Words & illustrations by Edy Hurst.
“Being stuck at home is a great opportunity to get on with some creative projects and work”
Says your head as you stare at an empty calendar on lockdown and a just released Disney+.
The voice grows deeper, darker, it sounds sweaty? somehow?
“You can finally do all those projects you never had time for. Every. Single. One.”
“Just don’t get distracted!”
I’m really good at being distracted, great at it. In fact, I got distracted from writing this sentence by messing around with different font sizes for the voice up top. Bit more drama to it isn’t there?
All this can lead to procrastination.
On the surface, I think it’s easy to see procrastination as not wanting to do a thing because it’s not fun, like homework, filing taxes or coming up with a funny bit for a rule of three.
But obviously it’s not because you don’t want to do creative stuff. I think a lot of it is to do with a fear of failure. Rather than do a bad job, I won’t do the job at all. If I can’t control the quality, I can at least control whether this crappening happens.
I suspect most people do this, how aware they are of it I don’t know, but rather than berate yourself for it and treating this concern like an enemy reframing it can be really useful.
There’s loads of self-motivation creeps who’ll offer advice and help to ‘maximise’ working and ‘unlock’ potential. I’m not going to talk about that because especially in these times it’s worth distancing from a crowd, but also I don’t really buy into that.
It sets the stage for a conflict between doing and not doing, which isn’t useful and can put a real pressure on your mental well being.
Especially working in comedy, distraction is viewed as the enemy. The knave lurking in the fog of creativity, luring you towards bashing through Arrested Development for the 5th time with a renewed sympathy for season 4. What a bastard! The Bluths are best working together not as individual storylines!
Just like your mind is best working together, as an ensemble, not pulling in separate directions.
When I started going to therapy, that voice at the top became known as Bad Boss©. It asks for too much whilst not giving any help or advice. At its worst it led to suicidal ideation and self-harm from crises of self-worth, at best it gives me unreasonably high expectations.
There’s a book called the Chimp Paradox by Prof. Steven Peters about dealing with a similar thing to Bad Boss™ which is our primitive/reptile/chimp brain. It is all emotion with no rationality.
The important thing though is not to consider this part of you an enemy, but rather work with it. Are you stressing? A great strategy is ‘letting the chimp of its cage’ – where you just vocalise all the things that your head is giving out, let it go for as long you can. Eventually you’ll run out of steam, or the concerns will get so ridiculous that you no longer believe them.
Another useful framing device is Adlerian psychology. Alfred Adler was a psychologist around the same time as Freud but looks at issues differently.
Whereas Freud is etiological and would look into the reasons in your past that you can’t achieve or do something, Adler looks at it in a more pragmatic teleological way.
This means looking at what the end goal is rather than what’s causing issues. So rather than looking at the fear of failure, you look at what you want to do. Is worrying about failing and why you might deep down be a sad-sack-terrible-boy going to get your cat opera written?
No? Well then you can get on with tuning up that Scottish Fold or have a crippling fear of failure. It’s breaking the focus on causation, and at least for me lets me feel like I have ownership over the situation rather than being victim to the Bad Boss®.
The energy you spend worrying about something getting done or thinking about getting something done exerts emotional stress with none of the actual work. The reason you may be procrastinating is because you care a lot about something, but you shouldn’t let that hold you back, because that shit is bananas.
So I hope this helps somebody out, also, wearing shoes can trick you into thinking you’re more ready to work.