Time. There’s never enough of it, is there?
I was reminded of this fact while watching an interview with writer/comedian Ricky Gervais. The interviewer asked him why he always seems so happy, why he’s always laughing and seeming to enjoy himself. Gervais replied by stating that he knows that every day is one less day he has on this earth, so he wants to make the best of it. While morbid, I think it’s also a good way to remind oneself that time is fleeting.
Which brings me to procrastination. The bane of all artists, it seems. Or at least a very high percentage. I’m guilty of it, myself, although I’ve gotten better than I used to be. When I was younger I found it terribly easy to put off working on a story or some other creative project. I’d find errands to run, people I needed to chat with, or maybe some reading I needed to catch up on. Lame excuses all around.
I never really understood why I would do that to myself. I love to write, so why postpone doing something that I love to do? That’s the million-dollar question. I think part of it was fear of failure. This was back when I was too wrapped up in worrying about what others would think. I didn’t have people encouraging me. I was self-conscious and focused on trying to please others instead of pleasing myself.
So I’d have a great idea, but he execution would take far too long. Hesitation, procrastination, and finally, resignation. At some point I’d finally guilt myself into doing what needed to be done. Of course, I’d then stash my writing in a desk drawer or under my bed and hope that no one found it. My secret shame.
If I were a betting man, and I’m not, I would wager that self-confidence is the main reason why most artists procrastinate. Obviously, I can understand that. It’s tough to build up your confidence when you may not be getting support or feedback, or at least not getting the support and feedback you need. We’re all different, so what might be supportive to me may not be for you.
What I can do, however, is refer back to Ricky Gervais. One of the things he noted was that what also keeps him happy is that he doesn’t give a shit. Oh sure, he’s an animal rights and human rights advocate, but when it comes to worrying about what people think of him, well, he simply doesn’t care. In fact, I saw a series of short interviews with people who work with him and know him, and they all agreed that he simply doesn’t give a shit about what people think about him, his comedy, or his television shows.
I think that’s a good attitude for artists to have when it comes to their work. Don’t give a shit if someone likes it or hates it. Don’t give a shit if people are inspired or offended. The thing is, if you care about reading good reviews, then you open yourself up to being affected by the bad reviews. So the best thing to do is not care either way, just create what you want to create. Damn the torpedoes and all that jazz.
This, in turn, will be a confidence booster. If you don’t care what people think about your work, then you won’t hesitate or second-guess yourself. You’ll find a freedom you never had before. And no, it won’t necessarily be easy to change your mindset, but if you work at it you’ll find that, over time, you’re going to be more creative, more productive, and probably happier than ever before.
But don’t use this as an excuse to ignore constructive criticism. I believe we all need at least a second set of eyes on our work to help keep us on track, but that’s different than worrying about what someone is going to think of your final product.
Procrastination is a time killer, and we only have a limited amount. Don’t waste it.