Blockades - Procrastination

What do you do when you don't want to do anything?

Transferred by Melissa Devlin on May 9th, 2023

There is an inevitable rule that the chores I've been putting off suddenly seem essential when I plan to write. Sure there are times I just sit down and do it. But then comes the time I need to buckle down and get something done when I'm not in the mood, not motivated, not interested and in general flat out don't feel like working.

It's amazing what lengths I will go to, how much work can go into not working. When I first wrote about this my most recent project in the kitchen was a homemade cola - which in fairness was something I wanted to try. But with all the other kitchen experiments I had been up to? It left the counter in need of clean-up. And the housework was more tempting than my writing.  

To put this into context, my most hated chore is the dishes. Vacuuming doesn't count because I hate it so much I won't do it. The noise is just too much to bear. So any day a dirty sink is more appealing than cracking open my laptop you know I really, really don't feel like writing.

There is no doubt about it. Art is work and sometimes work sucks. And if we have the time to pursue our art but not the impending doom of a deadline, it is so very easy to work on that gut wrenching tear jerking scene tomorrow. Or next week. Or even next month. I have yet to hear someone deciding to put off creation for an entire year but add up enough time procrastinating and eventually that is what happens.

So how do you recover from "bum in chair syndrome"? (As in not parking your patootie)

You trick yourself.

Here is my not so patented method for getting work done when anything, even just sitting still drinking coffee, sounds better than looking at whatever project I’m trying to complete.

I glance over what I have done, usually with some disinterest and then determine I will at least write a paragraph, finish an article, code a page in my website, jot notes on chai flavors, whatever it is. I will do a minimum just to have started it.

The good thing if you succumb to procrastinating. Eventually you run out of chores you’ve been putting off and need to have a good sit down. So you might as well write.

The deal I make myself is I can stop afterwards but usually by then I’m underway and just keep going. But there are times I write about three paragraphs, get fed up and take a break. So if I really, really can’t reign in my concentration I try something else to get myself to stick at it.

I time myself. Fifteen minutes. All I need to do is fifteen minutes. Or five. Then I can give up for a while. Or maybe I don’t even need that long I just need to finish the bit I’m working on.

When I’m first trying to get going all I can think about are the errands I need to run, the cleaning I need to do, and the other projects simmering on back burners. But I keep stabbing at it until I make progress, and then that tends to carry its own momentum. And if it doesn’t? I take a break, lots of breaks if I need to.

If this still isn’t enough I remind myself I’m an unbearable pain in the arse if I’m not working. I get grumpy and moody and depressed. I might give myself an artificial deadline because I get disappointed in myself if I'm not making progress.  

Sometimes I perform rituals as suggested by other authors. I might make a cup of tea to ignore while working. But most times I just do the trick myself method.

The light at the end of the tunnel is only possible to reach by going through the rest of the tunnel first. Yes, "well duh!" But sometimes we plain, "Don't wanna!"

And if none of that worked I always had one last way to motivate myself. I've since given up on it. But I work too much now so I have different flaws.

I had a time clock on my computer with all my projects. I punched in and punched out. It was designed for freelancers and was perfect for keeping me motivated to at least do some work so the number got bigger. And I could visually see that while I might not have much to show, particularly if I’ve just being doing research or editing, I had indeed been doing something.

There are circumstances all of this smacks up against road blocks. My hands tend to protest a change in weather. My always painful joints get worse than usual, but oddly then the adversity kept me on task. I switched to my iPhone to finish. Because I won’t be to be stopped when I have finally started. Each time that happens I become determined disability won’t destroy me.

The creative mind is a perverse thing. Nothing is more motivating than being in a position that inhibits our ability to be productive. Then suddenly tea steeps all day, the fish in the oven becomes cat food even the cat won’t eat, and if you’re over forty, your body complains very loudly about being in one position too long.