One of the things that has held me back is procrastinating too much. I don’t feel like doing the stuff I know I need to do because I don’t feel like it.
I know what I need to do, but then an image pops up in my head luring me from the dusty wasteland of work yet-to-be-done, and I’m away. Lost in the whirlpool of the Internet for (seemingly) days on end.
Yes, several people have lauded the value of procrastinating a bit here and there. It can be good to get away, take a break, see things from a different perspective, and so on.
But there also must be a limit in place, so that we, you know, actually get some work done.
The world needs our creative work. You need it. We need to build traction (not to mention earn an income) by creating more.
We need to make a dent with what we make, and this requires doing stuff that moves us closer to finishing more.
Part of the reason we procrastinate so much rather than creating more is our view of the nature of creative work itself. Most of us have been conditioned to think that creative work should be from the heart.
This is too often taken literally, meaning we have to feel like it to do it.
This view ends up limiting us to creating only when we feel like it, and being scared off when the work doesn’t feel fun, or inspiring or driven by our emotions.
The reality is that the bulk of work that goes into a creative masterpiece, or simply something that gets finished, will not be from the heart. A lot of the process is mundane. It feels boring, or frustrating, even distressing. And that is part of it.
“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” Neil Gaiman
Most of those people who create tons of great work have grasped that a creative career rich with expressive output is comprised of two kinds of work:
1) ‘From the heart’ work
Work that is driven out of the tear forming in your eye, and the rage building in your chest.
This is the outpouring of emotion onto the page and makes for creative work with depth and feeling that others will feel rippling out of what you make, like electricity.
It is the kind of work that leads to the emotional connection that we look for in innovations, creative works and inventions that fly.
2) ‘Maniacal’ work (my definition)
Maniacal work is work that forces you through the grind of not feeling like it.
It is doing without feeling ready. It is working fast, and being ok with producing crap. It is sitting with the negative feelings that come up and moving anyway. It is being experimental and throwing all your paints around on the canvas.
A lot of maniacal work will be put aside, thrown out and rejected, but none of it is for nothing. It is work that will give you feedback quickly. If it’s terrible, or useless, at least you’ve explored that angle, and it’s on to the next.
I just counted 195 unfinished articles that sit in my outbox. Many of those pieces contain five thousand words or more of flow-writing that I ended up rejecting, or simply not completing. But a lot of those half-done works ended up informing other articles that did get used. This is maniacal work, and it’s part of the full package involved in writing articles.
Maniacal work gives you momentum that is lacking the moment you decide to turn away from it to watch a YouTube video or glide through your Facebook feed.
This kind of grind-work might take up more than half of your life as a creative producer and is overlooked. It is the silent gap that makes the difference between success and obscurity.
Most people fail to get their best work out into the world at a consistent rate because their process is defined only by work that is from the heart. As such, little to nothing sees the light of day. And this is a shame.
The best projects contain a bit of both, but it will more often start with the hard kind. The good thing about maniacal work is that it often morphs quickly into ‘from the heart’ work anyway.
You need the courage to be a heartless maniac sometimes and just drive through it. Expect it to feel painful for a while. Maniacal work requires a warrior mindset.
The next time you feel like you can’t create because you don’t feel it in your soul, start by doing for the sake of doing, rather than by trying to create with a specific outcome in mind.
Do it with an awareness of what it feels like and don’t turn away from it when it doesn’t feel fun.
Own the decision you made to create at that moment.
Allow that awkward feeling to take you to the work that is from the heart, which it inevitably will, with patience.
Enjoyed this? Try: ‘The Void,’ and why understanding it leads to our best creative work.