Friday, August 05, 2016

Pain of Procrastination

For a long time, I have struggled. I am not ashamed. I know I am not the only one. The fact is, procrastination in painful. Most of us do it. And most of the pain of procrastination is self-created.

Like so many things, there's no easy answer, no bypassing it. The only way is to practice, practice, practice - working with awareness, knowing your own creative ark, asking for help, and persevering.

For me, procrastination mainly appears when I am struggling through the middle of a project. It gets strongest when I reach a plateau of some sort - a sense of "Whoa. This is good. Hey. I can do this." Then I want to coast, or want it to be done with entirely. I start to doubt everything - can I really do this? Is it worth it? Am *I* worth it?

In other words, the only parts I really enjoy of a project are the beginning (Yippee! This will be fun!) and the end (Ohthankfuckinggod). Keeping going in the middle is the hardest part, and where most of us fall apart.

So why bother?

1. For the moments in the middle when I do get to work and actually find it is not half as bad as I thought it was.

2. For the end results.

3. For the amazing reality that without creating I simply cannot survive, even though the creative process can be so utterly painful as to make me wish I found serial television shows enough to get by on.

4. Because when I see others do it - clients and students, friends and families, teachers and coaches - I can see through my own pain. 

The biggest way to get myself going again is to just. do. it. Really. It is only in the doing I can pull the curtain to reveal the tiny scared me inside, with fear of success, of failure - hell, fear of something far more mundane - just the fear of having to do the work, to make it happen, to make in order to make it happen. Any other way of working with it - besides taking natural human breaks to stretch and cry - even if it involves analyzing my procrastination - doesn't actually help. 

Does it ever get better? It gets clearer, that I can promise. I can't say you won't procrastinate over time, and I can't say it gets easier to work with it. I still cry a lot. But I can see through it a lot quicker now, and get back to the project, which saves me from floundering around in the murky waters for as long. Please keep at it, and get help and support from others.

I'll close with a couple of Ann Patchett quotes from one of my favorite things she's ever written - "The Getaway Car" - a long essay on writing. She has been at this a very long time, and has some quite clever - and precise - ways of showing just how persistent procrastination is - but how it is worth it to keep working through it.

“Writer’s block is something out of our control, like a blocked kidney – we are not responsible. We are, however, entirely responsible for procrastination, and in the best of all possible worlds, we should also be responsible for being honest with ourselves about what is really going on.” 

"At every stage of writing a book, there’s a sense of If only…If only I could find the time to write and if only I could figure out the third chapter and if only I could get my book finished. If only I could find an agent. If only some editor would buy my book. If only I could get a good publicist. If only the book would get reviewed. If only they would do more promotion. If only it would sell. It goes on like this forever, until you’re ready to start another book and kick off the cycle all over again. If I’m writing a book, I’m racing to be finished; if I’m finished, I feel aimless and wish that I were writing a book."

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