Octavia Butlers’ words became an unwanted archangel on my shoulder who showed up abruptly reminding me of my duty to myself. Octavia Butler is an African American science fiction writer who is the subject of the course, Octavia Butler and Social Ties, that I have been taking at Suny Geneseo. After a weekly Sunday announcement from my professor, Beth McCoy, who teaches the course, I found my insides turning and curling into a ball of frustration, mental blockage, and embarrassment. Beth McCoy makes a point to emphasize care for our course and aims to help us grow as strong writers and thinkers. She does this by offering extensive and elaborate feedback to our class discussions, encouraging her students to unpack their thoughts and to apply feedback, to what we have learned to our next class discussions and assignments. Her routine Sunday announcement one weekend had been a commentary on the progress she had been seeing, I believe her exact advice was to work in small increments versus large ones and to slow down when writing versus “one procrastinated intense whoosh.” I felt like someone had ripped the covers away from my eyes while watching a horror movie, I felt exposed and forced to look at how I’ve been dealing with this course. Horrified to see that I was not living up to the goals and changes I had set for myself at the beginning of the semester. At that moment is when Octavia Butler’s words came back to my mind. At the top of our syllabus, Beth McCoy copied quotes by Octavia Butler’s “Furor Scribendi” where she stated that “Habit is more dependable” than inspiration. Inspiration is fleeting constantly changing, and “continued learning” is more dependable than inspiration or any talent. And with such reminders, I was forced to look and confront my habits both good and bad, but mainly bad
Procrastination. The constant putting off work was something that became ingrained in me since the beginning of my college career. It didn’t start out as deliberate, but the more the years went on, classes became less of a priority throughout the day and other issues replaced it, like, my job as a residential assistant, my executive positions on clubs and teams, dealing with issues and problems back home, and then, there were classes. As many college students experience, each year is something different, and as I mentioned in previous class discussions, I’m still figuring it all out. Work schedule, sleep schedule, times to devote to what, and when. I am now realizing that although much of what I do on campus is important to me, they are excuses, they are becoming excuses. They are becoming buffers between me and my work more often than I care to admit. Most importantly, these aspects of my life are slowly coming at the expense of my growth. They were and can be ways to distress, but recently they have been distractions when things get too hard.
In Octavia Butlers Dawn, the main character, Lilith, who wakes up on an alien planet after the world has been destroyed by her species, human beings, is forced into trying to adapt to the newness of her life. She is surrounded by creatures she finds repulsing, and when she mistakenly harms the land of the planet, which is a ship that is alive, she is criticized by one of the alien-like creatures and is asked “‘How have you managed,’ it asked her ‘to remain so promising and yet so ignorant.’” Even though the alien-like creatures in the novel hold a different agenda when it comes to the exchange of what the human species can do for their evolution, I found the question had hit home, just like Butler and Beth McCoy’s advice had. The reason why I have remained so promising and yet so ignorant is that I’m deliberately self-sabotaging my own growth. Both in this course and not. It’s as if I’m choosing to stay downhill because the hill looks a little too steep. Thinking has become hard, and because I have put off the workout, my muscles have gotten weaker. Not only have they become slightly weaker, I now have to think about a thousand other things, and I have to adapt to everything happening around me that is constantly changing, similar to how Lilith has to adapt to her new alien environment. The state of always having to adapt and think creates anxiety inside of me that urges me to find comfort, when I actually should be moving to action. My comfort does not always equal productivity. But I say these things, not as excuses anymore, but as recognizing these are habits that I need to work on. I get really inspired to work when an assignment is due the same night I started, but such inspiration causes so much stress, and as Butler said, it’s fleeting. I have to get into the habit of working slowly, taking my time, and really thinking, work out those muscles. I am really grateful for the opportunity to grow as a writer, I just have to work on seizing the day.
Here are some ways to beat procrastination!