The True Task

“I know that you’ve got commitments and stressors and what’s so wrong with watching an hour or two or three of TV before bed? Nothing, of course. Except that you weren’t created to do that. And at the end of your life, you may just end up regretting finding ways to distract yourself from your true task.” Jeff Goins

Google “artistic procrastination” and you’ll find articles and blog posts calling this Hydra-esque issue¬† everything from “the artist’s companion” to the artist’s “graveyard.” Apparently, how an artist views it and how it affects their work is completely individual. I’m quickly finding in these free-form summer months that writer’s block refers to much more than not knowing what to write.

I know what to write.

I have ideas and projects in progress to last me another decade. Yet, last night I went for a run at the beach, cleaned my room, filed my nails (?) and went to bed. The night before, I learned six new pinup hairstyles on Youtube. And I’m boooored. But every time I sit down to write, this dread of beginning wells up through the keyboard and I find a way to procrastinate. Again. No, writer’s block is not about ideas. It’s just about finding the courage to begin.

Unbeknownst to most of the world, I’ve succumbed to this classic ailment and have been rather zombie-fied this month. Like tranquilized zombie. Sure, I might look productive: going to work, coming home, taking care of the apartment, making to-do lists and schedules, sitting in front of my laptop while hubs kills virtual monsters on the Xbox. But appearances can be deceiving, friends. It took me six days to complete a two-hour writing software tutorial because this whole other ADD person has taken over my body and shrunk my attention span down to about 20minutes.

Alright, enough metaphors. The point is, I haven’t been myself lately and it’s really irritating my type-A side. So I did what most well-adjusted 21st-century young people do when they’re facing a personal problem…

This post from Crystal Street’s archives made me feel happily justified in my Lucy-Come-Lately habits, while this post on Slate made me feel relieved that I’m not alone in my ebb and flow of industriousness. A few articles just made me feel like a worthless hack. They don’t get hyperlinks.

What I conclude from this little search experiment is that guilt does more harm than good, always. It perpetuates the distance between an artist and her work and spirals her inward to the dark places of fear and failure.

It’s enough that the administrative side of me sees all that’s scribbled on July’s calendar and what needs to be accomplished before August 19 when classes start again. It’s enough that come September I’m going to loathe having wasted precious time I could have used to take the pressure off at crunch time. Guilt won’t solve those problems of procrastination any better than filing my nails last night could make me feel productive. But maybe painting my nails will…

Just kidding.

It’s time to find better ways to cope with writer’s block and procrastination, and Jeff may have found the way for me. My “true task” is to write great stories.

Nothing delays greatness like fear.

But nothing assuages fear like a sense of purpose.

And nothing affirms a sense of purpose like doing what you were created to do.

Write.

“I am not afraid…I was born to do this.” –Joan of Arc (kind of)

See ya later, writer’s block. ;)

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