The Write Mood: A Meditation on Procrastination
Hustle & Flow is one of my favorite movies. The 2005 film is a cinematic triumph that follows the life of Memphis, Tennessee pimp/drug dealer and aspiring rapper, DJay. The film’s dialogue is infused with outstanding life-applicable gems. “Keep the tricks guessin’,” “every man has a right to contribute a verse,” "I'm in charge, D!" and the iconic words of Academy-Award winning Three 6 Mafia “it's hard out here for a pimp.” While the script’s high points are amazing, the small, oft-missed moments are what make the movie truly great. One such moment is the inspiration for this week’s post.
Throughout Hustle & Flow, DJay mentions his “mode.” "Mode" first appears when DJay is in his car trying to select a radio station from among the presets. Someone has “messed with his modes, mane” and he’s understandably frustrated. When he begins working on his songs, DJay speaks again of “mode.” We as the audience hear “mode” throughout the film as a bare bones, chest rattling beat. It’s driving the man to do what he has to (i.e. hustle and flow. Get it?) At times it seems DJay really cannot get anything done without his “mode.”
Now that I’ve given a lengthier than necessary explantation, I can get to the point. Waiting for the perfect time, or “write mood” as I call it, is useless. There is no magic hour, no perfect atmosphere, no ideal setting to best get something done.
It’s a scam and I am a living witness.
For a long time, I referred to myself as “fourth-quarter clutch.” I used this designation as justification for starting something after using an inappropriate amount of the allotted preparation time to do anything BUT the thing I had to do. I treated the time as a suggestion. The assigner didn't know me like I knew me. If they did, they would know what a wonder it is for me stay up 35 hours working on something and delivering an amazing, buzzer-beating performance. They didn’t get to feel the weary tension in my eyes from reanimating myself with sugar-free RedBull and dry roasted peanuts. How could they ever know what it was like to be propped up solely by the music blaring through headphones? Or the indignity of having someone tap you on the shoulder to say your volume is too high and they can hear it? (they should’ve thanked me — I listen to great music) Not to mention the heart pounding race to beat the clock and the mighty waves of relief and majesty that o’er-washed me when I completed the task. Exquisite!
I didn't want to give up the thrill of the last minute. I told myself it was vital. “Tumble Time” was its name. Because, you know, I had to tumble ideas around beforehand (blech!) I, like DJay, had to get my mode together and it could not be disturbed. When I finally could be bothered to do a responsibility, the atmosphere had to be perfect. Any disturbance or distraction would throw off the entire flow.
I feel many of us struggle with procrastination in some form. Creatives such as myself, especially, can have a hard time. We put so much of ourselves into our work and that makes it very personal. Being forthcoming with that level of honesty is scary. However, it dawned on me that waiting doesn’t lessen the dauntacity (yes I made this word up and I am proud of it thank you).
What it does is create an out.
If your work, and you by extension, are rejected, procrastinating allows you to say “this was a rush job it’s not my best work.” On the flip side, close-cutting deadlines can be a confidence boost. “I was able to make this great thing in such short time I am a design demigod!”
Either way, procrastination is wack. Instead of enhancing, it hinders the creative process. Neither the time nor the mood are ever going to be ideal. The real and noble challenge is to use that imperfection to be great. Sure, tumbling time is sometimes necessary for planning. Perspective is a useful tool here. Chopped contestants can conceptualize a restaurant quality meal with random foods in 15 seconds and Project Runway designers only have half an hour to sketch.
Working fully and smartly within the given time allows for more last minute tweaking. Who wants to be starting a vinaigrette when everyone else is plating?
Thankfully, I have shed myself of the ridiculous obsession with last minute strife. I learned that it doesn't make for better product nor does it make me feel any better about myself or my talents. Mode is great. Get in the zone, but don’t become so obsessed that you lose the big picture. It’s all about that balance, baby!👐🏾✨
Now, dear reader, I feel too familiar with you to sit here and flex like I don't still have some hangups about my “write mood.” Because I do. I am, however, walking in the balance.
Instead starting a Thursday 11am post on the same Thursday at 8am, I do it in a timely fashion. Nonetheless, I still make a fuss. I must actually be sitting at a desk, really meditating on a subject, literally typing my thoughts as they come, sipping Starbucks Venti Iced Black Tea Lemonade (unweet, 2 pumps peppermint) or water in the emptied 24oz cup. Pages has to be full screen, font must be Geneva 12pt with 1.2 spacing, 135% zoom, and Spotify Electronic Study Music or Trap Instrumentals needs to be on at 4 volume ticks.
Hey, I’m a work in progress!
My write mood particularity could possibly be credited (read: blamed) to my love of continuity and authenticity. I call it “From the Desk of A. Allen: A Pseudo-Personal Stream of Consciousness” for a reason and I want that to translate to my audience. So if I wanted to, I could pin this one on you all. My devotion to bringing you stellar content drives me to such measures. But I won’t became I as a young African American woman am growing : )