A Procrastinator’s Guide From A to Z
“You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.” John Steinbeck
A is for Advice Books.
If you want to avoid doing what you think you should be doing, take a trip to the self-help or how-to section of your local bookstore, library, or ebook distributor, and hand over your wallet.
Procrastinators LOVE knowledge. They enjoy researching every new hobby, project, and life event. Whether they’re planning on organizing their closet or writing their memoir, procrastinators firmly believe that research is the key. The philosophy is this: If you’re going to take the time and energy to work on what’s important, you should do things the “right way” or not at all.
Among my literary pursuits, reading advice books is a favorite time-leaching pastime. As I write this post, I currently have a book with advice on writing sitting in my bathroom, a book on how to be happier queued on my Kindle, and I recently finished a book with advice on tidying up my home. I’ve read books with advice on fashion, dieting, and weight loss. I have multiple books with gardening advice collecting dust on my shelves. I’ve read books about horsemanship, dog training, and advice on living with cats. I’ve read parenting books, books on painting, cooking, and books about home repair. If I’ve ever had the slightest interest in pursuing a new direction, you can be sure that hellacious trail has been littered with both good intentions and the written advice of strangers.
I don’t know what it is about the written word that makes it seem more reliable than our own intuition. I don’t know why writers living in far off lands seem to have better common sense than those living closer to home. Do I really feel so incapable of folding my own socks the “right way” that I’d voluntarily read TWO books from the same author? Does this “magical” tidying author know more than I do about the spatial requirements of footgear? She must know something because I did read her books, although I have yet to THANK my socks for all the hard work that they do. (Yeah, I’m selfish that way.)
There’s nothing wrong with knowledge. I think we should strive to learn and grow as individuals, to be more than what we were, to rise above mediocrity. And yet…when reading replaces doing, when we never get past the research phase of our next endeavor, are we growing and moving forward with our lives or are we stuck in the mire of procrastination? How many books does one need to read about sock organization? Do your socks have a home? Can you find them consistently? Could you grab a clean pair RIGHT NOW if you needed to, or would you have to go on a treasure hunt to find a matching pair? I’ve got to admit, as I write this post my socks do NOT look like rolled sushi sitting in their drawer, but I can grab several clean pairs on a moment’s whim—and that’s not bad. Is my sock drawer “right?” I suppose it depends on your definition.
If I could move beyoned the research phase and push my way passed my fear of failure, I could probably accomplish almost anything. Almost. I’m not saying I’d ever become an expert in all things. For instance, I’m not going to become a surgeon in my living room, even if I have read some medical books. And there are some things that can’t be changed, like no amount of research is going to make me taller. (Or younger. Sigh!) Advice books are NOT magic, no matter what their titles say. Advice books are tools, nothing more.
You have to be willing to get your hands dirty, temporarily put down your books, and start doing. Start living! You need to listen to your inner voice and accept failure when it comes. You must be willing to trust your own instincts, because not all advice is good, even when it is in book form. (In my experience, a good chunk of advice books are fairly craptastic, although still entertaining.) You can’t believe everything you read, so accept the advice for what it is and move on. Move forward. Make stuff happen!