In late 2014 I left the freelance filmmaking world, and with this major life change I revamped my personal website (this site). Now with the stability of a full-time career, one of the hobbies I want to pursue is creative writing and share my new work here. Everyone these days seems to have a blog, so darn it, I wanted my own blog that I knew nobody would read either. If you’ve made it this far, I’m sure you’re alone. Press on, brave explorer.
Everyone has an overly-inflated self-worth to their personal perspective on life, and they can’t help but to share. Don’t believe me? Just look at the success of Facebook, Twitter, and the avalanche of selfies and narcissistic Vine videos and try to convince me different. At 43 years old, I’m finally at the point in my life where I feel like I have thoughts, ideas, and experiences worth sharing. I keep an ever-growing list of article ideas and I continually have more flooding in. In my mind I can imagine the entire article in its full completed glory. So WHY, oh why, for the love of GOD, is it so hard for me to get started with the actual writing?! Oh yeah, my friend. Procrastination.
You see, Procrastination is this friend I have who loves to party even when he knows he shouldn’t. We have fun together, loads of fun, but somehow it seems every time we hang out, I get in trouble. I always love the unpredictable adventures we have, but always dread the hangover of returning to reality.
Procrastination has helped me with my creative process for years. He’s a hippie pot head with all sorts of wacky ideas, no inhibitions, and no idea to crazy consider trying. You see, Procrastination lets my creative ideas float around, mingle, have an orgy of mutant offspring that then return to me, sometimes days later, in the form of inspiration. Who needs drugs when you’ve got Procrastination.
However, unless your a recluse painter with nothing but time on your hands, you almost always work as part of a team. With teamwork, comes the horrifying reality of deadlines and schedules. Procrastination hates the responsibility of teamwork and desperately tries to get me to go drinking with him, or watch yet one more episode of American Horror Story that I may or may not have already watched.
Procrastination has showed me many times, that if we hang out long enough, the work just goes away by itself. Sweet! He then reminds me how much of a waste of time that would have been if I had actually gotten started on it. It’s hard not to see his wisdom.
Procrastination stands up for me, he’s my protector. Artists are usually fragile creatures. Our creations are glass and we fear the sledgehammer of criticism and judgement. We often procrastinate showing our creations to others out of fear. We don’t want our creativity to be judged and disliked. Procrastination keeps my delicate ego safe, and I love him for it. As I write this very sentence, he got me to pause, take a sip of coffee, and ponder if I should finish this article at all. After all, what if people think I’m stupid after they read it?
Procrastination pushes me to my limit, which I appreciate. It’s almost like he purposely keeps me from doing my work, so that it build up some sort of kinetic energy, that once we’re done partying… I can hit the ground running. If it weren’t for this kick-start, I wonder if I would have gotten it done otherwise. When I’m done, he makes me feel like a hero for having gotten it done in time. It’s fun feeling like a hero.
I’ve Meet Someone Else
I have tried to un-friend Procrastination many times, because my friends tell me that he’s not good for me. The perpetual problem is he always seems to come through for me in a pinch, so why deny his friendship?
Procrastination, I’m sorry to tell you, but I’ve meet someone else.
Over 20 years ago I married my soulmate, Sharon. We have such different personalities that we often marvel how we get along so well together. It was many years ago that she introduced me to her friend, Get Shit Done. GSD helped Sharon get two bachelors degrees, deliver three babies (two of them at home, naturally), run 11 half-marathons, and coordinate moving our family 5 times in the past 6 years.
Needless to say, GSD did’t like my friend Procrastination in the least and their rivalry was the source of our marital strain at times. However, just as Procrastination has his faults, GSD has her faults as well. GSD would often get Sharon to rush into deciding things without letting her research all the details or even consider asking my opinion. GSD would also be happy with wasting Sharon’s time with doing tasks immediately, that would have revealed as moot if she had just been patient. For years, I didn’t trust GSD.
Getting to know GSD over the years has been interesting, and she really has been growing on me. She introduced me to a concept called “Inbox Zero” which changed the way I process my digital life. The result was dramatic. I worried less about what I had to do, and had more time to think about fun creative things. Recently she showed me a Lynda.com video called “Time Management Fundamentals” which further showed me ways to be more efficient, so that I could have yet more time to be in my creative zone.
After a while, GSD and Procrastination helped my wife and I appreciate each other and our approaches to situations, each with our own benefits, each with our own flaws. I now could understand why Sharon loved GSD, and how helpful she is indeed. I’m sorry to report that Sharon hasn’t become friends with Procrastination, but she has come to appreciate his usefulness at times.
GSD helped me clean up my professional life and improved my personal life, but I was reluctant to let her interfere with my creativity. I have always feared structure and organization as the kryptonite to creativity. Despite my best judgment, I invited GSD to help me with a creative project. The results were surprising and Procrastination has been pissed off at me ever since.
GSD, That Sneaky Devil
The first project I invited GSD to help with, she told me to lie to Procrastination. “Tell him your deadline is only 1/3 of what it really is,” she said. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I did. Procrastination then grabbed me as usual and in the distraction of taking a 30-mile bike ride, my ideas subconsciously started to flow as I expected. When I returned I got back to work and finished my work.
Now I was confused. I was done early, so what did I gain exactly? GSD’s lesson for me wasn’t quite complete. She then told me, “I know you’re not really happy with that, are you? Why don’t you make it better!” Pfft, sure, whatever. Blowing her off I promptly went to hang out with Procrastination, but she had tricked me! When I had finished watching a favorite movie for the 10th time, I had realized that Procrastination had given me time to brew some cool improvements that I hadn’t considered before. I returned to my project with renewed enthusiasm and polished it up.
The actual deadline still a ways away, GSD noted, “Are you really going to let *that* detail slide? Really?” Damn you GSD! I’m going to play Diablo III with Procrastination. If you hadn’t guessed it, when I was done killing some demons, I had yet even more ideas which I knew I had to try. I rushed back to work, GSD watched quietly nearby. When I was done, I stood dumbfounded by the improvements I had made as I glanced bewildered over at GSD. She simply smiled, and gave me a wink. I had never considered spreading out iterations of my creativity, I had always relied on them in a single huge cram-session in the heat of the deadline. Whoah!
As you can imagine, Procrastination learned of GSD’s game and wasn’t happy at all. The next time I tried this new process, Procrastination jumped in early when I was trying to get feedback, and tried to protect me. He said, “Are you crazy? You don’t get feedback until you’re done! What if they don’t like it?! You’ll have to start all over again! At least if you wait to the end, you’ll have no time left to implement the changes which I know you won’t like anyway. Let me protect you!” GSD had helped me before so I thought I would trust her again. I ignored Procrastination and got feedback from as many trusted sources as I could, on as many drafts as I could. Yeah, feedback still hurts my ego, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as Procrastination had lead me to believe. Needless to say some of the feedback I had received turned out to be well-received major changes that the project needed. Sorry bud, but there’s no need for you to protect my creative ego anymore.
The more I listened to GSD, the higher quality work I got done. Teamwork was still painful, but getting and giving feedback has improved the quality of my work. Instead of building up energy to hit the ground running and feeling like a hero sprinting to the finish line, I now appreciate taking my time and finishing earlier with better quality results. The most surprising lesson I learned was with hoping that if I hung out with Procrastination long enough, I could avoid wasted effort if the work ended up being majorly changed or cancelled. When in fact, taking GSD’s advice has helped me identify problems that could only have been solved or avoided because I got started with the work sooner than later. I never saw that coming.
My Creative Growth
As hard as it is for me to admit, GSD now plays a much more important role in my creative process. I have found a healthy relationship with both Procrastination and GSD, and my creativity has benefited from this newly-found balance.
I realize that my first article may not be perfect, but I’m happy with the way it turned out. As always, once Procrastination and I hung out for a while, GSD helped me crank through the iterations like a boss. The first draft has little resemblance to this final version, and it is better for it. As I was considering yet one more iteration, GSD had yet one more surprise for me when she said, “It’s ok. It may not be perfect, but it’s done. Go ahead and publish it already.” Thank you GSD.
One Final Note…
This inaugural blog post wouldn’t be complete without sharing this anecdotal story. I was sitting at the kitchen table with my 9yo daughter Trinity, helping her with a homework writing assignment. She was finding many reasons to postpone her inevitable work including sticking her head out the door to get fresh air, looking for a snack, or wanting to scurry away to ask Mom a trivial question. During one of her distracted moments, she asked, “Dad, what are you writing?” I told her I was writing an article for my website about the topic of procrastination. Her confused look prompted me to Google and read the definition to her. She promptly blushed and buried her face in her hands. I apologized for my contribution to her DNA, she giggled in acknowledgement. I secretly smiled knowing that Sharon contributed to her DNA too.