I just finished reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a book that I’d been meaning to get to for a while, but got a nudge from someone who is helping me chat through some goals and read it over the weekend. It’s one of those tricky books because it’s a quick read, and it’s a slow read, the latter because it has what I like to call staring at the wall parts, where something resonates and needs attention and time before we can really reach understanding.
One of the parts that stood out to me, that I didn’t expect to stand out to me, was about the Resistance and procrastination. The Resistance is what Pressfield calls that thing that works against us, especially when embarking on creative endeavors. I’ve felt the presence and pressure of the Resistance more times than I can count: I’m sure it’s part of the creative process for almost everyone.
But procrastination? I’ve never identified with the practice. Just two days ago, I was stressing about what I’m going to do with potentially conflicting events in May 2018. I plan things out, show up early, stress out if there’s a hint that I’ll be on time instead of early.
But, sometimes procrastination is something else. Pressfield explains:
“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”
Oh. That part of procrastination that leads to laundry getting done and windows clean and jewelry boxes organized and social media refreshing? Yeah, that part of procrastination I know well.
For me, that procrastination shows up when I’m tired, when I’ve hit a hard part (read, the middle) of a book. It creeps into my house when I’ve finished reading a great book by someone else and feel less than. It shows up when I thought I would do the hard thing later and then my kids or husband or boss or whomever needs an emergency thing from me, and the time later that I thought I’d be able to use to create gets swallowed up by real life. And then I get angry and blame all sorts of things for my lack of pursuing my art.
And I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
So, what to do?
Get intentional and quit making excuses.
My kids and I had a break from school yesterday, so I spent Saturday making sure that they had everything taken care of, that we had the right kind of cereal, that laundry was mostly done, that the house was pretty much clean, etc. And I told them all that Monday was my day. I spent it figuring out the hard parts of my story. And taking an honest look at my day and how I spend my time. And cleaning off my desk so that I can’t use the lack of workspace as an excuse anymore. Finally, I’ve made a date with someone I trust to go over the story outline, to get myself ready to proceed, and in the process added a little accountability with someone so that I can stop dinking around and get the story done.
Peer pressure is my preferred tool to fight this kind of procrastination – knowing I have allies engaged in the battle with me helps. But sometimes, I want more. Sometimes, I need more.
How do you fight the Resistance? Have you found a good tool for defeating procrastination?
Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and coordinator of the project-based learning center (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a hint of magic, and thrives on Diet Coke, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is a co-founder and the managing editor for the Thinking Through Our Fingers blog as well as a board member for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Tasha is represented by Annelise Robey of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.