Procrastinating Your Creative Work? Push Through and Do It

Avoiding creative work because it's too hard to begin? Don't let that stop you.

Posted Jan 29, 2018

engin akyurt/pixabay
Source: engin akyurt/pixabay

I used to be a prolific writer. I had all kinds of ideas and for a few years I joyfully pumped out articles, book drafts, blog posts and even a real book. I was naïve and a big dreamer. I dreamed of earning income as a writer, and when I started getting offered paid work, including offers to write regular columns (one I wrote for almost a decade), I was beside myself with excitement.  

I psychologically prepared myself to work hard and persist over the course of many years if necessary. I knew that it was hard to become a writer, plenty of people had warned me. In retrospect I can see that I longed to be a writer more than I was afraid of failure (I was more afraid I'd die having never given it a chance), so I kept moving forward. Setbacks didn't discourage me much, I just tried the next thing and refused to give up. 

Over time though, after a certain amount of success was achieved and I had completed the majority of my earlier goals, disappointments and disillusionment emerged. In my early exuberance I had trusted people too easily, and was taken advantage of financially (and emotionally) by those who sought to prey on my hopes and lack of street-smarts.

I was so excited to have my book published by a "real" publisher, but as the years went by, I drastically changed my mind about some of the content. For example I no longer believe that you should primarily seek to "Live a Life You Love" (the book's title) in order to experience a life rich in meaning and value. Focusing on yourself and what makes you happiest may be helpful in some circumstances but can be a recipe for self-obsession and unnecessary dissatisfaction if practiced exclusively as a way of life or taken to extremes. 

Some regretful ideas persist to this day in other forms, such as articles I’ve written, interviews I’ve given, on and on it goes. It's harder to write new things with enthusiasm, when you know from experience that the things you write today may make you cringe years later...and these days, people will be able to find them forever and perhaps even assume that you still stand behind what you wrote!

Anyway, with these and other experiences, and the various internal changes and conflicts that come along with maturing as a human being, I lost the spark for writing that once shone so brightly. I also got busy doing the work I’d once dreamed of doing (speaking to audiences etc.), so there was much less time to write. So, I pretty much stopped. I didn’t feel like doing it anymore.

Recently, I felt that creative spark start to flicker again.

Around this time, I also watched a short film, The Monolith, which features my cousin-in-law, New York-based artist Gwyneth Leech. I’ve written about Gwyneth and her iconic coffee cup art before.

In the film, she confesses how hard it is for her to get to the studio. Every day.

Though she and I have spent hours talking about life, work and art, I didn’t know this about her. I just assumed that it was easy for her to get to the studio and create. She creates so much. 

I’m hoping that her vulnerability about her reality will help you as much as it helped me.

Here’s an excerpt, in her words:

I procrastinate.

It’s still hard to get to the studio.

I can be really bad-tempered and grumpy and the world looks awful to me.

I could even be crying on the way to the studio.

I just do not want to do it.

Walking down to the city at street level with the traffic, weaving my way through people rushing to work, everything looks ugly to me.

The city looks dirty.

And then I open the door to this space and it’s just magical.

I often think of writing, but have procrastinated what I would consider "real" writing for years now. I struggle with the negative emotions that I have around what became of my writing dreams. I still have lots of ideas, all the time, and keep a file of them in my phone. Lots of ideas don’t even make it there, since I never seem to do anything with them. What’s the point?

I allowed myself to be deluded. I believed that because I felt discouraged about my writing, because I’d made mistakes along the way, because I regretted some of the previous things I’d written, because my passion and exuberant hope had dwindled, and because it was much harder to get myself to sit down and start writing…I shouldn’t bother doing it.

If I’m honest with myself, I know that I am still a writer. Just because I'm no longer naive and exuberant about it doesn't mean I can abandon a gift I was given. 

I can still trust that if I manage to get myself into the chair, ignore my email or the latest news and open up that Word document, I will start and quickly lose track of time. I have no idea what time it is, right now.

The fount is still there, if I find the courage to push past my negative associations and disappointments and open the door. 

To be fair to all of us blocked creatives, it's a lot harder to get into your creative chair and actually create something these days. Life is so much busier and more complex. When I first started writing I didn't have a smartphone, there was no social media, and there weren’t a bazillion fascinating things I could read online, killing hours and hours of precious time. I suspect these obstacles are affecting your work, too.

It’s harder to write now, for so many reasons. But I must still do it, and I will.  It doesn’t matter that a lot of the time there are many other easier, more obviously appealing (yet superficial) things I’d rather do.

Like Gwyneth, if I push through the tears, ugliness, resistance and doubt and just get myself to that door, the magic is still waiting on the other side.

Is it time for you to re-open the door on your creativity?

Don’t believe the lie that the discouragement, resistance, procrastination and the relentless social media feed have stolen your gift. It’s still there.

Copyright Dr. Susan Biali Haas 2018