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Getting Started with Procrastination

By Peter Lloyd

The story goes, an actor complains to a playwright, “You get too much credit for our success. At the end of the play, we take our bows, the audience cries, ‘Author! Author!’ and you come up and bow with us after sitting through the performance. Where were you,” the actor continues, “when we were learning our lines, rehearsing for months, blocking, fighting with the dirctor, and developing your play night after night?”

“Where were you,” the playwright replies, “when I was staring at a blank piece of paper?”

In every creative endeavor there’s a point where there’s nothing—the beginning, the most terrifying point in the creative process, the precipice from where you must take the blind leap. Yet in hindsight, the beginning is the easiest step to take, after you’ve taken it. The difficult part is crossing the bridge from deciding to acting.

The same goes for learning. Whether you take up a language, sport, musical instrument, or an application with a steep learning curve, the beginning looms formidably. Plagued with doubts about your ability to master a new subject or solve a fresh problem, you stare like the playwright at the blank piece of paper, asking yourself, “Where do I begin? How do I begin?”

Gregg Fraley, author of Jack’s Notebook, offers five tips for getting started in Imagination is a Practice, 5 Ways to Get Started. In summary, he urges making a practice of imagination, which should make getting started easier.

Procrastinators Anonymous, a website devoted to helping people recover from chronic procrastination, hosts 12-step meetings and a blog, where I found How to Get Started - A Magic Bullet That Works (Really!). The gist—find an object to associate with getting started and use it to stimulate action.

On a site called Happenchance, in post titled The Power of Naming Things, Seth M. Baker claims that naming your project will move it “from the abstract to concrete, from concept/idea to to an actual, tangible thing.” Maybe. The idea behind naming your project, however, holds the key, which is simply to do something. Anything. Including procrastination.

Procrastination is something. You might want to embrace it as a creative tool, because as difficult as it can be to get started, it’s not always productive to start before you’re ready to create. Procrastination, at least for creative people, can serve as incubation—the time your unconscious mind uses to find a place to start, or in the case of problem solving, to find a solution.

The next time you find yourself staring at a blank sheet of paper, relax, sip your coffee, take a deep breath, and trust that you will begin when your muse moves you.

See also:

Peter Lloyd is co-creator with Stephen R. Grossman of Animal Crackers, the breakthrough problem-solving tool designed to crack your toughest problems.

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