The Creative Process and Procrastination – Can Mindfulness help?

August 1, 2012

by Leslie Zeigler

In my last blog post  I spoke about  the naysayer  inside of you/us. It is often so much easier to be upset when someone else in your life says something critical to you about your creative endeavor.

But there is another way we stop ourselves, without input from anyone else.  We say: I just  don’t have the time.

I know I have been procrastinating writing this blog post for the past  four days, maybe longer. I told myself  I just have too many other paperwork demands. And truth be told, I did have  an unusual number of forms that needed my attention.  But could I  have found the time  on Saturday or Sunday and not Monday night at  l   a.m. to write this?

Probably. So what  resistance was I facing?

In my favorite book about resistance to being creative, The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Stephen Pressfield says, “We don’t tell ourselves ‘I’m never going to write my symphony,’  instead we say, ‘I”m Just going to start it tomorrow.'”

Sound familiar?  I know I certainly can  identify with that sentiment. I have been telling myself since Friday I am going to write my blog post. But I didn’t tell myself I am in the throes of a resistance.  Yet I was.

So  what now? I’d like to  continue where I left off in my last blog post–I had just begun to talk about Mindfulness as a tool for dealing with creative blocks.  I offered in that blog post the first step, which is to just become aware  when you notice your inner naysayer  is going negative (I guess that is an oxymoron).

The next steps in mindfulness are to, as  Dr. Susan Orsillo and Dr. Roemer in The Mindful Way through Anxiety, say,  “observe your internal states …with gentle curiosity and compassion through a clear wide-angle lens.” In this way. you can begin to learn how to detect and increase your  awareness of when you are stopping yourself  from doing what you love .


Just Do It?

May 13, 2010

Posted by Deborah Atherton

Even before Nike adopted this phrase, it was extremely prevalent in our culture.

It has a nice ring – just do it – forget all your hesitations and second thoughts, stop procrastinating, pull yourself together, and take the leap!  Perhaps someone has even told you this about a creative project (or career) you’ve been thinking of undertaking, or a ritual you’ve been trying to establish.

Fine for Olympic skateboarders, but maybe it doesn’t work quite that way for you. It sure doesn’t work that way for me. And according to psychologist James Prochaska, who is perhaps best known for his statement that “change is a process, not an event,”  it doesn’t work that way for most people.  Studies done by Dr. Prochaska at UCLA have demonstrated that the process of actually doing something new—making a behavior change—begins in “pre-contemplation” – you aren’t even sure what it is you are thinking of doing yet—maybe you are asking yourself some questions, doing some self-exploration.  The next phase is contemplation – you’ve identified the action you are thinking of taking, but you are sitting on the fence about it, weighing the pros and cons.     If you can convince yourself to act, you proceed to preparation—take a few small steps. You go out and buy the watercolor set or camera; you get that new laptop you’ve been thinking about for two  years; you borrow a guitar from a friend and strum a tentative chord or two; you tweak your resume.  Or you meet with a new potential collaborator, file away or store all remnants of your last project to carve out some working space, and clear a little time on your calendar.

Then, finally, having thoroughly convinced yourself it is possible, you may actually be ready to do it.  Which doesn’t mean you will keep doing it—if you’re trying to do something like set up a daily writing or practicing ritual, for instance, the UCLA studies say you need 4-6 months to trust that as a real change.  Otherwise, back to contemplation!

This isn’t to say that you won’t wake up tomorrow at 3 AM with the greatest inspiration of your life, cast the covers aside, and start working on it immediately.  In that case, please, Just Do It! But I’m willing to bet that in the months before, you have already set the stage for that creative breakthrough, and the materials and resources you need in that moment will be mysteriously close to hand.

Creativity, Procrastination and ADD

November 18, 2009

Do you ever notice that you have alot of creative projects going on at the same time? Is there an unfinished screenplay sitting in a pile near your desk or tucked away in a drawer?  Maybe you recently started jotting down some ideas for a book and have not as yet returned to work on them. You are now telling yourself that you are lazy and just not smart enough to really be successful at being creative. You then start to feel discouraged and before you know it you are in full procrastination mode.

Well I would suggest that you  consider one possible explanation might be that you have ADD (however it is important to note that there are many possible ways of understanding why people put things off so this is just one possible way of understanding)

In the book Driven to Distraction by Dr.Edward M. Hallowell and Dr. John J. Ratey ( both psychiatrists who also have ADD) they say people with ADD  “procrastinate alot and have trouble finishing things.” They call ADD a neurological condition.

If  you feel that you relate to this you may want to consider learning more about it. You don’t have to feel that you are either lazy or just not smart enough.