Today I have been procrastinating like there is nothing else to do in the world, ever.
I have never been busier. I'm getting up earlier than ever and staying up later than ever and giving up all kinds of joys and activities that I usually appreciate, because I'm so excited and passionate about my work right now. It's not even a sacrifice, because I love it!
But today, on only my second day back 'in the office' after two-and-a-half weeks of school holidays (= minimal productivity), I am procrastinating. Here are some things I have done today, instead of working:
- Lingered after school drop-off, chatting with the other parents
- Washed up all the dishes and cleaned the kitchen bench
- Walked to the shops to buy washing detergent
- Walked to the post office to pick up the mail
- Walked to a cafe to buy a coffee
- Reread and rearranged (probably just shuffled!) all my notes
- Two loads of laundry
- Let a mentoring call last way longer than planned, because it was nice to chat
- Watched an episode of Lost in Space on Netflix
- Listened to a podcast
And it's not even two o'clock in the afternoon.
It's not like me to be this undisciplined. Normally, I know how to stick to the program. If more than a decade of freelancing has taught me nothing else, it's how to work without accountability, and stick to deadlines. And yet here I am now facing one of the biggest deadlines and most exciting phases in my career, having put my heart and soul and just about everything I've ever learned into launching my new course, Create With Confidence, and I'm spending my child-free hours on laundry and Netflix. Why?
Of course my brain knows the answer why: I am afraid.
Actually I'm not afraid, I'm terrified. Terrified that I have thrown everything I've got into something that nobody will want, despite the fact that I made it because they told me they wanted it. That I'll be rejected (which, in my fear, equals unloved). And on and on my brain spirals: my course will fail (depending on the exact moment of my fear, "fail" means nobody signing up, or it means people signing up but hating it, or goodness knows what else), my business will fail, my family won't eat, my children will live with an uninspired and unfulfilled mother, and the entire Internet will hate me. No biggie. Thanks, brain.
During the past week I've been doing mini-mentoring calls with people from all over the world, talking about their creative dreams and what's stopping them. I have loads to say about this. In fact the blog post that I really wanted to write today - the one that I procrastinated myself out of writing - was about rediscovering the pure joy of creating, just for the sake of joy. So many people I've spoken to long for this: to go back into that childlike experience of making for no other reason than because it's fun, and without critiquing ourselves. I call this "reigniting the spark," and I really will write that blog post sometime soon, because it's super important, and exciting, and fun, and just a wonderful gift we can give to ourselves.
But that will have to wait for another day, a day when I'm not busy doing Very Important Things. Like laundry.
One of the other things I keep hearing from people on the mentoring calls is some kind of self-critical statement that equates lack of creative productivity with personal flaws. "Why do you think you haven't been able to reach your creative goals?" I ask them, and the answers come back... "I am lazy." "I am uninspired." "I am unfocused." "I am not good at finishing things." "I lack self-discipline." "I am not creative." "I procrastinate."
And while I realise this is a gross generalisation - we all have our own unique sets of feelings and experiences and beliefs that influence our ideas of self-worth - I believe most of those people are telling me a version of the same thing: "I am afraid."
I spend a lot of my time on these calls trying to encourage these people to be kinder to themselves. To help them investigate why they think these things about themselves. And I'm no therapist, but often the answers are not too far from the surface: chronic illnesses, grief and loss, stressful events, unkind words from others... there are so many reasons why we struggle to work on our creative projects or can't seem to commit the time we know we want to commit to make our creative dreams happen, and very rarely - if ever - is it because we are less than worthy as a person.
I remind these people to be kind to themselves. To own what is going on in their lives - to voice it out loud - because naming it sometimes takes away some of its power. I give them creative exercises to do that are designed to silence the inner-critic, or reignite the sense of play and joy in creativity. I give them mindfulness activities to do to reconnect with that sense of inner peace that allows space for creative thinking to come in (if you've ever had a great idea in the shower or on a solitary walk, you'll know what I mean). I help them start habits that make creative expression as integral a part of the day as brushing their teeth - so that they can do this even when they're feeling afraid. I point them to tribes of like-minded people who can support and encourage them on this journey.
They say, "This is so simple. Why couldn't I see this or do this for myself?"
And today I face the same question. I know what to do, so why can't I do it for myself? I guess the answer is that sometimes, we just need to turn to our tribe, the people who understand us, because they can provide the perspective that we, in the midst of everything, just can't find.
So I'm writing this blog post today, dear friend, instead of the other one I'd planned, because I can't seem to push through this fear on my own. Maybe in writing the fears down for you, I'll be able to internalise the truth for myself. To stop hiding from my fear in Netflix, and get on with it and do the thing I know I love.
What are your creative struggles today? Shall we encourage each other?
ps. I've made a printable list of techniques to use in case you need some help silencing that pesky inner critic (hint: in writing this blog, I'm making use of tip #7). Download it here:
If any of this resonated with you and you want to take this journey with me, I'd love you to join me in my new course, Create With Confidence, which is open for enrolments right now.
We use fun, habit-forming activities that actually train the brain to think in a more creative way; we tackle a lot of those self-doubt, motivation and focus challenges (as well as the big one: lack of time); and we start and finish a fun art project (of your choosing). This all happens though a combination of creative activities, a welcoming community, one-on-one mentoring calls with me, and close, step-by-step support, over an eight-week period starting 14 May.
Because this is the first time I've offered Create With Confidence, you can join in for a significant discount. Payments can also be spread across two or three months, depending on what suits your budget. There's loads more information here. If you're curious but would like to discuss your creative goals with me in person and see whether this course is right for you, I'd love to chat! I've opened up my calendar and you can book a discovery call for me here.