Musings on Procrastination and Mixed Berry Waffles with Maple Syrup

17 Nov

Zucchinni Casket

By Rhea H. Boyden

This morning I got up just before 10am.  It’s not too early and not too late for a Saturday morning. I can still get a lot achieved if I don’t procrastinate too much and I am well rested to achieve it after a busy week teaching. I always set myself ambitious writing targets for the weekend. If I don’t write a whole article every weekend, I at least have to get a lot of reading done for an upcoming article.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine moved in with me for the winter, and now that I have a roommate I feel compelled to engage more in that other favourite hobby of mine besides writing and that is: cooking.  I joyfully announced to my lovely roommate this morning that I was going to make us waffles with mixed berries, vanilla and maple syrup. She did not object. After enjoying a delicious feast and a couple cups of coffee I finally sat down at my desk to work.

No sooner had I sat down, I felt irritated. There are many different articles and reviews I intend to write over the next few weeks and the question was:  Where do I start? Which one am I in the mood for writing? Which one is actually ready to be written? Which one have I gathered enough material for in order to even strike and begin writing? These and other questions flew through my skull. I did what I do when I am overwhelmed: I procrastinated and started on none of them. Instead I read articles about creativity and procrastination in the hopes that this act would heighten my creativity and end my procrastination.

My reading this morning immediately led me to a quote by award-winning blogger and artist Jessica Hagy who writes ‘How can you defeat the snarling goblins of creative block? With books, of course. Just grab one. It doesn’t matter which sort, science fiction, science fact, religious texts, IKEA catalogues, telephone directories, comic books and diaries.’ Hagy reminds us that any sentence we read randomly in a book can lead us to new creativity and can open the floodgates to a thousand stories and bring up memories and connect the synapses to get the creative juices flowing again. If you pick up that random book and read a sentence you will find the connections. So that is what I did. I picked up Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and flung  it open and my eyes fell on this passage: ‘The large round bowl in which a soup was served wasn’t a soup bowl it was a tureen. There were goblets, sherbet glasses, ice-cream glasses, wine glasses, green glass coffee cups, with matching saucers and water glasses. I had a glass to drink from, and it sat with Miss Glory’s on a separate shelf from the others. Soup spoons, gravy boat, butter knives, salad forks and carving platter were additions to my vocabulary and in fact almost represented a new language. I was fascinated with the novelty, with the fluttering Mrs.Cullinan and her Alice in Wonderland house.’

‘Well, there is the connection!’  I thought. This passage reminds me of two things. The restaurant review I am supposed to be writing today on an Alice in Wonderland themed meal I went to a few weeks ago on a press pass and: food. The passage reminded me of how delicious those berry waffles were, and of course that I have some ice-cream in my freezer that I can reward myself with after I have actually achieved something and stopped procrastinating. Thanks Maya Angelou!  I then remembered that it was also Maya Angelou who said the following: ‘You can’t use up creativity, the more you use, the more you have.’ Ok, fine, fair enough. But I am still waiting for inspiration to strike today. I grabbed another book.  ‘The Pale King’ by David Foster Wallace. I flung it open too, to a random page and I read the following passage: ‘For those who have never experienced a sunrise in the rural Midwest, it is roughly as soft and romantic as someone’s abruptly hitting the lights in a dark room. This is because the land is so flat that there is nothing to impede or gradualize the sun’s appearance. It is just all of a sudden.’ This passage reminded me immediately of the inspiration I got when I went to the Mies van Der Rohe Haus earlier this year and saw an exhibit by American artist Max Cole who grew up on the Kansas Plains. Her artwork is full of horizontal lines, bands and stripes that she says are a product of the flat environment she lived in. David Foster Wallace’s writing and life in general was also influenced by the vast Midwest landscape. He excelled at tennis and trigonometry which also demand one’s being comfortable with harsh, horizontal lines. I remember how I came home that day and immediately and effortlessly wrote the article about the exhibit I saw there. It just flowed out of me.  That is when writing is the most pleasurable and fun. There was no procrastination that day.

About a month ago I had a similar experience. I went to an exhibition at Haus am Lützowplatz entitled ‘The Living Dead’. I interviewed some of the exhibiting artists, the curator of the show and the artistic director of the gallery. I had intended to write a funny article about death and Halloween and the exhibit. There was one crazy image in the exhibit and a friend of mine said ‘Is that a zucchini casket?’ I looked at the image closer and realized the hilarity of this remark. Indeed. It looked like a zucchini with a skeleton in it. This was definitely more fuel for me to write a crazy article about ‘The Living Dead’ Expo but then, only two days later, I received the incredibly sad news that a childhood friend from home in Ireland had died in a car accident. He was a wonderfully talented musician and this was a huge tragedy for our small community. The tributes to him started flowing in on Facebook and everyone was united in mourning the tragic loss of such a beautiful soul. Naturally, out of respect, I abandoned my funny article about death. I also abandoned my restaurant review. While many people were sad and mourning I did not feel like posting an article about an Alice in Wonderland themed meal either.

Today, after much procrastination, I finally wrote the restaurant review. I also ate a delicious vegetable soup that contained a lot of zucchini to help fuel my writing. The review of the expo ‘The Living Dead’ will never be written and that is fine. I have moved onto new projects. Creativity and motivation flows in mysterious ways, but Maya Angelou has a point: ‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.’ We just can’t always control which direction it will take.  The best I can do is be aware of what is blocking me and take conscious steps to get the creativity flowing again. In this dark November I can also keep myself well fed with tureens of soup and ice cream. My lovely roommate has just returned the favour of the berry waffles and zucchini soup by bringing a huge bar of chocolate to me at my writing desk. It is after midnight and I am still writing. This has been a productive day after all.

(Featured Image by Micheal Wutz GLUE@ Studio Gallery ‘The Living Dead’ at Haus am Lützowplatz)

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