Thursday, October 06, 2005

Later Man

Later Man, Later Man,
Puts things off as long as he can

Trouble's near, danger's great,
he'll just ask,
Can't it wait?

I was leaving work the other night when one of my co-workers bid me goodbye with the words, "Later, man."

The phrase stuck in my head and by the time I got to the elevator I had come up a bogus superhero--Later Man. I played the old "Spiderman" cartoon theme in my head with new lyrics, describing my hero's amazing power of procrastination.

I pictured my satirical superhero putting off saving the world to do something--anything--else. He possessed a unique combination sloth, fear and ADD that made him impervious to completion.

I saw him in my mind's eye, masked, the big "L" on his chest sitting in front of a TV while his wife tried to pull him off the couch. It could be a funny bit, I thought.

But it took me a few days to realize that Later Man already exists. I see him every morning in the mirror when I shave.

Later, man.

That seems to to my motto in life. I keep meaning to go places, take courses, finish projects, do all sorts of incredible things, but they never get done.

There have been a few exceptions, of course. I started this blog so I could write something without doing research or conducting interviews, where I could just write something from start to finish and get it the hell out in the world.

There's my script, Siren Central which I finished and posted on the web site. It's gotten a number of viewings, but, so far, no sale. But at least the bastard's done. That hasn't happened often for me.

Is he slow?
Listen, guy,
by the time he gets here,
you might die.

The latest example of this condition was the comedy sketch writing class I wanted to take at the Upright Citizens Bridge. It starts Sunday and runs for about 7 weeks. I thought this would be good for me, give me a chance to stretch some writing muscles I've never really worked with.

But then I thought, I've got the meditation class going on for the next several Wednesdays. (This is a great class, by the way, and I'm so glad I signed up for it--after putting it off for a year.) I didn't have sketches ready yet and I don't want to fill up my schedule with classes and work, especially since I've got to finish the novel and shoot that short film, and keep an eye on my dad, and dig an eight-lane tunnel to Piscataway.

I made up the last one but I think you get the idea. And there was that two-day film school class that was running this weekend, which I've been threatening to take for years, and for which I didn't sign up for either.

I kept on checking the UCB web site this week until I saw that class had sold out, so the matter was officially out of my hands. I was explaining this all to my shrink when he looked at me in surprise.

"You didn't take the class?" he asked.

"No," I said. "I had all this other stuff."

"So," he said finally. "Another week has gone by."

Yes, another week, where I haven't done anything, where I haven't made good on any of my grand schemes. It was blunt and it hurt, but I needed to hear it.

I believe part of my resistance to this class and others like it is based on the negative feelings I have toward self-improvement.

What, I rationalize, I'm going to take this class and the SNL producers are going to call and off me a job? I've taken classes before and my life isn't one bit better. This one's going to be different? Yeah, right...

But my shrink said this class has nothing to do with my career. He saw it more as an opportunity to socialize with other writers. The meditation class is fine, he said, but that's pretty much internal. And he's right. I have nodding acquaintance with a few people, but even that's a stretch, since one of the cuter women in the class suddenly acted this week like she didn't know me.

That was a trip. I'm sitting in the Open Center, waiting for the class to begin and this woman starts talking to another guy in the class. I felt the surge of jealousy and anger and I started voodoo thinking toward them, stop talking, stop talking, which had no effect whatsoever and pissed me off even more. It was a great way to start the search for peace and contentment.

But the sketch writing class would have put me in a group where people would probably talk amongst themselves quite a bit. And, once again, I let it slip away.

To him, life is a great big hold-up,
wherever there's a hold up,
you'll find the Later Man.

Why do I do this? My shrink and I kick this around at just about every session. Part of it is fear of failure, whatever that means in a situation like this. So I take the class, drop $300, and I decide hey, this really sucks. So what?

That's a good bit of change, but it won't break me by any means. And 7 weeks doing something I don't like is not appealing, but I've done that at some jobs for years. Two months would be a cakewalk.

I have this obsession about making mistakes and bad choices, about doing the wrong thing instead of the right thing, and feeling like an idiot when the smoke clears. But every decision in life can be "right" or "wrong" if you choose to look at it that way. And, as we all know, no decision is a decision.

Do I find something addictive in not finishing things? As long as a manuscript is incomplete it can't be sent out to be reviewed and possibly rejected. It exists only in my head, perfect and brilliant...once I get it done.

Yes, there'll be other sketch writing classes and I'm sure I'll sign up for one of them. And I might pitch "Later Man" as a sketch.

But I see that another week going by becomes a month, then a year, then a life gone by. I don't want my tombstone to read "Later, Man" because by that time there'll be no more laters, just a pile of regrets blowing in the wind.

And there's nothing heroic about that.

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