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Rebel or Good Girl?

On procrastination and self sabotage.

It’s that time of year again, where creatives and independent business owners like myself produce and stock up for the one big event of the year that might make a difference to their income: Christmas. By now most of my peers have probably worked out a strategy and are in the process of making their products and ordering their print designs.

Not me. Like every year, every mainstream celebration in fact, I freeze at the thought of a new design and my mind goes blank. It's like when I was at high school or uni and a big exam was coming up, I all of a sudden felt that incredible urge to clean, not only my own room but also the kitchen and bathroom. Or when I just have another nap instead of starting this job that needs doing...

There was a kind of rebellion going on against all the things that I was told I should be doing, things I had no interest in. But even now, when it comes to projects I have chosen myself and I'm excited about: I procrastinate. As soon as something is expected from me, I lose all interest and joy for doing it.

Side note: It’s the same with a hype: if everybody tries to convince me that something is the best thing since sliced bread, be sure I’ll run the opposite direction (hence it took me about 10 years longer than the rest of the world to realise that Harry Potter really is a magnificent story)...

Is it fear of failure that drives this sabotaging rebel and makes me procrastinate? Because as long as I haven’t started or finished a project, everything is still possible. I can relish in the dream of big success and don’t have to face reality. Or is it the fear of actually succeeding? Because I feel familiar with the narrative and role of the struggling artist but actually owning the label of successful business owner would mean I have sold out? I am not quite sure and maybe it's a bit of both. Unfortunately the consequence of procrastination is that I go nowhere fast and the chances for feeling shitty about myself for lack of results is very high. 

One more factor that always puts the brakes on and kills my creativity is the pressure I put upon myself, the expectation of coming up with a truly unique idea and design as opposed to relying on age old favourites as some professional illustrators choose to do for their Christmas cards.  My head is telling me that I’m crazy and self sabotaging with that attitude towards the market I chose to be part of as an illustrator, but my heart is showing my head the finger.

But then it happened. After a few days, err weeks, of grappling with myself, coming to terms with the fact that I've missed the chance yet again, all of a sudden I had a great idea for a Christmas card!

And maybe I was right to search a little deeper and let new ideas manifest. Creativity is the ability to turn ideas into something tangible and ideas often present themselves in snippets, in vague parts. So what if we called the time we spend 'thinking' about new ideas rather than 'doing' them, 'incubation' and not 'procrastination'? It gives us permission to take our time to nurture new ideas and validates the time we don’t actually turn out a product.

 I hope there's still time for me to get the cards done! I'll keep you posted!

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