Maybe you’ve been there—you had a smorgasbord of opportunities, events and interests from which to choose and, like me, you tried choosing them all. Maybe, like me, you ended up feeling completely exhausted. Summer vacations can do that. So many possibilities; so little time. In my case, just ten weeks in which to create memorable art and publishable writing, learn new skills, visit theaters and museums, take in all kinds of other events (cultural and otherwise), spend quality time with friends and family, and still keep up with those necessary, day-to-day chores that don’t go away just because I’m on vacation.
As an homage to that dreaded back to school writing exercise, “What I Did On My Vacation,” here is what I did during the past ten weeks. You’d be tired too…
I Made and Promoted Art:
- Created art pieces for the newest show at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery, as well as the painting that will be used to advertise the Arts Alliance’s annual fund-raiser in November, Moroccan Nights.
- Hosted an artist’s reception for my solo art show hanging at The Cutting Edge Salon in Sebastopol—you can view it until the end of September.
I Went To The Theater:
- Saw Hamilton at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. So wonderful it’s indescribable! Let me just say it was, perhaps, the theater high-point of a lifetime. I added “perhaps” because my life isn’t over, but I can’t imagine anything better.
- Had season tickets to the Summer Rep Theater Festival at Santa Rosa Junior College: West Side Story, Chicago, Raisin In the Sun, Clybourne Park and The Drowsy Chaperone. All the plays were very well done and I enjoyed them all, but the play I remember best is the one I didn’t particularly want to see— The Drowsy Chaperone. Advertised as a parody of musicals from the 1920s, I didn’t expect to like it and I didn’t—I LOVED it! Funny beyond words.
- Went to Shakespeare at the Cannery for the third year to see In the Mood, the company’s musical version of Much Ado About Nothing. The singing and dancing were not up to the level of the acting, but David Yen, who played Benedick, was so good, I almost didn’t care.
- Kicked off the theater season with my annual sojourn up Mt. Tamelpais for The Mountain Play. This year was West Side Story so, yes, I saw this play twice at two different venues with two different casts. You haven’t lived if you haven’t taken a trip to the top of the mountain in a big, yellow school bus.
- Flew to Los Angels to see Sondheim on Sondheim at the Hollywood Bowl with my good friend Lynn. The performance was wonderful but the real show is always the bowl itself—an intimate evening with 17,000 people.
I wrote a blog about procrastination in January. That was back when I was actually writing a blog. So what happened that caused me to take a four-month hiatus? Why was I suddenly procrastinating? And why had I previously managed to write a weekly blog for almost five months?
The reason I was successful is easy. I was taking a social media class at the local junior college. I had wanted to write a blog for some time and, finally, I had the tools and the impetus to get started. Writing a blog was mandatory. So, no matter how busy I was, I found time to write. My grade depended on it. Then the class ended and so did my good intentions. Within a few weeks, I stopped writing my blog. But I was going to start again soon—next week, or the very next.
In January I said I didn’t know why I procrastinated. I have a pretty good idea now. The future may bring me more “ah,ha” moments. In the meantime, I can think of four reasons why I frequently procrastinate.
- Perfectionism: What if what I do doesn’t live up to my expectations. What if it isn’t good enough? This leads to the next reason…
- Fear: Elizabeth Gilbert once stated that “all procrastination is fear.” But is it fear of failure or fear of success? I think I fear both at different times, maybe even simultaneously. “People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy.” Denis Waitley
- Lack of self-discipline: Lacking self-discipline, we become seduced by instant gratification. The desire for instant gratification causes us to put off the things we should (or even want to do) for an instant “hit.” For example, I really want to finish the art for my book but I also want to work in my yard, watch that highly recommended movie, read the book I just bought on Kindle and a few other things that are all a lot easier and less time-consuming than finishing twenty-two illustrations.
- I’m really busy: Of course, I was busy when I was taking that class. It’s all about priorities. Perfectionism, fear, and a lack of self-discipline caused me to make other choices when the blog was no longer mandated by an outside force. My long-term goal was sabotaged by a desire for instant gratification. I would write the blog tomorrow when I wasn’t quite so busy…only I didn’t.
My Plan to Stop (or at least reduce) Procrastinating
There a lot of things I could do. Today I read article after article on the “whys” of procrastination, and how to stop doing it. However, in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed—leading to more procrastination—I have selected two simple tools.
1. Break things down into smaller steps: When I think about the fact that I need to finish twenty-two illustrations in order to complete my book, I feel overwhelmed. If I set a goal of one or two a week, the mountain of work will hopefully become a manageable incline.
2. Use the Ivy Lee Method:
- At the end of each day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow.
- Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
- When you begin your work day, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
- Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
- Repeat this process every working day.
Why I’m Back In The Blogging Saddle Again
Despite a lot of self-doubt (Do I really have anything worthwhile to say that hasn’t been said before? Does anyone really care?), I’ve set the intention of resuming a weekly blog. Maybe it’s just for me, but I have come up with a few reasons why I think it’s a good idea.
- It will help me write better by providing a consistent arena to hone my skill. Practice does, indeed, make perfect.
- It demands self-discipline which means coming to grips with procrastination. It’s a test of sorts.
- I can promote my art and writing. Whether it’s a publishing deal or an offer of gallery representation, I’ve been told it’s more likely to happen to writers and artists who have built a loyal fan base.
- Writing a blog teaches me a lot. It demands that I learn about stats and how to get readers. It demands that I do research on interesting topics. If introduces me to other bloggers. I learn so much from their example. (Austin Kleon, you are my blogging idol.) And, oh, yes, (back to number 1) it demands that I write.
I procrastinated much of today but I finally did what I set out to do. I wrote a blog and published it! Stay tuned to see if I can establish a regular habit.