January 6th, 2008 | Uncategorized

ping pong

I’m reading a biography of William James. This morning I read a passage where James describes how he prepared for his 12pm class on Logic and Psychology.

I know a person who will poke the fire, set chairs straight, pick dust specks from the floor, arrange his table, snatch up a newspaper, take down any book which catches his eye, trim his nails, waste the morning anyhow, in short, and all without premeditation–simply because the only thing he ought to attend to is the preparation of a noonday lesson in formal logic which he detests.

Which is to say, I have an intense deadline looming so it felt imperative to make this video about my cat. I seem to have the attention span of a fruit fly. It’s amazing I ever get anything done.

There was another interesting bit in the James bio today about how important daily routine was to him–but the biographer says this is because James was a person “who really had no habits–or who lacked the habits he most needed, having only the habit of having no habits–and whose life was itself a “buzzing blooming confusion” that was never really under control.

This gives me a shred of hope.

43 Responses to “procrastination”

  1. April says:

    Wow, and I thought Facebook invented aimless buzzing…

  2. Jeffster83 says:

    If James had had Internet access, we might never have had his woks on religion and psychology to have to deal with.

  3. towheedork says:

    I thought it was almost universally true: the weightier the deadline, the more frivolously elaborate the means of avoidance.

    Or is it just that TSOM brings out the destructiveness in kitty, and enchants you into helpless cinematography while she has at your glasses? Eeeek! The two of you are terribly cute together, but I worry about mutual bad influence. While laughing ’til it hurts, too, of course.

    (my much-missed moggy used to shred my lampshades, too. Especially the one by my bedside. Worked much better than an alarm clock.)

  4. alan7388 says:

    Was that the new biography by Robert Richardson? I met him last year. I’m something of a William James fan for several reasons, and in fact I’ve posted on my door at work a nicely done-up page with a quote from James that I’ve adopted as My Poly Credo:

    “EVERY JACK seen in his own particular Jill charms and perfections to the enchantment of which we stolid onlookers are stone-cold. And which has the superior view of the absolute truth, he or we? Which has the more vital insight into the nature of Jill’s existence, as a fact? Is he in excess, being in this matter a maniac? or are we in defect, being victims of a pathological anæsthesia as regards Jill’s magical importance? Surely the latter; surely to Jack are the profounder truths revealed; surely poor Jill’s palpitating little life-throbs are among the wonders of creation, are worthy of this sympathetic interest; and it is to our shame that the rest of us cannot feel like Jack…. Jill, who knows her inner life, knows that Jack’s way of taking it — so importantly — is the true and serious way; and she responds to the truth in him by taking him truly and seriously, too…. We ought, all of us, to realize each other in this intense, pathetic, and important way.

    “If you say that this is absurd, and that we cannot be in love with everyone at once, I merely point out to you that, as a matter of fact, certain persons do exist with an enormous capacity for friendship and for taking delight in other people’s lives; and that such persons know more of truth than if their hearts were not so big. The vice of ordinary Jack and Jill affection is not its intensity, but its exclusions and its jealousies. Leave those out, and you see that the ideal I am holding up before you, however impracticable to-day, yet contains nothing intrinsically absurd.”

    If you’re as a sappy a sentimentalist as me, you can download the suitable-for-framing version from

  5. Deena in OR says:

    OK, I’m a little freaked out that I could picture the exact images from SOM just from listening to the corresponding snippets of music.

    And Alison-Not that you probably have any in the house right now, but my cats LOVE to bat and carry around my daughter’s thick elastic hair ties.

  6. kate mckinnon says:

    Your bathtub is Nice and Clean.

  7. Thanks, Kate. It got its semi-annual cleaning last week.

  8. Cate says:

    I’m borrowing a friend’s flat this week in a strange city as a kind of “retreat” while I’m writing my dissertation.

    You wouldn’t believe the pure pleasure I’ve taken in vacuuming, washing floors, washing out the mop head, dusting, putting little postits on things, etc. etc.

    My own place does *not* sparkle like this, ftr.

  9. Leda says:

    I think the trick is to be choosing to do the work (even if you don’t want to). I find if I do let myself follow few of the smaller procrastination urges (i.e., no house painting) rather than punish myself for the mere thought of them, then I am happier to settle to the task because I feel less resentful.. So (if I can) I usually try factor in some procrastination time as it were and have a spring clean before big project- I just can not write while there is a bath that could being cleaned. Also stopping in the middle when I am utterly overwhelmed and tidying up my, by this point bombsite like workspace, can be brilliant…. But this is counsel of perfection from a miserable sinner who is awake at this ridiculous hour in the morning (it is England where I am) because I drank to much coffee last night assuming I’d need be up all night finishing a metaphysics essay that got out of control earlier in the week due to a certain amount of procrastination…….and pure cold terror – which is what it is really isn’t it?

  10. dveej says:

    Greetings from the VSADL (Very Small Animal Defense League)!

    The common statement “[X] has the attention span of a [fruit fly, flea, gnat, etc.]” is inaccurate. These animals are driven and determined, which is how they have managed to have dinner for lo these several million years now, in spite of being small, frail and weak.

    You have a great cat, BTW.

  11. Deena in OR says:

    Leda and others,

    So perhaps the question of the day is:

    “What is the correlation between procrastination and fear?”


  12. van says:

    The question in my mind is: who has it easier? An ebullient procrastinator or someone with OCD… I am reading this blog despite serially postponing my work deadline for over a week now, so I guess the latter, lol.

  13. sk in london says:

    OMG! the cat, The Sound of Music soundtrack: classic.

    that gorgeous cat is a perfect teacher of curiosity and what is beautiful about so-called procrastination…

    surely procrastination is also an attempt of nature to have other things happen … our inner curiosity is unstoppable… something like that…???
    ok, back to the day….

  14. Alex K says:

    Thank heavens that Bill Clinton is still – so far as one knows – safely over the state line in New Hampshire!

    (Thinking back to Ginger and dissertation-deadline alternatives here.)

  15. Ian says:

    The time to worry is when you stop being afraid of deadlines … then there’s absolutely no motivation to do the work. When they cease to induce panic-stricken rushing around, satisfying whatever happens to be your procrastination jones, that’s when you’re in trouble. This happened to me in my last term at university and the apathy was dreadful.

    Look on the brightside – the fear means you care.

  16. ksbel6 says:

    As a teacher, the most hated job in the world to me is grading. I manage to get through about 4 classes worth of tests before I hit a brick wall and just can’t finish the last 2. I was down to one set to grade on Dec. 21. I finished it at about noon on Jan. 2. In the middle, I moved all the furniture out of my bedroom, cleaned the floor and dusted, moved all the furniture back in (including a HUGE armoire)…then did the same with my living room (including an entertainment center that is not as big as the armoire, but is a chore nontheless). I guess at least my house is REALLY clean right now!

  17. Deena in OR says:

    So, what are the odds that William James had ADD?

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Yes, my question was going to be whether you made a point to clean the bathtub before shooting this clip. Thanks to a black dog (who never even gets in the bath), my tub is never completely clean.

  19. Kynthos says:

    Procrastination is an essential part of the creative process…it is the period during which the fumes of thought vaporize and swirl and accumulate, waiting for the spark of inspiration from… who knows where that spark comes from?

    Of course I write this as my brief is due at 3pm today…

  20. ocd/twof says:

    It may be a question of who has it easier, but never, in the case of OCD, who has it easy.

  21. Kate L says:

    I have the flu, and should go home, but I’m hanging around the office to type this…

    This is how I first read the quotation in the intro. to AB’s entry for today: “I know a person who will poke the fire, set chairs straight, pick dust specks from the floor, (and) read the rest of this entry…”

    Btw, my dog thought she saw a ghost cat this morning. A black cat with yellow eyes was in the back yard, a dead ringer for my dog’s pet cat who ran away last year. My dog tried to run up to the cat to say hello, but for some reason the sight of a 50-pound carnivore bearing down on the cat made it run away.

  22. Lisa (Calico) says:

    Nice cat and toys! I do hope he’s ok after the dental floss fiasco.
    Our cat likes paper balls – inexpensive, you may think, but he prefers Post-it-Notes® crumpled up, which aren’t cheap.

  23. Jennifer says:

    Procrastination should become an olympic sport. Kitty is adorable. What’s her name again?

  24. Ellen O. says:

    In order to discourage the paparazzi, Alison’s cat has asked Alison not to make her name public.

  25. The Cat Pimp says:

    I’m procrastinating right now by reading this blog and viewing the sweet little kitty video. Lisa’s right about crumpled up post-its. Small balls of paper are the best cat toy ever.

    I loved the video – we get to see Kitty’s wonderful patchy coat. Just be glad you don’t have a rabbit, AB, else you would find the lamp totally eaten.

  26. LondonBoy says:

    I’m procrastinating right now. If anyone has ever successfully changed themselves in this area, please let me know. I reckon I procrastinate 4-6 hours a day, every day.

  27. DeLandDeLakes says:

    Hyuk! _The Sound of Music_ in the background of the video cracks me up- I always thought it was hilarious that Rolf, the young budding Nazi, was played by a guy who was clearly as gay as the day is long.

    The yodeling song gets old fast, tho.

  28. shadocat says:

    So I wasn’t the only one trying to work, watch “The Sound Of Music”,and watch their cat(s) play with ordinary household items the other night…

  29. anon et al says:

    okay, so I’m in rather serious depression and have a painful UTI to boot, but this video made me laugh out loud. A big belly guster, too. (yeah, I know guster isn’t a word, but it’s what it felt like.)

    wow and thanks.

  30. kate mckinnon says:

    I’m procrastinating right now too, as I do for many productive hours each day.

    I really thought, seeing that sparkle, that you were a clean tub kind of person. TWICE A YEAR?

    Christ on a cracker!

  31. Donna says:

    The bathtub is the person, the fear is the rising water and pulling the plug means you’ve completed the task. If the water overflows, that means you missed your deadline and don’t really care that you missed it.

  32. Anonymous says:

    It’s called “creative avoidance.” Leda is right–most of us will not do what we “have” to do, and so we will opt for something else that seems productive/creative (like making a very amusing video) but is really just a way of asserting control over our own activities. We do what we choose rather than what we “have” to.

    I try to find a reason to “want” to do the activity, and then it will be easier to focus. Right now, I do not “want” to set up the classes that should have been opened up three days ago but were only opened up at 4PM and have to be completely set up by midnight or they will be reassigned. I spent the afternoon being uproductively peeved.

    But, I have procrastinated too much and am going to go downstairs for a big piece of chocolate which I will not let myself have until the classes are set up. I really want that piece of chocolate a lot more than I want the snarky email I will get when my supervisor finds my class unfinished, so I bet my classes are set up on time!

  33. Anonymous says:

    Procrastination: also why I’m on this site instead of studying for my looming PhD exams. Glad to know I’m in such good company!

  34. Ian says:

    I used cognitive behavioural therapy and time management techniques (loosely) to deal with procrastination. I still procrastinate, but a lot less than I used to. I now only agonise about doing something for about 4 to 6 weeks instead of 3 months …

  35. --MC says:

    Deena — the cats do love those hair ties don’t they? Isha has gotten emotionally attatched to an old one of mine that, after years of cat attacks, has gotten rather horrible looking. It’s killer cute to watch her walking around with it in her mouth.
    I don’t procrastinate when I sit down at my drawing table, but I might look through some old music magazines or minicomix that I keep in a box nearby, for “research”.

  36. advorunnermom says:

    shouldn’t this be titled ‘procatstination’?

    back to work…

  37. Kynthos, I like that gaseous model of creativity. The problem is when the spark won’t come, but all those fumes keep building up…

    Hope you got your brief done.

  38. Jaibe says:

    I guess I should be glad I’ve been living in Austria this long without previously having been stuck on “the lonely goat-herd”.

  39. tHe LaTeNt LeNs says:

    great as usual….ok ok when would you like to come by for dinner……Im an advocate for feeding starving and not so starving artists….
    Stop by next time your in Cleveland, O 🙂

  40. mlk says:

    the ball in the tub is by far the most amusing toy — it shows kitty at her best!

    any significance to this?

  41. gloria says:

    I wish my cat was as playful… her favorite toy is currently the feather on the stick toy and a larger plush mousie with catnip… My cat is afraid of the bathtub, so I doubt I could coax her into it… She doesn’t seem to have the natural curiosity for household objects…

  42. Mixelle says:

    The other night my brother walked in on me watching your Christmas cat toy video. I was laughing my ass off and he wanted to know what it was. I couldn’t even explain the hilarity of your battle with the batteries, but please keep posting your multi-media expressions! Way better than TV!!!

  43. Pam I says:

    To anyone still checking back – see the Sylvia strip today see 01-14-08. AB, and The Nameless One, would appreciate it.