Fear....Real or Imagined? By Martina Castro
I have a friend who has been having a real problem getting her masters thesis started. She's totally immobilized. In telling me about it, she uses words like "paralyzed" and "terrified." It got me thinking about writer's block and how I was having a case of it myself with respect to this article. Then my thoughts strayed to the more general experience of becoming immobilized in the face of doing something that I CHOSE to do. Now doesn't that sound like an oxymoron? How do we get ourselves in this predicament?
Most call it the procrastinator's curse, but it's really a debilitating process. There seems to be a pretty logical connection between procrastination and bouts with writer's block, at least for me. After putting an item off for a while, putting it on and then off and then on subsequent "To Do" lists, there does come a point when I feel ready to take action, but it always seems to get more complicated.
In the moment that I sit down to begin, a sensation takes over. It's an irresistible desire to do something else from what I sat down to do. If I didn't know better, I'd call this plain laziness, as would my mother. But it isn't that simple. There's something more sinister at work, and I feel it. This phase usually eats up a significant chunk of time, postponing any confrontation between me and my apparent inability to create.
Eventually, guilt settles in. In efforts to excuse my laziness, I decide that I simply must be suffering from a lack of inspiration. Yeah, that's it. Then, I'm on the phone, "Uh.Doug (my editor), you won't believe this, but I am uninspired. No, really!"
This enables me to move on from feeling guilty about my laziness to accepting my unfortunate dependency, and I'm confident it's merely temporary. Directing blame to things outside myself -- especially imaginary or theoretical things such as inspiration, luck, chance, or fate -- is really useful for the procrastinator in me.
"Doug, hi it's Martina again. You won't believe this but that idea we were talking about? Not working for me here. Promise I'll get back to you by the end of next week. How's that?"
An Imaginary Dependency: Inspiration
I fell upon a very useful and illuminating work of advice on the topic of inspiration, titled "A Manifesto on How to Be Creative." It was written by an advertising executive/cartoonist/blogger named Hugh MacLeod. His words:
You have to find a way of working that makes it dead easy to take full advantage of your inspired moments. They never hit at a convenient time, nor do they last long. Conversely, neither should you fret too much about "writer's block," "artist's block," or whatever. If you are looking at a blank piece of paper and nothing comes to you, go do something else. Writer's block is just a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you SHOULD feel the need to say something. Why? If you have something to say, then say it. If not, then enjoy the silence while it lasts. The noise will return soon enough."
While MacLeod was sitting at a bar after work one day, he started doodling on the back of a business card. This turned into a past time of his, and now he's a righteous cartoonist. It wasn't an overnight discovery for him. It took time, patience, hard work, and not caring about what anyone else thought about it. Here's another part of his book:
"Ignore everybody. Your idea doesn't have to be big, it just has to be yours alone. The more the idea is yours alone, the more freedom you have to do something really amazing. The need for external approval is so pervasive at times that we'll convince ourselves to betray our own potential for the sake of the private and personal assurance of never feeling like a true failure.
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