19 August 2003
I have honed the art of procrastination to a fare-thee-well.
Before my accident, I could put off doing things forever. Like the old saying says,
"I love work; I can look at it for hours." My transcription load wasn't
excessive--I did much more of it every day when I worked at it in an office, but I could
turn a one-hour job into a 3-day job just by giving in to the distractions that come up
when one works at home.
As a result, I was constantly either going to sleep at 2 a.m., or getting up at 4 a.m.
when the deadline was right there and I had run out of excuses.
The result of that was that I was always sleep deprived. It would take me,
generously, 10 seconds to fall asleep whenever I became immobile. Unfortunately, this
included sitting in a theatre seat. Walt's function as my companion at theatrical events
was poking me to keep me awake so I could remember what I'd seen to write a review. Even
shows that I liked would find me nodding off at some point because I was so sleepy.
When it came to writing a review, I went through the tortures of the damned because I
doubted my ability to actually produce a review. I would pace, wring my hands, and end up
getting some sleep, thinking I would write better when I was rested. I did, but it still
wasn't ideal. I was always surprised to read the review later in the newspaper and realize
that it wasn't as horrible as I thought it was when I turned it in.
Things all came crashing to a halt on June 8 when I landed on my head and shoulder
within blocks of Raley Field.
All the work stopped. Even the reviewing stopped for the first couple of weeks. The
office work and the transcription stopped completely. Dead in their tracks.
Well, what happened is that I started sleeping. All night long. I actually began to see
TV programs past 9 p.m., would fall asleep during the 11 p.m. news without any alarm being
set, and wake up, naturally, at 6 or 7 a.m.
And a funny thing happened. As I began to go to shows well rested, I began to stay
awake, to notice everything, to feel confident as I sat down to write my review. Where I
review might have, pre 6/8, taken several hours to write, I could now write one in an hour
or an hour and a half. I didn't press the "send" button, sending it off to the
newspaper, wondering if I'd done a good job or not.
It was a very nice feeling.
Not only was I feeling more confident in writing things, but I also started looking at
things around the house and thinking "I should clean that up...." The limiting
factor was how much use I had of my arm, but as the arm started feeling better, things
started looking better around here too.
And I was still getting a full night's sleep.
Then Dr. G called. He wanted to hire me to do a web page for him. A fairly simple job.
He also asked if I could do his transcription for a couple of weeks while his new
transcriptionist is out having a baby.
Suddenly, I find that I'm procrastinating again. The web site is all but designed, with
just a few "tweaks" to be made. Have I made them? No. Transcription could have
been polished off Saturday morning, but there it was Sunday night, with it due in the
office on Monday, and there I was, looking at what is still left to do, and wondering when
I'd get to sleep that night.
I thought about this a lot, and I realized that the problem is not, as I've always
assumed, that I am a chronic procrastinator. It is that I've burned out on transcription
(and I suspect I've burned out on Dr. G as well). I'm so tired of typing the same thing
over and over and over again for the last 20 years that I resist doing it until I
absolutely have no more room for escape.
I suspect the secret to effective income-generation is finding something that I truly
enjoy doing (like writing) and finding a way to make that work (like doing more special
stories for the newspaper), with the eye on ultimately giving up transcription completely.
I've discovered that I like feeling like I'm rested. I enjoy theatre again. I'm feeling
better about writing. If it took a trip to the emergency room to learn that, it was a good
thing. Now I just have to figure out how to keep this feeling.