Do you procrastinate like I tend to do? Especially in these months of COVID, where each day seems to dissolve into the next. My days often seem to be without boundaries, and I put off until tomorrow what could be done today.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield may have some answers for us. It’s a short book, just a 2 1/2 hour listen on Audible. The author is the narrator, and his reading is in-your-face, clever and often funny.
So what causes procrastination? What makes us resist doing the work that can bring us happiness and success? According to Pressfield, it’s fear. And it’s a fear that doesn’t go away, that must be challenged everyday. Master the fear, and we conquer resistance.
Pressfield tells the story of Henry Fonda, who in his 70s, was still throwing up before each performance. But once he stepped on the stage, the fear was gone.
“The more fear we feel, the more certain we are that the work is important to our soul,” says the author.
For me, that’s painting. And every time I begin a new painting, the fear is there. I procrastinate...I’ll start tomorrow. I resist doing the one thing I need to do, and that’s to sit down at my painting table.
Fear takes many forms. There’s the fear of looking ridiculous and the fear of being humiliated. But what Pressfield calls “the mother of all fears” is the fear that we’ll succeed. For then we “must prove that we have the guts to become the person we truly are.”
If I want to overcome the demons of fear and resistance and procrastination, here’s what I must do.
Show up every day.
Show up no matter what.
Make priorities; do what’s important first.
Respect resistance, but don’t give in to it.
Work for money, but ultimately paint for love.
Do not take failure or success personally.
Don’t take humiliation personally. Make it better. Be back tomorrow.
So how do you deal with procrastination and resistance? When fear freezes you, do you have a plan for letting go? Leave a comment. I’d really be interested to know.
The second half of the book has heavy doses of God, angels and muses. Didn’t bother me, but fair warning.