So, in my last post I mentioned that it’s been 18 months since I’ve written anything, but I didn’t say why… Honestly when I sit down and I think about what it was that kept me from putting pen to proverbial paper I would say it was (and still is) a mixture of three things: Passion (or lack thereof), Procrastination (in abundance) and Perfection (or the pursuit thereof…) I love reading books about Creativity and the Creative Pursuit, and what I keep seeing is the pattern and reality that these three things do not plague only me. They plague every person who ventures to call themselves a Creative / Artist / Writer / [insert your creative pursuit here]. So let’s chat about them shall we? Who knows, maybe it will unlock something for you as we do.
Let’s start with my old friend, Passion! (I put the exclamation point there simply because I don’t think you can write a word like passion and not put an exclamation mark behind it…) The Ancient Greeks used to start each creative pursuit by calling on the Muses, nine women who would come and endow the creator with what they needed for their creative work. I’ll be honest, I don’t believe in Ancient Muses, but I do know that we all believe to some extent that we need to feel a “certain way” in order to create. We need to feel passionately about what we are creating, our medium, our instrument, our craft and until we feel that spark – that inspiration – we cannot create. For some of us, we need to be sitting in a coffee shop with a great cup of coffee, brewed just right to be able to sit down and write something profound. For others, we need to be “undistracted” before we feel able to work. Or maybe we can only create if it’s been an unemotional, quiet morning or conversely, only when we are an emotional basket case. This is a lie folks. I am currently sitting at my desk after a crazy day, a million things still running through my head, I’ve been interrupted three times, I am currently writing by candlelight (thanks to loadshedding) and each of these things could have become an excuse for why I just don’t “feel right” and why I can’t write.
What are your excuses? What are you using to explain why you aren’t doing that thing you believe you were made to do? What are you waiting for? Passion will come and go, but those who have desired to turn creation into a vocation have learned that Consistency will always trump Passion. You will not always feel “artsy”, but maybe the truth is you don’t need to. You just need to start… It’s amazing how once I sat down and started typing, the feeling came, not the other way around.
So let’s talk about the second P for a second, Procrastination. Because you cannot speak about Consistency without broaching the subject of Procrastination. I am a Master Procrastinator. It’s gotten better as I’ve grown older, but every now and then I find it rearing its’ hideously scaly head again, especially when I feel anxiety about what I need to create. Suddenly I need to bake, or clean, or repack my underwear drawer Marie Kondo style… Austin Kleon, one of my favourite authors in terms of the creative process once wrote a blog post on the phenomenon called Procrastibaking, where a number of creatives have taken up baking instead of creating what they should be creating. Essentially what is called productive procrastination. It’s all good stuff, just not the right stuff. You can read more about avoiding work by working on something else in his book “Steal Like An Artist”. Kleon goes on to say that one of his teacher’s used to joke with him that the first rule to writing is to “apply ass to chair.” Maybe the best thing we can do if we want to keep creating for the long haul is to figure out what it is keeping us from “applying ass to chair”, be it fear of failure, fear of success, or just plain old laziness. Whatever it is, you will never be able to build a consistent habit of creating if you don’t address the elephant-shaped P in the room. Why do you procrastinate?
Lastly, we come to Perfection. Jon Acuff, another of my favourite authors writes in his book “Finish”: People “…think the opposite of perfectionism is failure. It’s not. The opposite is finished.” I have had this train of thought so often: “I don’t want to release anything unpolished. After all shouldn’t I be aiming for excellence? People can be so critical, what if I release this piece as it is and people start to criticise me negatively for it?” These and a number of other thoughts have had sway over my creative process, so much so, that I have a number of unfinished bits of writing or ideas a mile long… What have you robbed the world of by allowing negative thinking, criticism and your own fear to keep you from finishing something you started , but never finished? In his latest Podcast, which I highly recommend, he speaks about turning Perfection into a creative ally, rather than an enemy. One of my favourite quotes from that Podcast is where he says: “Perfectionism is hope that got hurt.” We create because we hope that what we create will bring light into the world. But maybe somewhere along the way, we put something out there and we got hurt in the process. That will happen, but we cannot allow those with critical hearts to snuff out the possible light we could carry into the world. There’s a Scripture that says it beautifully: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Our response to hurt or fear cannot be to diminish our light. No, we need to let it shine brighter than ever before…
One final thought, maybe you’re here and you’re not a writer or an artist, but you do have a goal. Maybe you’ve been trying to work on your weight for the longest time. You’ve been trying to get a project done or you’ve been trying to pay off those debts that have been keeping you up at night. The principles are the same. Do not wait… Start now. You are as capable and ready to smash your goals now as you will ever be. And don’t abandon what you are doing just because it gets hard, you mess up or it takes longer than you thought. Consistency is key. You can do this, I know you can.
So, those are the three P’s friend. They kept me from writing for 18 months. What are they keeping you from? And are you going to allow it to continue? Praying for your journey…