Surviving Procrastination

Most creative people have experienced procrastination at some time in their lives. Whether it be the allure of the washing up, the beckoning of social media or the temptation to engage in consumer-based activities (shopping), procrastination can become an art-form.

What’s your favourite kind of procrastination?

Mine is what I have come to call “real work”, that is, any work around the house that needs doing – chores, tidying, reading mail. These somehow sit in a higher priority in my mind. It can take me all morning to get around to what I really want to do – say, writing or music – but by then I am exhausted and in need of rest. Before I know it, the best part of my day and myself is gone.

Sound familiar?

I am curious as to why we procrastinate. Sure, there are the obvious reasons, like writer’s block or deadline pressure. But I think there are often deeper reasons to avoid creativity, things like fear, guilt and a sense of worthlessness. Let’s take a closer look.

Fear. Most creatives worry about failure. They worry about rejection. And they worry about vulnerability. Putting your created stuff out there, your baby, for all the world to see is an intensely vulnerable experience. Most creatives avoid it and work avidly at their pet project, refining and perfecting it, but never putting it out there. Other creatives constantly jump from one project to another, never quite finishing any project enough to release it.

Guilt. There is a strange unspoken feeling amongst many creatives that they should be doing “something else”. Creativity is perceived as a luxury in our society, as an optional extra, not as the essential or core business of our lives. As such, creatives often feel guilty about spending time on creative pursuits, worrying that they should be getting on with something more important. This is inextricably linked with our sense of worth.

Worthlessness. Let’s get right to the guts of it. We feel that our creativity is not valued by others. Sometimes our creativity is not even valued by ourselves. We feel that our work is not up to scratch, that we have nothing to offer, that our offerings will drown in a sea of similar creative works out there. We have experienced rejection. We have experienced doubt. We have experienced the financial poverty of pursuing creativity, and we become convinced that our worth lies in our earning potential.

No wonder we avoid creative work. Who wants to face the promise of fear, guilt and worthlessness every time they sit down to create? I am convinced this is why many creative people never do anything with their dreams. They feel it is wasted effort. They are convinced that it doesn’t matter.

The good news is, we can overcome these hurdles. We can face these feelings. We can embrace the fear and guilt of it, accepting that our work may or may not be valued by others, but knowing that it is important to us and valued by God. We can remember that our creativity is worthwhile and held precious by the One who sees all our secret work and dreams. We can encourage one another, knowing that procrastination is a normal and shared experience. Creative work is no waste. It matters.

How are you faring in your creative work? Are you embracing the challenge or avoiding it by prioritising other “important” work right now? What would it take to get you moving on your creative project?

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