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The Joys of Procrastination

The Joys of Procrastination

For writers, particularly those in deadline-driven fields like journalism, pushing due dates feels as instinctive as breathing. Sometimes the pressure unlocks flashes of brilliance, turning rough thoughts into gems. More often, though, it results in mediocrity. This habit of procrastination leaves me yearning for a dream world where I am disciplined and productive, sipping black coffee and tapping away at my keyboard without wasting time. In an essay this week, Hillary Kelly explores the phenomenon of procrastination and its negative connotation, describing it as “a tic that people are desperate to dispel.” However, she also offers an antidote: Rosalind Brown’s new novel, “Practice,” which serves as a “welcome gift for those who dither about their dithering.”

The book delves into a single Sunday in the life of Annabel, a young Oxford student tasked with writing a paper on Shakespeare. Predictably, she finds myriad other “important” tasks to complete instead. Between brewing tea, eating, exercising, and drifting through thoughts of lovers, friends, and family, Annabel’s mind is anything but focused. Her goal is to create a minimalist mental space where she can efficiently assemble ideas for her paper. Instead, her head resembles a cluttered closet, brimming with the detritus of daily life.

Kelly argues that this mental clutter is essential for creativity. The process of wrestling with competing thoughts, revisiting old memories, and circling around ideas over and over again is crucial to imaginative thinking. A relentless focus on productivity eliminates the necessary time to indulge in this mental ruminating. Procrastination, in its own way, can be productive. It helps reclaim the mental space that our culture often sacrifices to an incessant work ethic. By the end of the novel, Annabel hasn’t finished her paper; she’s left with only a few scattered notes. Yet, the time she spent thinking was far from wasted. Similarly, readers find that meandering through such a novel inspires connections and moments of epiphany, transforming seemingly idle time into something profoundly valuable.

Moving on to some fresh book recommendations from The Atlantic’s Books section, let’s start with “Dayswork” by Chris Bachelder and Jennifer Habel. This novel effortlessly melds biography and meta-narrative. As the protagonist writes a lockdown-era book about Herman Melville, she fills the pages with fascinating facts and quotes, transforming “Dayswork” into a fragmented, digressive, yet thoroughly absorbing work.

Next week, several new books will hit the shelves. Among them is “The Anthropologists” by Ayşegül Savaş, which promises to be a captivating read. Also coming up is “Long Island Compromise” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner and “Devil’s Contract” by Ed Simon.

For those looking for a gripping weekend read, consider delving into the history and drama behind the movie “Chinatown” as recounted by Chris Stanton in “The Lies Los Angeles Was Built Upon.” The screenplay intertwines the characters’ personal dramas with the true story of how Los Angeles stole water from a valley 250 miles away, committing an audacious crime and conspiracy.

Procrastination, often viewed negatively, can also offer unexpected benefits. In a world that glorifies relentless productivity, taking time to let your mind wander can be a precious gift. Rosalind Brown’s “Practice”, with its rich depiction of a mind in creative chaos and the encouragement to embrace procrastination, becomes an ode to the art of lingering and one of the rare remaining sanctuaries for the creative soul.

Source: The Atlantic