Creative Procrastination vs. How You're Failing at Control
I dropped some random truths over the past week which random people were grateful to hear.1. Poet & poetry editor Jeffrey Levine taught us that your poem is an entity, and it has a name - not a title. What's it's name? It wants something - what does it want?A title is something you assign to a thing for your own convenience - this is me talking, not Jeffrey. We assign titles, we name things, to assert control over them. To conquer fear of them. But what name does your poem call itself? What does it want?You start writing because you have a thing about yourself you want to convey to the world. But if you listen to your poem - like listening to a toddler who doesn't have full command of spoken language - it has its own thing to say. And the fact that it's telling YOU shows you something about yourself. What's it showing you?Anything a toddler shows you is the most precious thing in the world. The child waits for you to respond, and assigns value to his own sense of wonder based on whether and how you give the thing back. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn about yourself. It's the same with a poem, or a song.If you feel like the poem (or song, or painting, or minority demographic) isn't doing what you want it to do, isn't working for you, listen. It's trying to tell you something. Once you understand what it wants, it's going to be much more cooperative.2. One definition of procrastination tells us that we're avoiding unresolved emotion about the thing we're putting off until later. "But it's just mowing the yard," you say. "It's just writing a term paper. It's easy. I just need to complete the steps." If it were easy, you would have done it already. But emotions - they are never easy. You can call them chemical (im)balances all you want, but that doesn't change how much we have to deal with them. So put that thing you need to complete in front of you: how does it make you feel? Now put that feeling in front of you. Why is it feeling exactly like this and not like some other feeling? No - don't enumerate the supplies that would make this duty easy if only you had them. Completely different equation. Listen to this feeling in front of you. What is it telling you it needs? How can you calm it?I'll tell you this - in my case there are often several layers of unresolved conflict involved in this process: I need to wash the dishes so I can make coffee so I can figure out why the drive isn't working to stream X-Files while I work on the project on my desk. Those are the things. Why are the dishes not done? I love it when the sink is clear - why didn't I do that for myself?
...and there it is. I didn't do it for myself because I'm tired of doing everything for myself. I can assure you the cat doesn't do any dishes and there isn't anybody else. It's not feasible to bring in someone else in any capacity, and it's not reasonable to ask them to do my chores for me.I'm mentally tired, but I'm also physically tired. If I get real sleep, my brain will feel better and that whole list of whatever will magically disappear. This is just one example, and it's one I talk myself through monthly. Over time it's helped me dissolve those childhood voices of adults who insisted I do random things like "focus" and "better" so I'd finish the work that was helpful for them.Guess what? There never is anybody else. Everyone, including you, recruits others to help reach goals that aren't yours (or theirs.) If you're feeling frustrated by looming deadlines, it's worthwhile to take the span of a cigarette break and at least figure out which emotion is yelling at you the loudest. clean it up, give it something to read, and try again.