In my next few posts, I’m going to be diving deeper into both of these – starting today with what’s the difference?

1. What’s the difference?

This is the question we posed at the beginning of today’s podcast episode. Personally, it’s blindingly obvious whether I’m suffering creative block, or procrastinating.

When I procrastinate, I feel invincible

When I procrastinate, I feel invincible – I can do everything. Everything is important, and I want to do it all. I am inspired to do my sketchbooks and swatches and samples, and get to the paints and fabrics, but I fall into the trap of thinking that if I “just do a few really important things first” then I can kick back and enjoy all the creative stuff to the max.

Unfortunately, because I procrastinate, I never have time left in the day for the really juicy exciting things. I do all the minor, probably less important things – such as putting on a load or laundry, working out a meal plan for the week, and replying to Facebook and Instagram comments. I tell myself this is important and I want to do it and should do it, and that may well be so. But right now? Really? What’s worse, it happens every day (and just writing this down makes me realise how ridiculous it is). Every day the cycle starts again without me ever getting to the nitty gritty of being an artist.

Ultimately, my procrastination leads me straight to creative block. Because I procrastinate on doing what could be considered the creative donkey work*, if by some miracle I do make some time to create, I have NOTHING – the well is dry, there is nothing to draw on!

When I have creative block, I feel horrible

When I have creative block, everything feels horrible. I feel desperate, sad, overwhelmed; I feel I’ll never create again, and I don’t even know what’s important any more, or what I like or would possibly want to do or try. And because I don’t know what I want to do, I end up working – because creating courses and writing newsletters and responding to comments and queries has clearly defined objectives and goals and deadlines.

Eventually, something will jolt me out of it – a visit to a garden, watching a film or reading a new book, discovering a new artist, or even working on something for my teaching –  and I’ll be inspired again.

It’s like a horrible cycle of

inspired – procrastinating – creative block – work

Gina thought I was being hard on myself, but I don’t: I feel it’s facing reality and being honest. How can I be an artist if MAKING ART doesn’t fit anywhere in that cycle?

This is obviously a gross generalisation – there are moments when I am inspired, and creative, and productive – otherwise nothing on this website would exist! But it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. I’m not looking for every day, or even every week – but a little more frequently than once in a blue moon would be nice!

* By creative donkey work, I mean those things that aren’t creating any one thing in particular, but definitely support an artistic practice. Things like sketchbooks, samples, swatches, collecting and collating, journaling – and more. I’ll write more about this in Part 2 coming up soon!

4 Thoughts to “Am I stuck or just procrastinating?”

  1. Marie-Hélène Hunter says:

    I know exactly what you mean although I am not a professional artist and don’t depend upon it to live but I would agree with Gina :).
    I have been working on figuring out what’s at the root of my procrastination to try to develop new habits that work best for me. I have realised that procrastinating is my coping strategy for avoiding difficult feelings like guilt, anxiety, and self-doubt.I have worked out that my insecurity and perfectionism are at the fundamental problem..I have also figured out two helpful things: learning to tolerate negative emotions by not avoiding them and learning how to modify them.
    Be kind to yourself 🙂

    1. Isobel says:

      Thank you for reading, and listening! I’m going to be writing about procrastination next, but you hit on a lot of the issues at the heart of it. In trying to separate out the creative block from procrastination, I can see clearly that because I procrastinate (and thereby “waste time”) I then don’t have anything to draw on when it comes to creating. I certainly don’t expect to be creative (in an artistic way, I’m not talking about the other “creative things” I do, such as planning and cooking a meal) all the time – I think that’s impossible! – but I know for sure that the reason I don’t create when I have the time and also the inclination – when I’m not procrastinating – is because there’s nothing to work with. I do, however, know that I have a tendency to be a bit of a workaholic on projects that I’m doing for other people – and find it difficult to give myself a break, and ease off! Again, usually because I’ve run out of time and I’m up against a deadline – the aftereffects of procrastination again!!

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