Many times while trying to create, whether it’s writing, filmmaking or web design, I hit a wall. I just can’t seem to get myself to do the work. The anxiety of thinking about the hours it will take, or the possibility of making something of inferior quality, overwhelm me and create inaction.
That’s when I started thinking, when have I come up against this wall before and pushed through? When have I felt nauseous at the thought of doing the work but managed to finish on time? A time that comes to mind are my final years of college at Bowling Green State University. I decided to transfer there to pursue a degree in film. I became so set on learning as much as I could, and getting straight A’s my last couple of years of school, that I would not let anything stop me from accomplishing my goal.
There were times when I had a large paper due, or a project that needed finished. I had built up so much anxiety and resistance to finishing the work that I would make myself sick. I’d have to go for a walk, or drive around town, or watch a film. Something to relieve the pain of the moment. Then it would hit me. If I do not get this done now, and if I don’t work hard to make it good, I will not get strait A’s this semester. I will break my streak. I will fall short of my goal.
This pressure would be enough to break through the worst bout of procrastination. I would do the work, and it wouldn’t be so bad. Many times I actually ended up enjoying it, and wishing I had started earlier, so I could do even more work and refine the project.
What I now try to remind myself of, is that I may feel resistance when it comes to doing creative work, sometimes extreme resistance, but I have been able to sit down again and again in the past and push through it. Procrastination only prolongs the negative feelings. It only numbs them a bit. Taking action and facing your work head on is the only way to get it done and feel good about yourself.
Having the clear goal of getting all A’s in college probably made it easier to get to work. I knew what I had to do to get those A’s in very simple terms. Do the work on time, and get the A. Don’t do the work and fail. It’s not as clear now that I’m doing the work to make art, or money, or to improve a skill. It’s hard to judge what you need to do to meet your goals when you no longer see the immediate effect of falling short. There are no grades in life. But you can do your best today, and you can repeat tomorrow.
So when I’m feeling anxious from now on, I’m going to remind myself that I want straight A’s in life. My work is due. In fact, it’s past due.
Find a time in your life when you’ve felt extreme resistance to completing a task, but you managed to complete it and do a good job. What did you do to push through? What were your goals or obligations that pulled you through the pain? When you figure that out, use it to fight resistance now and in the future.