A Date with Procrastination
The more important the activity is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel.
I’d like to introduce you to my new friend, Procrastination. Well, he’s not really new, quite old come to think of it. We go way back. I suppose we’ve rekindled something as of late, something good, different.
Stuck places, friendly faces
Our rendezvous happened this past Tuesday morning as I was about to sit down and write this week’s blog post. I typically have some foggy idea as to what I’ll write about from week to week which is always nice. Like many bloggers, my ideas come from a storehouse of life experience, connections made in random and serendipitous ways, books I am reading, and most of all, the resilience stories of heroes I observe around me; friends and peers alike. Lovely, right? Well, this past Tuesday it wasn’t working out so well for me.
Earlier that morning, I decided to take a walk in order to clear my head, breathe some crisp fall air, and behold the magical leaves shamelessly showing off in the sun drenched blue sky. It seems we have been cheering on the fulfillment of fall in Nashville the past several weeks and my, she certainly knows how to make a grand, fashionably late entrance. Despite my morning jaunt out into her glorious embrace, I still had nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I saw a few wild turkeys though.
When I have a deadline, be it taxes, writing, learning a new song, homework of any kind, (did I say taxes?), I don’t just procrastinate, I clean. This is hilarious because I hate to clean. I am not a cleaner. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a slob, I just tend to wait until I literally can’t see the bottom of my closet, throw my hands up in the air, and have a full on closet detox, as my brilliant friend Lindsley calls them. Intentional, “unnecessary” cleaning always happens as a familiar step beforeI actually procrastinate.
Just one more cup
I sat down at my (clean) kitchen table only to decide I needed to make another pot of coffee. That’s it! Perhaps have another slice of gluten-free pumpkin bread, too. (Trader Joe’s makes the best mix. I’m not even gluten sensitive, I suppose I just feel better about eating half the loaf.) There we were, me, my coffee, my second breakfast, and my devilishly charming friend Procrastination. “Dear God, I feel like a hobbit,” I thought to myself. What now? Pinterest, then a few quick emails, yoga anyone? I had forgotten how entertaining my old friend was.
My absolute favorite book on the topic of the creative pursuit and process is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. I’m a dreadfully slow reader and finished this little number in one afternoon on a park bench somewhere in the West Village while visiting NYC several years ago. No doubt, this was the most inspiring city to read those words in what with the beautifully diverse collection of roughly 1.5 million people tirelessly pushing their dreams forward to the rhythm of steely tenacity, very little sleep, and a whole lot of espresso . From that day forward, I’ve been an evangelist of this book, giving away countless copies to friends and clients, alike. He pretty much rocked my world with his jolting if not merciless approach to procrastination.
Here’s what he says:
“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”
Can I get a witness?
Amen, yes?! If you read this post and all you take away is that one quote and a kick in the pants to hop on Amazon immediately and order The War of Art, I have succeeded. Pressfield introduced me to this curious idea of Resistance, as was mentioned in the quote. We all know what resistance is: that tight feeling we have in our chest and muscles, the thoughts of unworthiness that pop up like clockwork saying, “I don’t deserve to carve out the next hour and write, I’ve got so much to do!”, the anxiety that seeps in perpetrating those once calm and contented cells in our body. Pressfield explains, “The more important the activity is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel to it-the more fear you will feel.”
If resistance resulting in procrastination is actually a sign of our soul’s deepest expression and evolution as Pressfield waxes so poetically, then I am convinced we are in dire need of a sit down “come to Jesus” reckoning with it! My avoidant and dreaded coffee date with Procrastination was in fact, profoundly necessary. It was my heart’s battle cry against that nasty gremlin, perfectionism. It was an invitation to show up and reclaim the very act that keeps my soul alive and grounded. Someone out there may hopefully read the words I write through email or a Facebook feed or something and that is truly an honor. There is a much higher purpose though. The invaluable gift of resistance is the power that flows from our choice to lean in, show up, and give sacred space to our voice when the easy way out is to organize our sock drawer three times instead. We align with our destiny when we lean into resistance. This feels really good.
As a lifelong perfectionist in a constant, sobering state of recovery, I am learning to become my own sponsor. This is the credo that keeps me showing up and sitting down with pen and paper in hand: Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.
Anne Lamott spins it this way in her brilliant Bird by Bird (another must read): “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.”
I would extend that to say almost all creative endeavors begin with terrible first efforts!
Procrastination has gotten a bad wrap over time. I want to help clean up the confusion. After all, procrastination is merely saying no to something and yes to another, more attractive option, yes? I say we wise up, stay very present to that knowing, if not uncomfortable nudge called resistance, and have our way with those illusive little pixies, perfectionism and projection. They have stolen us away from our dreams, one bad, distracting idea at a time, for long enough. Today, let’s begin again.