Monday, May 4, 2009

Overcome Procrastination

Thank you, Mr. Wordsworth, but that's easier said than done. None the less, today's art quote, "To begin, begin," by William Wordsworth is simple, direct, and full of truth. At least for me, beginning a project is the only thing that is harder than knowing when to say it is done.

"To begin, begin."

By William Wordsworth

I remember in high school sitting in front of a blank piece of paper wondering how I should start my essay. As the minutes ticked by, my brain seemed to freeze up all the tighter, until the teacher leaned over and whispered in my ear, "just write anything, so at least you have starting point."

She, like Mr. Wordsworth, was absolutely right. Once the first few words were on the page, I immediately scratched them out and replaced them with what I really wanted to say. Then, the rest seemed to just flow out of my pen. I’ve applied that lesson to many aspects of my life, but when it comes to my art work, well… if the truth be told, I often get stymied.

So why do I still get "stuck" before I start a project? Most often it's my fear of failure, my fear of wasting good art supplies, or my fear of running out of time. Yes, I'd say it's always fear of some sort that causes my procrastination, my writer's block, or more accurately my artist's block.

Overcoming my fears is the key to overcoming my tendency to procrastinate. This process always seems to start with self reflection and the ability to recognize my unconscious fears and bring them into my conscious thoughts. Once I know what my fear is, I can decide if it is a legitimate fear that I should heed or if it is something I can choose to ignore without suffering any severe or unwanted consequences. If it’s not a legit fear, I’m freed and ready to dive in and begin.

So the next time you think you might be procrastinating, ask yourself, "What’s your worst fear?" Decide if it’s valid. If you’re afraid that you’ll burn the studio down trying a new technique, then maybe you shouldn’t begin, but if you’re worried about the embarrassment of failure, you might upon further thought decide that trying and failing is better than not trying at all.

If you’ve ever caught yourself procrastinating, how did you overcome it? Let the rest of us know in the comment section below.

An After thought: Procrastination is just one form of artist's block. Other issues artists and creative types might face include physical or emotional exhaustion, stressful circumstances, bad habbits or vices that are taking a toll, etc. And there are many great articles out there addressing the topic of artist block. Gail Miller has written "Overcoming Artist's Block" and "Overcoming Artist's Block (part 2)", both of which are worth a quick read.


  1. Hi Coco!
    Nice article and so true!!Nice to hear someone else does this with their art!
    What I do, is put the project aside and do something that I really enjoy. It doesn't have to be an art project just something that seems like fun. It helps to get me moving in a positive way and I find it gives me the energy and inspiration to tackle that project I've been putting off!

  2. Great advice! Fear is such a discourager. Appreciate your sharing :)

  3. Def. a procrastinator here. Don't know how I survived college with steller grades. Custom orders are what make me procrastinate ALOT.

  4. Very true indeed. I am a fearful person. Always worrying about how things will turn out and all that.. Your teacher is right. Just start. Anything. More will come flowing..

    Great article.


  5. Helpful advice. Thanks, Coco.


  6. Thank you for sharing this

  7. Very interesting. I'm probably the world's words procastinator or would that be the best?

  8. Oooh, yeah. I hear you. Procrastination is often my middle name!

  9. Yep, totally understand. I'm sure Procrastination is my middle name sometimes!