Saturday, 14 July 2012

I Was Going to Write About Procrastination But Just Didn't Get Around To It

All this week I've been trying to figure out what to write for this blog. I've been thinking and thinking and although I came up with several ideas, nothing was flowing; I was stuck. My plan was to post a blog each Friday morning. But yesterday morning came and went; still nothing materialized. I did go over old writings, looked at books, got out my knitting, that sort of thing. But write something new? Wasn't happening. Then I did a little creative coaching on myself. I couldn't write anything if I didn't have a pen in hand with paper in front of me or was sitting at the computer! I was thinking too much. It was time for doing. I was ... procrastinating!

Thinking about our projects is a necessary and important part of creating. We do need to have some well-thought-out ideas, a vision to some extent for writing, sculpting, painting (although not always for painting--sometimes the best things that we produce are spur-of-the-moment surprises). But when the thinking becomes more important than the doing, well, Houston, we've got a problem.

When pacing about trying to decide again this morning what to write about I was having an inner dialogue about this frustration. Then it came to me: what would I advise someone else to do in this situation? Well, 'sit down and just start writing' was the answer. The doing often is the release of the inspiration that is needed to create something. We can think all day about our projects, but until we sit down, stand up or pick up our tools, nothing happens. This was a great reminder of something so simple yet often overlooked.

But some people ask, what is it that will get that action started? What gets us up off the sofa and into our studio or in front of the computer? This is a question that is so hard to define. There doesn't seem to be a universal 'key' that unlocks our activity. Unfortunatley, we all have to come to a personal point of making that commitment to act and how each person gets there is as individual, in my opinion, as each person.

Part of it is recognizing that our inactivity is not moving our artistic projects forward; honestly seeing that we are engaging in avoidance behavior by watching 'Homes Under the Hammer' instead of doing preliminary sketches for a painting; that doing the laundry instead of working on chapter four when really the laundry doesn't need to be done till much later, or doing just about anything to not sit down and create!

Another part is making that commitment to ourselves, to our work and then deciding we will move and then just do it! I wish I had the key that would overcome inaction, that I had a set formula for overcoming inactivity. In a way I do: first I ask myself what is it that is stopping me? Are they excuses or real impediments? If they are excuses, I tell them they are dismissed as they have no power here! Real impediments? then I make a list of what steps can be taken to overcome these impediments. If there is nothing that can be done at that moment, let it go and look for other areas in which action can be taken, for often there is something else that can be done. When I follow these rules, I get up off my duff and do. And doing only counts when your doing or you're done!

A lot of times the not acting is just simply procrastination and procrastination often has it's roots in fear: fear of failure, of not measuring up, of not performing to an acceptable level, of disappointing one's self or others. It is quite often a surprise to people to realise the level of fear they may have about avoiding something, even something as simple as doing a sketch or writing a weekly column.

Sometimes it's just a lack of interest. That too needs to be dissected--if that idea is not exciting enough to move you off the couch, then how could it be altered to make it more exciting? Or are you being overly critical about this idea? It may be the very thing someone else is dying to see or hear but they are waiting for YOU to create it! Often, a simple pep talk with one's self is what is needed. Remember, talk to yourself as your own best friend who would encourage, nudge and support you in trying things. Denigrating yourself for inaction won't get you going any faster. Applause sounds much nicer than booing, so inwardly applaud yourself.

When we fall short of the goals we have set or the plans that we have made, forgiveness of our own foibles is so important. Instead of chiding ourselves for not following a plan or maintaining our goals, how about we just renew that commitment with a little loving kindness? Acceptance that you fell a bit short of your plans or goals, assessing if any changes need to be made to the plans, and then renewing the commitment to do what you can frees you to start anew with a bit of confidence and a sense of capability.

 The wisdom of others' words often inspires, so here's a quote for this week to carry us through.
"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You must do things.! ~ Ray Bradbury
Happy creating!

1 comment:

  1. 'You can't try to do things - you must do things!' - I think I am going to take this quote and pin it to my laptop! Yes! Or as you say - get up off my duff and do it!

    I always procrastinate when it comes to writing. I think about it to no end - but the doing is the scary part. It's definitely rooted in fear. For me, fear of not being good enough, not writing as good as I did before or meeting the blank page block again! Creative ability is a very unsure thing I think - it's flighty and not entirely of our own, and hence our procrastination around it. Maybe it's a misleading protective device.

    But the doing is all-important. Once we start 'doing' it turns out to be exhilarating. Even if it just begins with a scribble on a page. Once I start writing, the floodgates open and push procrastination downstream.

    But as you say, how to actually do? Sometimes it's just mechanical: I take a pen, put it to paper, and off I go. I heard a writer say once that as long as you make it your business to show up at the page every day, ready to work, work will happen, regardless if you're 'feeling' it or not.

    Thanks for the very helpful and thoughtful post Mary! I was about to sit out in the sun and read (for me, reading is an avoidance tool to writing), but now I think - no - I'm going to pick up my notebook instead!!