Sunday, 7 November 2010


I started looking up procrastinating, which has to be a bad sign. One fascinating non-fact I gleaned from one of the online dictionaries – one that seems to connect everything to everything – there are no photos of procrastinating on Flickr. I suppose that’s a relief to some extent.

What set this off? For the last month I’ve been either giving or preparing lectures for two weeks teaching on the Masters in Public health course. I do this every year. The whole time I kept thinking or things I ought to be including in my books and all sorts of other stuff I wanted to write about or blog about. With commendable zeal I resisted the temptation and got on with the lectures.

Finally the clear space in the diary emerges and I can get on with the writing – so where did all the ideas go?

I did write some notes – a bit like those ones you write in the middle of the night when you know that all you have to do is jot down three words and you are bound to remember it all in the morning. I’ve still got some of those, waiting for the day when I can figure out what they mean.

I imagine if I worked at it I might be able to figure out some sort of general theory of procrastination, which would of course be a way of putting off everything else.

I think it goes something like this. Work has properties like gravity or magnetism. When approached by another magnet, unless you get them the right way round, they repel each other. So a really big piece of work can sit there looking big and obvious and yet be impossible to start. Another day the same thing can suck in everything around it and get more and more energy as it goes along.

I think maybe when it’s stationary it mostly repels – you have to sort of give it a big kick and get it spinning around and then the north and south poles flash past more often and increase the chances of pulling you in. Maybe there are more than just two poles, or maybe there’s more than one thing going on, like gravity pulling one way and magnetism pushing a different way. Of course, it can’t really be gravity because work has no mass though it can weigh you down.

Obviously it could take years of research to get to a really robust theory. I just need to do a bit more work on it and then it should be big enough to make writing a novel feel like a simple task…

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