Time Gates

The basic joke behind Lichtenbergianism is that you can accomplish more by procrastinating than you can by being assiduous.  The very first Precept is TASK AVOIDANCE: it's not only okay to put off working on your work, it's admirable to do so.

Of course, the only way this works in real life—the only way the members of the Lichtenbergian Society have become as successful as they have (books published, plays produced, careers changed)—is to practice "structured procrastination."  That is, you put off working on the STEAL FROM THE BEST chapter by working on the AUDIENCE chapter, or on the blog, or on the upcoming production of Peter & the Starcatcher.  Or on the myriad of other things you have going on.

A wise Lichtenbergian will start to pay attention to his/her procrastination.  Look for patterns.  Look for triggers.  What do you continue avoid working on?  Is it too hard or are you not actually interested in it?  Is it because you don't have enough time?  What stops you from making time?

I finally realized something about my procrastination that I have now formalized in my process, a RITUAL, if you will.  I realized that often I would postpone working on a project until I knew I would have a good uninterrupted stretch of time to work on it.  Seems like common sense, doesn't it?

But the truth is that it's a gambit.  I call it a "time gate": I have to pass through the gate before my brain will be comfortable devoting the time to the project.

Here's an example.  I made the decision to push through and finish this book this summer back in late April sometime.  There was no reason I could not have gotten serious right there and gone to work immediately, but I knew that I had the Euphoria burn the first weekend in May, followed by a vacation sailing up the Danube for a week and a half, followed by a few days off followed by the To The Moon burn in Tennessee.

I don't know about you, but my brain hates a split focus.  The idea that I would be able to work coherently on the book on the few days between these events—during which I would be unable to work at all—made me feel icky all over.

And so I set a time gate: I would get home from Tennessee on June 4; I would unpack on June 5–6, and I would start work on the book on June 7.  That was my time gate.  So far, it's worked like a charm.

Likewise, having been asked to write about an hour's worth of music for a ballet company, I've time gated it to August (after the book is finished).  And Peter & the Starcatcher, which I'm directing for Newnan Theatre Company next Jan–Feb, is time gated until September or October.

It may be that time will open up and I'll start early, and of course I'm making WASTE BOOK notes on both the ballet and the play as I go along.  But serious, concentrated work?  Gotta wait for the gate.