Taming the Noisy Mind that Makes You a Procrastinator
I have this problem with procrastination.
I used to think it was because I was so undisciplined that I let a million minor distractions chew up my time. It turns out that I did not feel that I was bringing my best game, so I did not even make an attempt to produce until my back was against the wall. In the final hours, faced with the prospect of abject failure, I would dig down to the bottom of my soul and push out the work.
Did I, in some of those instances, produce inspired work that fulfilled a legitimate need? Definitely. But more often than not, the product was mundane and utilitarian; something that might have risen to the level of greatness, had I given myself more time to devote to it.
Hindsight is a bitter and cynical companion, and she shot it to me straight.
Nobody is so good that they are inspirational, profound, and relevant right from the jump.
The best scientists reexamine and retest. The best writers edit and rewrite. The best performers rehearse and refine.
You work your craft, and remember that failure is not a crashing end. It’s simply one instance in many where you can take what’s useful, ignore the rest, and move on to create something fine.
Countless people who’ve achieved greatness, some famously, have many lackluster achievements or even ridiculous failures in their past. The greatness we seek for ourselves manifests through the process of creating, tearing down, and creating again until that profound moment occurs and an inspired product results.
The key is to keep having ideas you can express and think about developing, regardless of their relative worth or how they will impact your self-image.
Few ideas are great on their own, but it does not mean they are worthless. Your seemingly mediocre idea can be one ingredient in something that will be great. Something people will love.
A rough example — You wouldn’t want to eat molasses by the spoonful (exempting my sugar-craving cousin Tommy on this one). But molasses in combination with a host of other ingredients makes for a tasty and much-craved cookie.
You must give yourself permission to tolerate mediocrity temporarily, so you can keep on producing and inching closer to something great. A sure ticket to failure is to let your ego stifle your creativity so that you never get going on producing anything.
You may think your idea is worthless, but it is worthy in the moment because it occurred to you.
Let those negative thoughts about not having the skills to produce something fly through your brain and try to do their worst. Give them precisely two minutes of air time. Then pack them away and turn your energies to what’s important.
But what if it’s all good?
Having lots of positive thoughts can keep you from your creative work by posing too many options. Because you do not have time to develop all of them, that judgmental voice from within comes raging forward to call all your ideas crap and you a failure. Don’t fall for it!
For that stormy brain of nine-thousand cool thoughts you might want to pursue, try micro-journaling. Don’t reject the idea because it takes time; it will save you time and your sanity.
You do not need to try to be some wonderful diarist whose deepest thoughts will one day be a great piece of literature or have an epic effect on the world. You are simply want to release your thoughts onto paper so they don’t keep nagging at you while you’re giving your full attention to one of them. (Many thanks to Todd Brison for the micro-journaling idea. It’s a storm cellar for safety against the tornado that is my mind.)
All it takes to make a micro-journal entry is to jot down the date and a listing of those thoughts and ideas that are swirling in your head. And while you are jotting, you can pop in a thought or two of a person, thing, or situation you are grateful to have in your life.
It will make you smile and give you the power to go create the one thing that sparks your imagination right now.
Get your work out there, even if it’s not quite what you’d want it to be. Test it and see if it runs; then decide whether you want to give it a little more love and care to create something great.
Make the cookie.