Hey you! We’re onto episode 7 of the #perfectionistproblems series. Say whaaaa?!
This time, I want to talk about something extra important - something that doesn’t get mentioned enough in the conversation about perfectionism and procrastination. And that is, how you deal with the messy middle of your creative process and actually work through your creative roadblocks.
Okay, my #perfectionistproblems peeps. It’s showtime.
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The forgotten type of procrastination
When you start looking on the internet for tips on how to deal with procrastination, you’ll find a lot of advice about how to get inspired, how to find the right motivation, and how to get started using apps and hacks. (I blame you Mr. Google and Mrs. Pinterest! :)
At the same time, society also glorifies end results. You’ve probably internalized all those cultural messages about how great it is to finish the race and cross the finish line. No matter what that race or finish line is for you.
There’s a lot of talk about getting things done (David Allen has created a book and even an entire online movement based on this principle), yet most of us conveniently forget what it takes to actually get those things done.
What is forgotten in this entire conversation is the messy middle. The hard part between the “Yes, this is what I want to be doing!” and the pat on the back you receive when you’ve finished your creative project.
But it’s that messy middle where the creative magic happens. Creativity is not about the beginning or the end, but about the transformation that happens in the middle. It’s about transforming one thing into another thing. It’s about adding value and that value isn’t added at the end of the creative process when someone likes or praises your product. No, that value is added by you, through your intention, attention, and energy that you put into a product in the - you got it - messy middle of the creative process.
Procrastination is about dealing with the messy middle
For the longest time, I’ve said that I’m in the middle of creating a new product for The Gratefulist. The truth is, though, that I’m not in the middle of creating it. For some reason I’m scared to be in that middle.
I’ve done a lot of research, gathered information, informed myself about how to create this product. Then there’s the part where I’ve created a strategy, an outline, and a master to do list. Basically, I’ve got the beginning part of this creative process down.
I’ve also spent time considering what the finished product will look like and fantasizing about how well the product will be received and how it will help so much soul-connected creatives (AKA, my version of crossing the finish line). You see, the end part of this creative process is a breeze.
It’s the middle part of the creative process that’s kicking my butt.
Because the middle part is messy. The middle part is hard. And it’s oh so easy and alluring to shy away and not lean into the discomfort of that hard middle part.
I’m NOT afraid of doing the work. I’m scared about the AMOUNT of work that needs to get done. I’m also scared of the voice of perfectionism in my head that’s going to make it really difficult and time-consuming for me to finish the product.
(P.S. Tiffany Han recently wrote a fabulous blog post about dealing with the hard parts of her creative process ‘What I really want to say about the hard parts of creativity’ . I highly encourage you to read it!)
Now, I’m sure you have your own version of the messy middle in your creative process. Here’s what you can do when you’re in that messy middle and procrastination kicks in.
The first step is self-awareness. Where in your creative process are you likely to procrastinate? Is there one part that’s constantly holding you back? For instance, you love creating videos but hate writing out the content. Or you easily come up with big ideas but have no idea how to break those ideas down into manageable chunks.
It could also be that your creative process isn’t affected by procrastination, but other parts of your business or personal life are.
Also, ask yourself this: When am I procrastinating? Are there certain times of the day, week, or month when I get stuck in that messy middle? Are there circumstances that lead to your procrastination? Perhaps when you’re working home alone? And why are you procrastinating?
Ask yourself these question and get real clear on the answers. Knowing what procrastination is costing you is an eye opener.
2. Let go of the fear of failure (or success)
One of the answers to the question of why you’re procrastinating could be that you’re afraid of failing miserably. You think you’re not good enough or question whether you’ve got what it takes.
Or maybe you’re secretly afraid of success and you think: “What does THAT say about me or mean for my life and business?”
Think of these fears as your mind’s natural reaction to uncertainty. Being afraid doesn’t say anything about you. Stop making perceived future failings or success (or perhaps past failings) mean something about. Sometimes things don’t work out. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Ya feel me? Game changer, right?!
3. Let go of the idea of perfect
Perfectionism and procrastination are intertwined in multiple ways. Perfectionism can prevent you from stepping into the middle part of your creative process, like it did for me. It can also keep you stuck in that middle part, when you’re either working and re-working every single part of your product over and over again or afraid to declare your product finished.
The thing to remember here is that what matters is not getting something done well but getting something done at all. You don't want it to be perfect, you want it to be finished.
MY CHALLENGE FOR YOU THIS WEEK IS TO GO THROUGH THESE THREE STEPS.
Get aware of how procrastination affects you and figure out in what ways perfectionism and the fear of failure and/or success triggers your habit of procrastination.