By Lisa A. Riley, LMFT
So you’ve decided to get an early start, wake before the rest of the world begins their day and be productive.
You grab a cup of coffee, a quick bagel and head over to the office (or studio.) You sit down in front of the computer facing the stark emptiness of your blank screen.
You gaze for a moment and then take a few sips of coffee, waiting for the caffeine to kick in.
Facing the screen, eyes fixated on the blinking cursor, your fingers in position, waiting with anticipation like a runner waiting for the sound of the gunshot.
Nothing comes to mind. Your eyes conveniently notices the flashing email icon in the corner of your screen, suddenly drawn like a magnet, you decided to check your email.
After sifting through streams of uneventful junk mail, you attempt to return to that window that appears now a little intimidating.
The clock ticks a little louder as you glance over and notice an hour has already flashed by.
At another attempt to focus on formulating a sentence, you some how justify getting up to throw a load of laundry in the wash. Upon returning to the computer, you realize you need a refill on your cup of coffee and proceed to the kitchen where you notice a stack of dishes long over due for a washing.
You convince yourself that after the dishes are done, you will be more at ease to sit down and focus on your creation. As the minutes passed and the early start is no longer early, you realize you had succumbed to the seduction of convenient distractions.
If this sounds like a familiar scenario, well, you are not alone.
Many of us have experienced this form of procrastination. Where we give into the rationalization that once these convenient distractions are completed and put to rest, we can create. When in reality, this is an indication of our own internal resistance to facing the act of producing something.
Feelings of self-doubt, criticism and negative beliefs can produce anxiety around the creative process. Such discomfort may rise from our own demons emerging to remind us how mediocre we might be, how worthless our work is or worse of all how “uncreative” we really are.
For that reason, we naturally look for diversions to keep us from facing this discomfort.
I have often caught myself in this avoidance cycle when it comes time to paint.
The familiar anxiety that I struggle through before I can let go and allow myself to just create without expectation, without judgment or projection of the worse. I don’t always arrive at that place easily, sometimes it takes hours before I allow myself to lean into the discomfort and finally put the brush to the canvas.
I learn that leaning into the flame as oppose to retracting away from it, is the best solution. If one allows his or her self to sit long enough with the uncomfortable feelings, and create anyway, they might just discover that those feelings eventually subside.
The 20 minute rule
I propose the 20 minute rule commonly used in 12-step-programs. When the craving suddenly appears, sit and wait for 20 minutes before taking any action. The power of the craving, which initially felt intense when it first came on, will eventually feel more tolerable to withstand.
I think the same can be applied when faced with that need to seek a convenient distraction in order to excuse us from facing the thing we fear. If we learn to sit with it instead of blindly giving into diversions, we work through the resistance.
That might mean sitting at the computer or canvas despite the urge to do something else and create nonetheless. You might just find that creativity will eventually win over the feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt and criticism.
Then before you know you it, the creative energy flows effortlessly.
By practicing this technique, you eventually learn to work through the uncomfortableness, normally driving you to distractions, embrace all that goes along with the creative process and actually have that productive day.
© Lisa A. Riley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reproduced or used on other websites without permission. Published here by permission.
Video added: Writer Charlie Kaufman [Nicolas Cage]: “To begin…To begin…How to start? I’m hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think…”
Also used in article: Why We Don’t Create, By Cynthia Morris.
A related article: Eric Maisel on anxiety and developing creativity.
See more articles by Lisa Riley.
Read more posts by creativity coach Lisa Riley on her blog, and see her multiple ‘Products for Your Creative Success’ on her site The Art of Mind.