Why is it that we procrastinate when it comes to getting creative?
There is an irony here. At least for me.
I always associated being creative with something I would do in my down time. It was the activity I would turn to when all my daily chores were done, responsibilities complete and professional to do lists taken care of. I’d even venture to say that it was something I felt guilty about turning to do if there were other things that needed to get done.Let me say this. There are ALWAYS other things that need to get done.
Much of this guilt mindset has evolved out of what I believe to be a cultural system. As a young woman I felt that I had to choose between my pursuit of the creative vs a profession and commitments. I never entertained that the two could co-exist. (This is a subject for another time.)
Nevertheless, our approach to our creativity is directly linked to our procrastination of it.
My sketchbooks and art materials sat in a box for over 12 years as a result of this!
12 years of procrastinating! That’s a long time.
The question I stopped to ask myself a few years ago when I picked up my sketchbook is why did I procrastinate and what could I do to change it?
Why was I not prioritising something I knew was an intrinsic part of my character and nature? I LOVE being creative. It’s the major part of who I am! I knew the benefits it brought to my emotional well being, the euphoria of producing a piece of art work and even the tangible innovative benefits to my critical thinking in the corporate setting. I also knew that I was worse off by not pursuing my creativity.
Procrastination is one of the most common challenges I come across in conversations I have within my community. It was once suggested that procrastination was linked to being lazy. Thank goodness that this is now widely refuted. It is now recognised that low self esteem, overwhelm, anxiety and avoidance all play contributing roles to our procrastination tendencies.
Question is how do you practically look to overcome this pesky trait?
Table of Contents
Why Do We Procrastinate?
In relation to picking up that sketchbook or piece of paper and getting creative, procrastination usually manifests itself in one of the following scenarios;
Starting a project but quickly losing your motivation and never finishing it. (How many sketchbooks have you started and finished?)
You want your creative project to be perfect and avoid returning to it when you encounter a challenge with it. Filling a sketchbook is understandably daunting as it’s not a single sheet of paper that can get thrown in the bin but a book!
There are more important things to do! (As I believed there always was.)
Overwhelm. We all have grandiose visions of what we’d love to achieve creatively but in reality may run out time to accomplish it. How many of us spend more time watching rather than doing?
We start things without really knowing why or what we are doing. This is often the case when it comes to being creative. Creativity and planning may not necessarily go hand in hand.
Distractions. We suddenly have too many things to choose to do, including the additional pressure in the last decade of scrolling through our social media. We are busier than we have ever been before and may de-prioritise being creative.
We are always rushing. We tend to start projects quickly as oppose to slow down. We rarely think about how we approach our creativity. When we do, the associated rushed mindset can be a negative one. It makes it hard to return to the job if this is the case.
Struggling with your emotional well being. The very thing you are looking to resolve or support via your creativity is the very thing that sabotages you getting on with it.
Any of these sound familiar?
How to Navigate Procrastination as a Creative.
I think it would be easy to say to you that you need self discipline, planning and better time management. Meh. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the solution to procrastination starts with addressing the reasons why you procrastinate.
Combatting procrastination is a combination of factors and practical steps that are woven into a step by step process. You need to assess the type of journey you want to have specific to your needs. Your roadmap is likely to be different to anyone else!
I delve into this process and framework in much more detail in my Signature Sketchbook Course within the first few modules. I do, however, want to share the outline steps I use to get you started and thinking about some practical steps you can take right now to get motivated.
Step 1. Your Relationship With Time.
Time is very often the excuse we use to not complete something. Time is the most valuable commodity we have, often over and above money and it is an important factor in supporting the growth of our creativity. Process requires time.
I believe too that we don’t have enough time to do all we might want to do.
Time is finite.
What if we started to see it as abundant instead?
Theres something to be said about changing the relationship we feel we have with time.
If we started to see how much abundant time we have as opposed to how demanding a mistress it is, would that change our attitude to what we choose to fill it with?
We allow situations, things, people to control our time. Every hour and day we get is a gift. Would we become more conscientious about what we put into our days if we appreciate how precious it is? I’ve lost count how many times someone has reminded me that “life is short” and to just go for things.
If you felt more in control of your time would you use it differently? And would you feel more in control of time if you had a different attitude towards it?
Once you have adopted this mindset the next question to ask yourself is “What would I love to fill my time doing?”
Step 2.Your Why!
I’m not naive to now think because you have changed your mindset towards time you will get an abundant amount of it to do what you want!
Creativity is often associated to living in the present. After all we have been conditioned to turn to it in our rest time, adopt it as a hobby as opposed to integral to ourselves.
Therefore, we still have to take an active step towards elevating the importance we place on picking up that sketchbook or paper.
Question is, is it a powerful enough motivator for you to want to do so? Are you even clear on why you turn to it in the first place? This understanding will provide you with a powerful antidote to procrastination.
On a piece of paper write down what motivates you to want to sketch or paint or draw. What does it bring you and why are you drawn to it? What does it make you feel, give you or help you accomplish in other areas of your life? What would you like it to give you that it isn’t currently doing?
Spend some time thinking this through.
When you value what this gives you, the emotion, feeling, or outcome will outweigh procrastination.
My initial motivator for returning back to drawing after 12 years of everything having sat in a box was my well being. The sketchbook felt the perfect format for this experimentation and desire to simply create without the world viewing it! Sketching daily for 20 minutes changed the dial for my mental health when my life as I knew it was collapsing. It prevented needing anti depressants and supported me take my mind off the things that were troubling me. My “why” was my mental health.
Did I have more time? Nope. Less in fact, due to changing circumstances. But I made it work because I valued what I got out of sketching. It became integral to the management of my day.
I did, however, change my attitude to the finite time I had available. It was only 20 minutes on some days.But it became an abundant 20 minutes at that! It packed a value added punch that boosted my self esteem.
That first scrappy sketchbook when I was committing small increments of time to sketching, is the one I have shared the most with my community.It is the gateway to where my creativity has now taken me.
That was enough to fulfil my “Why” and value the place it deserved, without question or compromise, in my day. To this day it still does!
As you start to define the importance of your creativity to you as an individual, it will become easier to find the space to incorporate it into your day.
Step 3. So What’s The Issue?
Having worked through Steps 1 and 2, let’s say you’ve made a commitment to dedicating more time to your creative self.It’s time to take a look at the root of the problem unique to you.
Which of the above list did you identify with at the start of this post? Make a note of the issues I’ve raised and add your own!
In my Signature Sketchbook Course from the very onset I tackle three core areas that I believe relate to us progressing as creatives. I reference these as my 3 pillars.
Each of these pillars are connected across your creative practise and it is my belief that working on all three will make you a better artist. Your personal vision and purpose behind your actions will support you embrace the process you go through to become better and better.
But most excitingly it will provide the framework for you to discover your creative style that you are confident and happy with, an expression of yourself.
We are too focused on the instant result, expectations or the perfect picture we want to draw, as opposed to the approach we need to embrace and enjoy in order to get there.
You may find that you struggle with specific areas within each of these three pillars, or aspects of all three.
As a starting point and to get you started, have a think about the questions associated with each pillar. There are NO right or wrong answers.
What is your attitude when it comes to sketching? What are the emotions you associate to it? What type of mindset do you think you need to have specific to your personal circumstances in order to succeed? What are the things that hijack your mindset? Do you have a specific creative goal you want to achieve or not really? How do you rate yourself?
Our mindset underpins the success we are likely to achieve. For example, do you want to complete a sketchbook but don’t know where to start or how to keep going? You need to feed your mindset in order to do so and cultivate your personal plan in succeeding.
What would you like to learn? What areas do you feel you need to improve upon and gain more knowledge about? Do you feel you have a unique creative style? Do you have a routine to how you get creative? Do you commit to practising?
I love the sketchbook format underneath this particular pillar. Having a goal to become better at drawing or to start learning needs to be accompanied by a realisation of the areas in which you would like to improve and grow. A little side note here on standards. This is personal to you. Everyone’s creative style is different – all of us need to practise hard, learn some new things and commit to finding our personal style. Everyone can learn some skills. Focus on the ones you feel you need!
Under this pillar the focus is on what keeps you going. It’s easy to get started, even easier to stop. How do you keep it going and enjoyable, especially if you get frustrated by your progress?
What motivates you to get creative? Where do you find your inspiration coming from? How do you plan what you want to create? What do you do when you’ve accomplished a creative goal? Do you reward yourself? Do you find others to hang out with? What do you consider progress?
Momentum is critical in keeping us moving forward, pushing past those insecurities that may tell us that we’re not good enough or wondering what to do next. Knowing what to do to keep your own personal momentum going and then translating that into practical steps is a useful tool to have.
Step 4. Formulating your Roadmap.
Or better known as GETTING EXCITED about how you get the most out of your creative journey!!
What do you think might happen if you have your mindset, method and momentum all firing in one direction?
You start to assess an approach based on your strengths and weaknesses and where you are likely to succeed. Once you put this in place and commit some time to it you will find yourself building a habit, creating me time, and generating momentum from fulfilling your purpose.
I now have a question for you. Does the above article resonate with you and would you like to do something about it?
Did you know that procrastination is in the top 5 challenges my community discusses?
People fail to launch when it comes to starting and finishing a sketchbook.
I’ve worked to develop a framework to address this challenge and get you motivated and well on your way. This framework and approach can be accessed in the first few modules of my Signature Sketchbook course!