DO it anymore.
Why Should You PLAPP?
The purpose of procrastination is to escape discomfort, at least for the moment. For me, every task on my To Do list has its own set of pain points that I want to avoid. For example: 1). Exercise - makes me confront my aging physique and diminished abilities (when did I stop being able to do sit ups?); 2). Dog training -- frustrating and often leads to bodily injury (fun fact: a Great Dane who has spotted a squirrel can dislocate your shoulder in 0.089 seconds).
But my worst anguish, and therefore my greatest procrastination, happens when I mentally tippy-tippy-toe up to the idea of 3). Working on the memoir I committed to writing a few years ago. It’s called And Yet, I Married Him Anyway, and it is basically a memoir of mine and the Hubby’s lives together since 7th grade. See, our marriage -- together with our wondrous, wise and startlingly well-balanced Kid -- is my most esteemed accomplishment in life. Shouldn't it be easy to write about something so meaningful to me? But the meaningfulness just gives the risks more gravitas. I’ll do anything to dodge my own mind’s perfectionistic comparisons, like, “I’ll never be as brilliant as David Sedaris or Jenny Lawson, so why bother?” or the omnipresent and lethal, “I’m just not funny enough/interesting enough/deep enough to hold the interest of anyone outside of my household,” (and some days, even that is debatable).
I do convince myself to work on the book on rare occasions, and then I get stumped by the endless sequence of editing, re-reading, editing, slamming my head against hard surfaces, editing, walking away for two weeks then coming back to re-read and edit some more because it can ALWAYS be better.
How am I supposed to know when I’m done editing a sentence or paragraph or story? Is it when I stop cringing or do I have to keep editing until I actually love it?
I never love it enough to call it done; it's easier to just never start. I sidestep the discomfort of perfectionism in favor of the guilt and recriminations I pile on myself for not progressing. The results are exactly what you’d expect: my book is held hostage by the fear of engaging my own brain as an adversary; I can’t climb two flights of stairs without wheezing; and we have 310 pounds of untrained, slobbering hounds running rampant in our house. (aka Hounds of the Rubeyville).
What PLAPPing Does For You
One of the most powerful questions a therapist ever posed to me was, “What do you get out of being depressed?” I was shocked and offended, “What? Nothing! What do you get out of being a judgmental twat?”
After a little thought, and a calming Lexapro/Klonopin cocktail, I had to admit that as long as I was depressed, no one expected anything from me. “Zero” was exactly the level of expectations I felt able to live up to, so this was an ideal solution for most of my 20’s.
My upside to procrastination is similar: If I never write a book, no one expects me to write another book, I never face failure/success, never have my words and intentions misunderstood, and no one seeing exactly how narcissistic I am -- seriously, what kind of DEFCON-One-level egomaniac does a woman have to be to believe that other people want to read a memoir about her marriage? (But obviously, you DO, right? Right?).
Procrastination offers other, amusingly material benefits as well, namely the surprise Amazon deliveries harvested from the previous day’s forgotten shopping spree while I was initially researching something legit but ended up going down a rabbit hole and discovering rhinestone shoelaces at the bottom of it. The interwebs are the procrastinator’s bestest friend and confidant.
If that sounds good to you, and you’re Jonesing to experience the whimsical delights and crushing frustration that world-class Putting It Off has to offer, stick around. I will share the extraordinary depth and breadth of my expertise here. And yes, I get the irony of writing about procrastinating about writing. But this is the fun, easy kind of writing – not the vexing “write a book” kind. Which brings me to the first step in my Master Class.
Professor Xannie’s Easy Two-Step Master Class in Procrastinating Like a Phucking Pro
PLAPPing Step One
When an unpleasant task/thought/endeavor pops up, think of Anything Else you’d rather be doing. Generally, the Anything should be something that comes easily to you, something you enjoy and doesn’t require much, if any, mental, emotional, or physical vexation.
Don’t worry if you can’t think of enough distractions on your own. As soon as word gets out that you’re a sucker looking for a diversion and therefore will do any favor asked of you, your friends and family will be more than happy to contribute to your To Do list. Hence the 20-hour a week job I still have working for Hubby despite having retired in 2019 and the various graphics and tattoo designs I accept almost daily. Yes indeed, I am pretty, pretty, pretty, helpful when helping takes up a bunch of time I would otherwise have to be spending doing the hard things. Erase the word, “no” from your vocabulary and you’ll see what I mean.
Bonus points if your chosen Anything generates several new Spin-Off projects. Double bonus points if the Anything does legitimately need to be done (not now of course, but you know, at some point over the course of the next few years) or gives the impression of being productive for your job or your household.
“Hold on,” you say, “I can procrastinate and still appear to be helpful and getting things done?”
Why yes, my Love! Let me elaborate. Here’s a list of things I did instead of writing today:
Entered Hubby’s travel receipts in his QuickBooks app. Spin-Off: I saw that he had purchased a kombucha in Oakland which reminded me that we were out of kombucha at home, so I told Alexa to add that to the grocery list and while she was at it, could she please look up a good air fryer recipe for fish and chips and put those ingredients on the list as well, which led to a prolonged argument with Alexa about whether or not she could perform such a task. She could. It would have been quicker to do it myself, but that wasn’t the point, now was it?
Redesigned sister-n-law’s logo for her new biz and wondered why I didn’t do it this way in the first place. Spin-Off: Used Alexa to set reminder to go back and rethink every logo I’ve created in the past six years.
Created a new painting mockup. I have three unfinished painting projects on my desk in various stages of disarray – I did not need to create another design idea. Two-fer Spin-Off: spent an hour shopping for the perfect backpack to paint this new design on AND added “paint Milagro design on red heart-shaped bag” to my To Do list. (Finished bag can be seen on Insta and/or purchased at my shop).
Filled out, scanned and emailed 36 pages of Medicaid redetermination paperwork for my Dad. Spin-Off: research the best ways to avoid dementia. (Answer is proper sleep, regular exercise, fasting, and not becoming diabetic. Rejected 3 out of 4 of these because they are hard).
Tried on the new blouse that I found at a resale shop over the weekend. Spin-Off: realized I should totally consign some of my own stuff there, which led to a two-hour flurry of closet cleaning, reorganizing, and asking, “Does this Ramones t-shirt still bring me joy?” It does. Then I set an appointment with the consignment shop, lugged 60 pounds of clothing into my car, drove across town, watched as the 25-year-old “sorter” flatly rejected all but two of my items, hauled everything else back into the car and drove home completely defeated, stopping off at Goodwill to make a generous 59-pound clothing donation along the way.
Uploaded recently digitized home videos to my computer. Spin-Off: now I will have to spend a week or two editing and cataloging home videos.
Uploaded latest painting video to Instagram. Spin-Off: happened across a dreamy video from @squashblossomvintage that featured a mesmerizing song which triggered a deep dive and subsequent obsession with Blaze Foley’s music and legacy. Why have I never heard of Blaze Foley – an Austin musician from the 1980’s who recorded in my hometown of Kerrville, TX??? Made me question what I've done with my life. How am I late to a party that was held in my own backyard during my peak party days? Also, why did none of my Austin music/movie peeps point me in his direction? I’m looking at you, Kristen, and Cathleen.
Made protein waffles. Took 25 minutes to get the consistency right. Spin-Off: took another 45 minutes to clean the kitchen because I had managed to Jackson Pollack the whole place with batter and the dogs couldn’t tongue-wipe the bits that were on the ceiling.
Listened to a Master Class by Levar Burton on how to read aloud to adults. It will be a very important skill for a me to have during my future book tour readings. Someday. After I’ve written the book that I put off working on today.
PLAPPing Step Two
Repeat Step One in perpetuity. It’s really that simple. Keep repeating until you find sufficient motivation/self-help/therapy to deal with the perfectionism, fear of failure, fear of success, and imposter syndrome that keep you mired in an endless circle of guilt and doubt.
There you have it -- my foolproof plan for PLAPPing.
Spin-Off: create a plan for breaking this cycle. That should keep me busy for a good long while.