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Procrastinating Properly with Mason Currey

Mason Currey (@masoncurrey) is a writer living in LA. Mason Currey's Subtle Maneuvers

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MASON: So, my advice is specifically for people doing creative work or people doing work that involves a lot of idea generating or problem-solving which I think is a lot of people. And it comes from an e-mail interview I did with the artist, Maira Kalman. For my first book I was asking her about her daily routine and her work habits and in one of her replies she said, "I procrastinate just the right amount." And I remember thinking at the time, yeah, haha, me too. But since then I've come to think there's a real kernel of wisdom in that response. That, actually it's kind of an idea. To procrastinate just the right now amount because at least in the all the research I've done on writers' and artists' habits and creative process, you see how important ruminating on an idea is, letting an idea percolate in the back of your mind. I think we've all had the experience with, you kind of plant the seed and then you have an idea out of the blue while you're in the shower or taking the walk. But you need that PLUS a burst of focused, head-down work. You kind of need both things. And I think procrastinating just the right amount is kind of a great strategy or shortcut to getting the ideal balance of letting the idea percolate...letting your brain gnaw away at it in the background and then actually executing the piece of work and getting it done.

ZAK: And how have you figured out how to build procrastination into your routine.

MASON: I think I'm maybe a natural at that. This whole project of studying people's routines began with an act of procrastination. Many years ago I was supposed to be writing an article for this magazine I worked at, at the time. I went into the office on a Sunday afternoon. I was gonna do this thing and instead I was slacking off, surfing the internet and I was reading interviews with, like, writers about their routines cause it felt like maybe that would get me in the mood to work and I was like, somebody should start a blog to collect these little snippets. And then instead of writing this article I started this blog and over the course of many years it turned into book projects and now this newsletter, but I always felt bad about procrastinating. I never felt like I was doing something good or effective or strategic. And now I'm starting to think it's not something to feel bad about. It works for me. I think it works for a lot of creative people and maybe you should cultivate it a little bit instead of beating yourself up about it.

ZAK: Yeah, that's a big point. Just the way that you view procrastination. Because if you have shame around it rather than, like you're saying, just cultivating kind of a positive air around it...the shame is going to impact the work and impact the amount you procrastinate.

MASON: Also, if you get an assignment and get straight to work on it, you might be being very efficient but I think you're missing out on the part of the process that leads to the best work. You're missing out on plant the seed and then let it work away in the back of your mind. That kind of efficiency might be inefficient in creative work because you're losing out on part of the process that leads to the best ideas. And then doing this effectively requires understanding yourself, understanding your own habits and your process and that is always a good thing to try to do creative work. Like, I think you should be aware of how you work best. When you've had success what kind of conditions created that?

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