Thursday, September 28, 2017

Why Do Artists Procrastinate?

You really can't compare procrastinating something unpleasant to procrastinating art. One of the most common explanations for procrastination is fear. Is it also true for creativity?

It's the hurdle of remembering the invisible, intuitive part that costs me extra effort.

One of the most common problems artists face is the creative block which I believe is in truth procrastination, as I wrote in another article. There is an endless variety of great ideas for dealing with creative procrastination all over the internet, but I never stumbled over an explanation why we procrastinate art in the first place. I mean, I did find explanations, but none of them felt right to me so far.

Is It Fear?


One of the most common explanations for procrastination is fear. The fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear and avoidance of unpleasant emotions. While this explanation might be true for situations in which your work is going to be judged, like your job, exams and so on, art is an entirely different matter. Sure there are writers who are under pressure from readers and publishers, but I, for instance, am not. I don't have any contracts signed. It's completely up to me how long it takes me to write my novel, and I have all the freedom to just delete it if it turns out bad. Having scrapped countless pieces ever since I started writing in 2003, I don't feel bad anymore when I think a story isn't worthy of publishing. To me, creating crap is just part of the process.

On the other hand, I do have secret hopes for my novel to turn into something big. I like its concept, and for me it would be a pity to drop it. However, I have quite an experience with scrapping stories with concepts I still consider great. Moreover, I have the experience of re-using ideas from scrapped novels for even better pieces. So while fear is present in some form it isn't the core of procrastination in my case, since I know from experience that failure is actually a chance to create something better.

The Challenge Lies in Starting


You really can't compare procrastinating something unpleasant to procrastinating art. When writing my master thesis I tended to be distracted rather easily. When writing stories I tend to forget everything around me, to forget time, eating, chores, other people ... Creating art gives pleasure. So there's no reason to run away from it, right?

The thing personally I procrastinate isn't art itself, but starting working on it. It's just this one hurdle I have to jump over and then all procrastination is gone.

So what's so hard about starting?

Challenges of Planning


I couldn't think of an answer until I skimmed my article linked above. There I listed strategies to defeat procrastination and then the scales fell from my eyes.

Listening to one and the same music when writing helps. Consuming art of other artists helps as well. As does a fixed working place. Place and music seem to help me to get back to where I left my story in the last session. Diving into the creative works of others makes me think about my own piece and thus makes it easier for me to get back into that world. So what these three methods help with is accessing my own artwork.

The problem with art is that when you have a started piece you can't just begin a new session and continue. With many things you can plan ahead and, for example, create to-do lists of what you'll do next time. Art, however, is a half-intuitive process. You can plan, but there's always something you can't plan. It's there, but you don't have words for it until it just comes out by itself. And you can't leave a note to remember it instantly when you start a new session. You have to remember it the hard way by diving slowly back into your artwork step by step.

Remembering the Invisible


I don't know if this is true for other artists as well. But I feel that this is what actually makes me procrastinate art most of the time. Fear does play a role sometimes, but not always. It's the hurdle of remembering the invisible, intuitive part that costs me extra effort. It often seems harder to accomplish than it actually is. This is what I really procrastinate, not the process of creating art.

What about you? Do you procrastinate working on your art? Do you do it out of fear, because of that hurdle with intuition or because of something else? I'm curious about your stories!

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