What gets in the way

Today’s #reverb10 prompt didn’t at first seem meant for me. “Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?”

I’m not, nor do I aspire to be, a writer, so nothing much in my average day contributes to my writing but I don’t mind. Then again, many’s the time that I haven’t written on this here blog even though I like blogs and blogging and the freedom of low-threshold publishing. I started to think about the various creative pursuits I am ambitious about and why nothing much seems to come out of those. It’s not really about actively doing something that doesn’t contribute to those pursuits but rather about not doing anything that does. So, let’s look at the question from a wider perspective:

What keeps me from doing the creative things I want to do?

Three answers come to mind:

1) Perfectionism. If it’s not perfect, why do it? If someone else is doing or has done or can do it better, what’s the point? What if I fail? The fear of failure is a big contributor. And then again, I’m slowly coming to accept that, for instance, I don’t have the patience, skill or ambition to compete with brilliant writers all over the internet but I can still write blog posts that, if nothing else, serve as reminders to myself. If I’m lucky, I may mildly amuse a friend. I get practice in writing without needing to worry about proofreading. I notice things I might otherwise not notice. I have a reason to take photos. None of it needs to be perfect.

How does one curb one’s perfectionism, then? Not sure. Embrace imperfection, I suppose. Practice. “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” In my daily life…sing even though I know the neighbours can hear me?

2) Lack of habit. I realised this just now as I was making supper. I don’t cook much – hence last month’s Vegan MoFo challenge: I wanted to get into the habit of cooking. I didn’t quite get there in just one month, obviously, but I do see the point of making an effort to turn cooking into something I wouldn’t have to think about too much, something I’d just do, every day.

Habit makes doing things easier. The initial effort is the price you pay for making your daily life run that little bit smoother. I have a simple routine for cleaning, established many years ago and practised weekly, so cleaning is easy, even meditative, and gets done – sometimes more than once a week. (It really is meditative. Sometimes I need to clean to stay sane.) I don’t have creative habits, and when I try to create some, I fall prey to perfectionism.

I can’t remember where I found this quotation, but it’s kind of relevant here:

“When you don’t know what to do, do the thing in front of you.”

If I’m wondering whether I should sing, I probably should just sing and stop wondering. Which brings me to the third, related obstacle standing between me and creative accomplishment:

3) Inability to choose. So many things to do, only one life in which to do them. How could I possibly choose which area to devote my time to – knowing that I can’t manage all of them well, if at all. (And that’s just realism rather than perfectionism.) This one I really cannot answer except by saying ‘see above’. A friend of mine (hello!) often says that the way around procrastination caused by an inability to prioritise (and my advanced skills in procrastination probably should get an entry of their own…) is to do anything, whether high or low on your list of priorities, because it should all get done anyway. Doing any one thing is likely to give you momentum. It takes less effort to start running if you’re already moving than if you start from lying down (fact). So don’t choose, not for life anyway. Choose for the next five minutes. Then just keep going.

***

I’m beginning to see early on that this month’s posts are going to be very much about me-me-me – it’s not me, it’s the prompts, honest – but do let me know what you think about the prompts. Or come back next year. Or tell me what you’d like to read about instead. ‘Tis the season and all that, wishes may be granted. :)

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