The Creative Journey: Procrastination
Procrastination, Permission and Progress
A few years back, when I was in the middle of writing my book, I entered a magazine contest that asked people to submit their best house cleaning tips.
My submission was simple:
Challenge yourself to a big creative project. Set a deadline. Then you will find yourself noticing every tiny speck of dirt in your house as you try to focus on your big project. Instead of writing, drawing, painting, or sewing, let procrastination take over. Spend all of your creative time scrubbing, dusting, and sweeping, and your house will be immaculate from top to bottom!
I didn’t win the contest. I did distract myself from my feelings of fear that arose from writing my book. It just seemed less risky to be reading the magazine, entering the contest, cleaning my refrigerator, and dusting my rafters. I was procrastinating big time.
Why is it that even when we are passionate about our work and truly motivated to create something new and original, we find ourselves putting off our project and choosing to do just about anything else, including cleaning our house, instead? On a good day we feel like intrepid explorers as we slash our way through unknown territory. On other days, we feel terrified. Our clever inner guardians distract us with all manner of tasks to keep us from facing the discomfort of leaving the safety of what we know for the unpredictable outcomes of our new venture.
Procrastination serves a specific purpose. It delays our experience of facing our fears. It also signals us that we are at a point when we need to align our creative courage with our skills in order to take the next steps to complete our project.
What if we looked at our procrastination as a feedback mechanism? We could bring our curiosity into play and investigate what is going on. We could ask our self: How am I feeling about my project at this point? Then sit and journal for a while, or take a walk and listen to see what comes to mind.
Sometimes we find that we are missing information, skills, or materials that we need to move forward. This can feel overwhelming. We might be tempted to ignore this valuable feedback and spend our time catching up on all 11 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy; or we can take a deep breath and make a plan to acquire the information, skills, or materials that we need. The deep breath is very important because we hold our feelings of fear and overwhelm in our bodies.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we are stretching our creative muscles. Breaking down large tasks into small steps helps us move forward and see progress. Then taking time to celebrate each completed step gives us a boost and affirms that we are on our way.
When you find yourself avoiding your projects by sorting through your junk drawers, pay attention to your inner self-talk. Are you encouraging, hopeful, kind, forgiving, and compassionate with yourself? Imagining your inner child is a good reminder to be patient and give yourself permission to make mistakes.
I often ask my students and clients to create a permission slip for them selves. I suggest starting with the word ”I ” followed by your name, and then “give myself permission to” and then fill in the tasks that feel the most risky, unfamiliar, bold, scary, or exotic. End the permission slip with a statement like:
“I understand that I may not actually know what the end result will be when I begin. I am willing to risk not knowing so that I can find my own original, authentic expression.” Finally sign and date it. Hang the permission slip somewhere you will see it often.
I’ve made many permission slips over the years to remind me to allow myself room to experiment, goof up, and make a mess. I also created permission slips to be brilliant, courageous and to express my unique spirit. I still procrastinate from time to time but now-a-days, if you were to come by for a visit you would find my house looks a bit less tidy since I published my book.
What do you want to give yourself permission for?
Brecia Kralovic-Logan, published in “Silkworm” Summer 2015