If you’re a committed procrastinator, you’re probably also pretty good at making excuses. Missed trains, minor domestic crises, even the tried-and-true “the dog ate my homework” routine – they’re all pretty good for a delay, provided you don’t use them too often. After a while, people will wonder why the train works for them, but not for you … and how much it would cost to send your dog to obedience school on your behalf. Eventually, you’re going to need some new stories to tell the boss.
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Fortunately, some of history’s greatest creative minds were also big-time procrastinators. If that strikes you as somewhat unlikely, given that they had to actually get stuff done in order for us to remember their name, there might be a scientific explanation. Research shows that people who put things off are often more creative than their “do it now” colleagues. (Another good excuse to remember, next time someone’s mad at you for blowing a deadline.)
May their excuses inspire you:
1. Graham Greene
One of the most widely read British writers of the 20th century, Greene wrote 26 novels, four travel books, four autobiographies, eight plays, 10 screenplays, and two books of verse. With all of that under his belt, you’d never think he was procrastinator, but he was.
“Graham Greene needed a sign from above to begin working on a piece,” writes Celia Blue Johnson at Readers Digest. “Obsessed with numbers, the English playwright and novelist needed to see a certain combination of numbers by accident in order to write a single word. He would spend long periods of time by the side of the road looking at license plates and waiting for the hallowed number to appear.”
2. Margaret Atwood
The author of The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, and Cat’s Eye, among other novels, gets so much done that she was able to write a novel, Scribbler Moon, that won’t be read for 100 years. She’s also written short fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. And, she’s a procrastinator, albeit one who’s willing to alter her schedule when things change.
“I used to spend the morning procrastinating and worrying,” Atwood told the author of The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear, “then plunge into the manuscript in a frenzy of anxiety around 3:00 when it looked as though I might not get anything done. Since the birth of my daughter, I’ve had to cut down on procrastination. I still try to spend the afternoons writing, though the preliminary period of anxiety is somewhat shorter. I suppose this is a more efficient use of time.”
3. Douglas Adams
The author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was also famous for his procrastination.
“I love deadlines,” he once said. “I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
Reportedly, he was only able to finish one of his books because his publisher sat in a locked hotel room with Adams, “glowering” at him as he worked.
Still, even with that commitment to not getting things done, Adams managed to write five novels in the Hitchhiker’s series, as well several other books, radio and TV shows, and even interactive games.
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