W. A. Pannapacker (what a name!) has an interesting piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the link between procrastination and genius, specifically in the case of Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci, as you may or may not know, what an epic procrastinator, filling notebooks with sketches of future ideas, too many to follow through on in a lifetime. Pannapacker notes, “Nowadays, Leonardo might have been hired by a top research university, but it seems likely that he would have been denied tenure. He had lots of notes but relatively little to put in his portfolio.”
The essay concludes,
Academe is full of potential geniuses who have never done a single thing they wanted to do because there were too many things that needed to be done first: the research projects, conference papers, books and articles — not one of them freely chosen: merely means to some practical end, a career rather than a calling. And so we complete research projects that no longer interest us and write books that no one will read; or we teach with indifference, dutifully boring our students, marking our time until retirement, and slowly forgetting why we entered the profession: because something excited us so much that we subordinated every other obligation to follow it.
If there is one conclusion to be drawn from the life of Leonardo, it is that procrastination reveals the things at which we are most gifted — the things we truly want to do. Procrastination is a calling away from something that we do against our desires toward something that we do for pleasure, in that joyful state of self-forgetful inspiration that we call genius.
As a dedicated procrastinator, I appreciate the sentiment. In perusing the virtual pages of the Salon, however, I must admit that if Dark Days in Monkey City, Mansquito, and Hamster on a Piano are the traces of my roiling genius, my legacy is in trouble.