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October 15, 2014 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-10-15

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Wednesday, October 1 211= -he Statement 7B

Personal Statement: Confessions of a procrastinator
by Mark Ossolinski

the writer's notebook: writing as movement
Poetry is largely a practice of
holding myself accountable. For
me, poetry moves me
to action when I begin
naming my OWN joy and
my OWN fear. I do not
want others to-name it, or
me. I ask my students to
reconsider how the poem
reshapes or celebrates
or challenges a ques-
tion of the self. How
the poem creates a new
vision. Not every poem
has to be "deep," nor does
every poem have to have an
agenda behind it. But I believe
that poetry can create movement
and action when others begin to
seize their own languages, and
undertake the project of naming
e-mails their own joys, bodies, hungers,
and turn shit in. fears.
But when it The poet Aracelis Girmay
comes to cre- writes: "I think a poem can
ative writing, have many hearts. Many cores.
how can we Many moments of great pulse
use poetry and potency ... But the heart can
and prose also be very quiet, the condensed
to move moment of matter or language or
others white space or silence that pushes
n beyond chills through a body." When I
directive seek great poems, I see in them
the action? How an ability to perform within this
last year of can poetry be type of dual space, to move silent-
my under- used as aform of social ly and noisily, to claim multiple
graduate career, I've been recon- change? In other words, when names and hearts. For me, writ-
sidering the role of writing as a does writing become more than ing acts as movement when it can
type of artistic performance, and, a "good" poem, or a "good" story? simultaneously carve and hush.
more importantly, as a type of When does writing spark move- I am a poet. The way I navi-
social change. How does writing ment? gate, seek and understand the
make tides, swing past When world is largely through lyric and
doors? What is it about I teach poetry. I write to save. I write to
writing in particular writing carve out. I write to buzz, let go,
that makes others work- love, push, remember. Above all,
move to action, or shops I write because in writing, I find
shout? At a very to high myself asking questions, shooting
basic level, writ- school arrows, forging visual and ver-
ten language students, bal connections. In other words,
is performa- I tell my brain is at its most electric
tive. I read them I'm when I am writing - and I am
stop signs, .,t not able to challenge myself to chase
and halt inter- after hard questions, challenge
my car. ested in myself to look and upturn more.
I read whether or There are plenty of rules that
class not they can use we've studied in class on how to
fancy metaphors, or be a "good" writer. But I've never
how many Shakespeare been taught in a classroom that
references they can squeeze writing is, at its core, inherently
\yZ in a line. I'm not interested in mobile. Writing evolves, and asks
whether or not their poetry its readers to evolve. Writing is a
"sounds good." I am interested re-vision ofthe world, and, conse-
in what they - and I, too - fear: quently, a re-moving of the world.
being responsible for ourselves. It rattles the floors. It lifts us up.

How did I get here?"
It's a question I've
found myselfaskingmany
times before. Here again, late at
night, wondering just exactly how
it is that I am where I am. But this
isn't the late-night existential
ponderingofa person lying in bed,
staring at the ceiling and contem-
plating life's meaning;
nor am I David Byrne,
looking back at my3
life with freaked-out
regret - although there
is an element of both
the nocturnal and the
regretful in my ques-
Instead, I'm staring
at my computer screen _
and the blank word
document looking back
at me. It's some ungodly
hour in the middle of
the night. My second
coffee of the night-
is next to me - I guess
the purpose of the first
cup was just to get me
to start thinking about
writing this paper
that's due tomorrow.
The blinking black textt
cursor in the top left of
the sea of white seems
to be mocking me:
"When I'm blinking, that means
you're not writing!"
This is not a new experience for
me. I'm pissed about it.
"How did I get here ... again?"
The simple answer, of course, is
that I've procrastinated. In spite
of telling myself "Never again"
after my last all-nighter, and the
one before that and the one before
that, I've inevitably found myself
in the same situation all over
Ah, procrastination: the bane
of many a student's existence. I've
been a serial procrastinator for a
long time, and even though I'm
aware of it and I hate it, I can't
seem to overcome it. How did I
become such a prolific dilly-dalli-
er in the first place? It's clear that
for me, the Internet is the main
culprit, and getting my own lap-
top for the first time in 10th grade
- along with the world of poten-
tial distractions it brought with it
- was a salient event on the path
to my current condition of com-

puter-induced pseudo-ADD.
As I think about all of this, still
sitting in an empty library, my
paper hardly started, with harsh
fluorescent lights serving as the
only reminder that I might not be
the only person up at this hour,
I naturally decide it's time for a
break. All that staring at a blank

nation of the Digital Age that calls
for us to return to ye (g)olden
days when people wrote letters,
read, had greater attention spans
and actually talked to each other,
by goodness! While I do some-
times wish for those "simpler"
times with their fewer distrac-
tions and stimuli, that argument

and I devote myself fully to my
work - once I actually get around
to it, that is. Another weird thing
is that as unhealthy as my habits
are, they've always worked. My
procrastination may cause me
more stress and sleep deprivation
than I'd like, but I always finish
my work. Set a deadline for me

while. I know that if I didn't pro-
crastinate so much, I'd be able to
do more of these things. Yet
mental block has lingered, and
I haven't been able to figure out
how to fix it. Until recently.
Several months ago, during
one of my wonderful procrasti-
natory frolics across the Inter-
net, as it happens, I came across
something that may have finally
given me the impetus I needed.
A quote from Gustave Flaubert,
a writer I know next to nothing
about, but who I'd like to think,
I'd be more familiar with
weren't always wasting my time
in front of a screen:
"Be regular and orderly in your
life, so that you may be violent
and original in your work."
The combination of a desire
for discipline but also excite-
ment and creativity seemed to
intertwine perfectly with my
own frustrations. I've often
looked down upon the idea of a
perfectly ordered life, consider-
ing it artificial and unfulfilling,
and I think that mentality *.<
tributed to my habit of putting
off work. I thought a "regular"
life and an exciting one were
mutually exclusive, but that's
not the case. I can have both.
It's the old mantra: Do what you
have to do now so you can do
what you want to do later.
That may seem like an obvious
lesson to most, but it's one that
took me years to fully embrace.
And my new mindset is already
paying dividends. Every time
I have the urge to check Face-
book when I should be working, I
think of this quote. Every time I
think "I can just start this later,"
I think of this quote. And as I fin-
ish this piece of writing with a
(decent amount of) time before
my deadline, with the insanity of
midterms behind me and a free
weekend ahead of me, I really
think Flaubert might've been on
to something. So if you're some-
one who has grappled with the
same affliction that I have,
sider this message. Focus on the
things you need to do now so you
can do violent and original things
with the time you save. Go read a
book. Go build something. Write a
screenplay. Throw your compute
in the trash. Okay, maybe not t a
violent, but you get my point.


T H E statement
Magazine Editor: Photo Editor: Managing Editor:
Carlina Duan Ruby Wallau Katie Burke
Deputy Editors: lIlustrator: Copy Editors:
Max Radwin Megan Mulholland Mark Ossolinski
Amrutha Sivakumar Editor in Chief Meaghan Thompson
Design Editor: Peter Shahin
Amy Mackens

screen is tough work. I decide to
look up the root of the word "pro-
crastinate." From the Latin pro-
crastinatus, from pro: forward +
cras: tomorrow. I contemplate this
for a while before realizing, "Hey,
it is tomorrow. Yes, that same
tomorrow that this paper is due!"
Frustration wells up within me,
because this is probably the 30th
time tonight that I've let myself
go down one of these Internet-
enabled tangents.
I want to throw my computer
away. I really do. I frequently
envision myself during these
moments getting up from my
desk, picking up my precious lap-
top and chucking it at the near-
est trashcan. Or maybe just at the
wall. But this fantasy obviously
isn't plausible, nor would it solve
anything. Like many students, I
need my computer for basically all
of my schoolwork. So I sigh, and I
do my best to refocus and get back
to work.
Now, this isn't the old condem-

is narrow-minded and gives
no credit to the incredible ways in
which technology has improved
our lives. I just know that I'm
more susceptible to the diversions
offered by the Internet than other
people are. My laptop is a portal
to an entire world of things that
can distract me, from Facebook
to YouTube to fantasy sports. Yes,
there's the SelfControl app, but
even that has its loopholes, and
there's always your handy smart-
phone with 3G or 4G. To all of you
who are able to sit down in front
of a computer, block everything
out, and finish an assignment
days before the deadline: I envy
you. And I'm trying to get on your
My struggle with procrasti-
nation is clearly a struggle to be
more disciplined, to practice more
SelfControl. The weird thing is
that in many other ways, I am dis-
ciplined. In spite of my bad habit
of doing homework at the last
minute, I'm a dedicated student

and I'll meet it. So what real rea-
son have I had to change my ways,
other than the constant thought
of "Eventually I'll have to"? This
way of doing things probably
won't work in the real world after
college, but do I really need to fix
them this instant?
The answer, though, is an
unequivocal Yes. Pulling all-
nighters is obviously unhealthy.
But just as important to me is
the fact that my biggest source of
frustration throughout my years
of beinga procrastinator has been
the sheer amount of time I've
wasted doing utterly inane shit on
my computer. I want to be more
productive with my time. I'm an
English major, but I haven't read
nearly as many books as I'd like. I
hold on to a pipe dream of one day
becoming a screenwriter, but my
list of movies to watch and ideas
to write down keeps getting lon-
ger and longer. I want the time to
just go for a walk every once in a

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