I remember vividly my teenage years, especially my obsession with video games. I had the first Sony PlayStation and loved to simulate colds just to stay at home to play instead of going to school. I would normally get a week off and play for hours and hours. It happened so often that my parents started to worry that I get sick on a regular basis and I had to see some specialists along the way, who couldn’t figure it out either. Oh, good ol’ days. Anyway, as I would have a week off and play from the moment I woke up until it was time to go to bed, I would eventually get bored and stare at the CD’s on my shelf, thinking “I have nothing to play”. Kind of like women stare at a full wardrobe, complaining that they have nothing to wear. I had maybe 40 or 50 different games but I guess after 5 or 6 days boredom started creeping in, even for such an enthusiast like me. I could spend relatively long time staring at the titles of the games unable to decide which one to insert into my grey joy ride. As I decided on one of them and reached out for it, I would change my mind at that instance, picturing myself playing it, pull my hand back and continue just to stand there and ponder, as I thought it would not entertain me. I wanted to play, but did not know what game to choose, until I just grabbed anything from the shelf and fired it up. Hours went by and I would forget about the confusion that held me hostage in front of my games shelf.
Years passed by and only recently I recollected these events as I am no longer a hardcore gamer. It sparked a thought in my head and I realized something. Although I wouldn’t call lack of ability to decide between games a procrastination, same things happen in our lives on a daily basis. We have certain errands to run and we simply do not feel like doing them. We start to picture doing it and we find it boring, not productive or annoying. We will find all the excuses to postpone it, or not do it at all. Unless we actually start doing it. Just like that. What you will find more often than not, is that it is not as horrifying as it seemed like. Steven Pressfield calls this a “resistance” in his book called The War of Art. It is something that we, as creatives, need to overcome, because it basically stops us from creating our work and that is not going to get done by itself. I often find myself in this sort of situation. In order to create photographs that dazzle me, I need to go places. That obviously involves some sort of travel. On my minor “assignments” that means getting on the train to London, and just the thought of this commute makes me sick. I do not like it. At all. Torture me as you wish but do not make me take the tube. These are the thoughts running through my mind. But then, once I leave my house, everything magically disappears. It is all it takes, that first step out of the door. Same as with my video games. Once I just got the CD in the console, I would lose myself in it for hours. So I urge you to overcome these silly thoughts at one instance. Or better yet, stop thinking them.
That does require certain dose of discipline and one of ways to enforce it in your life is to make yourself accountable for what you do with your time to someone else. Let me draw you a picture. At the end of each month I plan for the month ahead. Let’s say that I want to spend 30 minutes each day on learning Japanese, 3 hours in each week for walkabout photography and maybe one longer day for some tripod work. I will put all that down on a printout calendar with empty checkboxes next to it. This sits close to my desk where my wife can also see it. If I complete something, I check this off. If I won’t, well, I haven’t tried yet as I know silly excuses will not work with my wife and I will look like a right numpty in front of her. I obviously do not want that to happen so I commit to making this happen, no matter how much resistance is resonating within me. If you think this might work for you, go ahead and try it. It doesn’t have to be your spouse, it can be your mate or even a work colleague. It has to be someone who cares that you continue making your art and will understand that you need to get to work.
One way of overcoming the resistance is to set up plan minimum. For example, if we know we’d benefit from jogging but can’t make ourselves actually go out and do it because of the daunting image of the whole process and effort we imagine, let’s just put our running shoes on and walk out the door. Commit to walk for one minute and then you are free to come back. What will happen more often than not is that we will start jogging, effectively achieving much larger goal from plan minimum. Similarly, on our creative endeavour, if we just take that pen and write one sentence we will surely write a few more, grab the camera and walk out the door and you’ll definitely will end up shooting a picture. Take that guitar and play few notes and many more will come, but do not dare not daring to start.