It's been fascinating to revisit the reasons why I procrastinate: the evil mirage of perfection in the distance, the fear of not being good enough, my anxiety about being vulnerable (as writing always is for me), and at times, truly feeling blocked. I'd love to explore these more in future posts, but for now, I'm drawn towards my discovery of one of my major procrastination tendencies. I realize that I am most guilty of procrastination when I feel overwhelmed. It's as if my brain says "THIS is your pile of things to do/explore? Oh boy, I can't handle that...ooh, distractions!" My brain can't even make the distinction between work and play, so if it senses being overwhelmed or overstimulated in either realm, it has the same reaction: Find a distraction, and find it NOW.
And what tends to be my biggest distraction, besides puttering around the apartment, eating snacks and doing dishes and laundry? You may have guessed it--social media. Is this you as well? I'll be having trouble editing a blog post and I'll suddenly find myself on Facebook, aimlessly scrolling. What in my experience makes me believe that scrolling through hundreds of posts and photos of people I may not even know that well will help me to creatively problem solve?
Ok, so once in a great while, a dear friend will have shared an article that is relevant to what I'm working on, or I'll stumble upon an encouraging quote that really and truly does keep me going. I'm not saying that checking in with loved ones cannot provide a welcome respite from a creative grind. What I am suggesting is that perhaps, looking through the profiles of people you don't even know that well (or may not even like that much) is probably not the answer. I'm not going to kid myself: social media in not where I go for quality time with my tribe (that's what snail mail, email, Skype, phone calls, and visits are for!). Rather, social media is my version of stress eating. It's a reflex when I'm feeling down. For an emotional empath and introvert like me, scrolling through social media can be akin to opening my brain up to what feels like a thousand people, all talking at once. It's too loud sometimes.
The bottom line for me is that I'm going to focus more on creating imperfectly than perfecting my skills of distraction. There's a fine line of course. If you truly feel blocked, staring at a blank page may only make things worse. But at the very least, don't give in to the first moment of struggle by checking out everyone else's social media accounts. Notice when you feel this impulse and put down your phone. Turn it off if you have to, and put it in another room. Write "I don't know what to write" on that blank piece of paper. Go for a walk outside, or call a friend. Just use caution about aimlessly wandering through the digital world alone while you feel frustrated.
Happy weekend, and I hope you'll join me for another blog post here towards the end of August. That's a promise!
Here's a few of my favorite links from around the web this week:
On being a "professional"
One of my favorite comedians interviews Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air