As a writer, you probably recognize the symptoms: As that first blank page looms in front of you, you are suddenly struck by an urge to dust your clock radio or label your lawn tools. Several hours later, you may find yourself feeling like a failure as a writer, but try to look on the bright side: You have been a tremendous success as a procrastinator. Don't feel guilty, feel lucky: You may have a natural gift for procrastination — and procrastination is a writer's best friend. Why? Without procrastination, you might just leap right into your manuscript, write 1,000 words a day, and be finished with your work in a matter of weeks. Then you would be facing that first blank page all over again and be back in the same old mess. As you can see, productivity is a vicious cycle that only procrastination can break.

Every great writer was an even greater procrastinator. T.S. ("Types Slowly") Eliot spent a full 10 years writing "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," a span during which he cleaned out his refrigerator over 700 times. It was during one of these digressive episodes that Eliot stumbled upon a moldy piece of fruit in the back of the fridge, inspiring the immortal line, "Do I dare to eat a peach?"

Geoffrey Chaucer was a champion procrastinator, or "proocrustinature," as he was called way back then. While writing The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer paid no fewer than three visits per day to the cobbler to have his boots reheeled and his air-pillow insoles replaced. This compulsive behavior eventually led Chaucer to write "The Shoemaker's Tale," a Canterbury entry that was ultimately rejected by his publisher for being insufficiently dirty. Chaucer used this rejection as an excuse to take the next week off.

A lot of novice procrastinators fear that they do not have what it takes to be a great procrastinator. There is, however, no need to suffer under this burden of the past: Procrastinating can be easy and fun if you use the following checklist. Remember, complete each and every one of these tasks before you even think of writing.

Procrastinator's Checklist
Sharpen pencils.
Organize pencils in a straight line.
Clean out desk.
Strip, sand, and refinish desk.
Buy new desk.
Check mail.
Color-code socks and pants.
Dig up tulip bulbs.
Alphabetize herbal teas in pantry.
Check mail.
Discuss the amusing foibles of your ups driver's cats.
Organize cereal boxes by height.
Look for your name on the Internet.
Review 1994 tax returns.
Check mail.
See how the NASDAQ is doing.
Clip nails.
Floss nails.
Check Christmas ornaments in attic to make sure they're okay.
Can boysenberry preserves.
Check mail.
Re-lace shoes in closet.
Test yourself on state capitals, just to stay sharp.
Examine moles in mirror.
Midday break for pedicure.
Water plants.
Call siblings long-distance, start unprovoked arguments.
Update address book.
Buy stamps.
Call siblings to make up for earlier fights.
Watch Weather Channel to monitor typhoon developments in South Pacific.
Check pulse.
Water plants again, possibly killing them.

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it? Just follow the list, and you'll be ready to embark on an exciting new career as a professional procrastinator. Tomorrow.

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