Reflections on a Vocational Happenstance
"If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it."
Recently I wrote about the pleasing distractions to be found in rabbit holes. That day I was commenting on the fun of them, their ability to soothe and calm, the potential within them for serendipitous inspiration.
But in truth rabbit holes are best suited for something else entirely. They are insidious inciters of procrastination.
And sometimes I fall into them unintentionally, in the midst of trying to be productive, when I specifically don't want to be distracted. Like this morning, for instance.
Planning my day early this morning, I saw a small task awaiting me, one I would like to get off the work table and into the mail. (Hiding the task in a drawer will not solve anything as I will know it's in there there tsk-tsking away.) I will feel so good when I drop the little package into the bin at the post office. This is a task I volunteered for MONTHS AGO, a simple little thing. The person it belongs to told me, "There's no hurry. Whenever you get around to it is fine." And so I have put this tiny task off, moving it to the bottom of my list over and over again as other tasks with deadlines (real or imagined) arose.
"Today," I told myself, "today will be the day I do this." And then I sat down here to write about it before doing it. Productive Procrastination, we call that.
First I needed an image to go along with the blog post. I love the one I found, don't you? In the process I discovered an artist, Mark Titchner, whose work I find interesting. 15 minutes well spent.
And then I needed a quote to match. Which is when the craziness began:
Who the heck is Olin Miller?!
If you know, please oh, please hurry quick and tell me.
The quote I found fits my purposes perfectly, but I don't like to use someone's words without proper attribution and the Internet is often mistaken in its beliefs about who said what, so I decided to look Olin Miller up for myself. Big Mistake.
He has quotes all over the Internet. Several fairly reputable websites attribute many, many quotes to him, but nowhere can I find any biographical information.
On a website called "Quote Investigator" I found a seemingly thorough investigation concluding that Olin Miller was the originator, in the year 1937, of some other quote. There he is referred to as a "jokester". On another website, Miller is quoted and described as an "American Businessman, Humorist, Poet, and Author (1918- )". Another site calls him an "American author (1918-2002)".
Notably, Wikiquote has no entry for Olin Miller, which was not a good sign.
I wrote to the aforementioned "Quote Investigator", who promptly wrote back that he had no biographical information for Olin Miller, either.
More digging led me to believe that Olin Miller was Poor Richard's first cousin, meaning either he wrote under another more famous name or "Olin Miller" itself was a nom de plume.
I spent so much time digging that "Quote Investigator" wrote me back again. He found an online reference to an Olin Miller who wrote a satirical political feature for a newspaper in Thomaston, Georgia. I found an obituary of sorts for that man, stating that he died in 1981 at the age of 87 and indicating that his writing persona was called "Piney Woods Pete". Apparently this feature was syndicated in 139 newspapers. But when I looked to find more information about that column, I found the obituary of another man described as "one of the writers behind the personality Piney Woods Pete."
So. An innocent search for a quote led me to a mystery I wasn't looking for. This mystery will niggle at me and niggle at me until I get to the bottom of it. I believe I am on the right track after these several hours, but I need to face the fact that getting completely to the bottom of it will not happen today.
The question now, after having made myself oh, so very busy all morning, is whether I will get that one little task done, packed up and sent off in the mail, or will I leave it for yet another day?
If I were you I would bet on the latter.
So then the question is simply WHY? Why does this happen with some tasks and not with others, and how does a small, simple thing become such a big, difficult thing? Olin Miler (whoever he is) points out the phenomenon but doesn't explain it.
And WHY, also, is it so hard some days to step around the rabbit holes?!