There’s an old proverb that goes, “If and when were planted, and nothing grew” that expresses the dangers of putting things off until the time is “optimal.” Often, some of us in the arts struggle with procrastination, sometimes to the point of crippling creative projects. But why is this?
According to psychiatrist Phil Stutz and psychotherapist Barry Michels, we procrastinate because the act of taking action causes us pain and messes with our comfort zones. They say:
The list of things we can procrastinate about is endless, but the list of reasons for why we procrastinate is not. We avoid every task for the same reason: Taking action will cause us a certain amount of pain. To understand this concept, close your eyes and try the following:
Think of an action you’ve been avoiding. It could be any of the examples we’ve given or something that’s specific to your life. Imagine yourself starting to take that action. You’re going to feel something unpleasant. Concentrate on what you feel.
No matter what you call it, that unpleasant feeling is a kind of pain. Under this broad definition, fear, shame, vulnerability, and so on are all forms of pain.
Do you procrastinate when making artwork? Do you do it frequently? How do you handle it, and what advice would you give to others with a bad case of planting “ifs and whens”? We broke down 5 reasons why we think artists put off doing what they love below.
A common occurance in deterring creative work is when you’re not feeling like on top of the world. It can be hard to begin if you’re confidence isn’t high. Trying to fake it till you make it (forcing yourself to smile, talk to artistic mates or hang out in your studio) can help, as can being aware of it as a problem and trying to boost yourself up. Confidence is needed to make courageous decisions about your artwork, so try and remember that you’re pretty great and the simple fact that being creative makes you special.
Deadlines. Many of us need them. But what if there’s no boss or editor or client or whomever breathing down your neck? How do you get things done? Without deadlines, you might be tempted to work on and on, without any pressure at all. A little pressure can really bring out your work and lift it, so try not to let yourself slowly age with one drawing from 7 months ago. This is an easy trap to fall into if you’re getting started, so try and build your own support and sharing network by swapping recent work with other artists. You can also try to set goals that exist outside the interior of your mind, like having an exhibition or entering artwork into a competition.
A continuation from the last point, if you’re not talking about what you’re making it can make creative work even harder. So share what you’re up to frequently on Redbubble, on social networks, or with friends and family. Telling people, “I’m going to work on this design for this long today”, makes it a real phenomena in the world. Hiding your artwork away is tempting as it’s a nice security blanket, but making artwork in a vacuum only leads to bad art (or no art), so try and push yourself to share.
This is perhaps the point to consider that asks for you to get real with yourself the most. Is the reason you may be procrastinating because you don’t really, really love what you’re doing? More often than not, you’ll do what you want to do in life, and if you’re hesitant to draw, design, sketch or paint, ask yourself why and consider that perhaps you’re not as passionate about it as you once thought. If this is the case, it’s great to know for yourself and is often a stepping stone to discovering what you actually do love (a way of unknowing) and will find time for.
Not feeling confident in your skills or capabilities is the fastest way to kill any desire to make art. If you don’t feel like you can use new software or have a solid handle on a tricky brush technique, it’s obviously going to cause an avoidance in getting creative work done. Give yourself heaps of time and patience, and turn to Redbubble and the rest of the net to help teach yourself what you need to know.