I’m not alone in my almost superhuman ability to justify procrastination; if it was an Olympic sport, every collegiate in the world would be competitively qualified. Even outside of essays and readings, crunched into the final hour, I have a mentality of “I’ll do it later” for stories I want to tell, art I want to create. It’s a problem that student artists face; whether we’re writers, poets, painters, or photographers. There’s a sense of “laterness” for all our best ideas.
Maybe we don’t feel like we’re sufficiently equipped to write our novel; maybe we justify there’s just no time for real devotion to our paintings. There’s class work to sift through, friends to see, family to communicate with. We allow ourselves to fall into the trap of the every day, looking forward to later and losing our motivation along the way.
The more we sit on an idea, the more it mentally builds into something grandiose and unrealistic. When we finally do put brush to canvas, line up our camera shot, or begin typing on a blank Word document, whatever is created won’t match up to the perfection in our heads. Motivation dwindles until we become complacent in our daily lives.
Daily routine and laterness is the bane of the creative process and something I struggle with every time I justify watching a movie instead of writing. It’s being fair to my brain but being unfair to my creativity; it’s giving myself an “out” and reasoning that a regular day is just too, well, regular to create good art.
I’m selling myself short and maybe you are, too.
So how do we kick the procrastination? How do we create something extraordinary out of the ordinary? How do we not give into the temptation of waiting for later?
1. Find your personal creative doctrine.
This is something I can only offer suggestions on. Your doctrine is the reason you create; if you write epic poetry, maybe your doctrine is finding escape into words. If you draw realistic figures, maybe your doctrine is trying to capture the meaning of a human in a single image. It’s something that often feels unattainable; something that you should never really achieve, either. It motivates you to keep reaching, keep trying.
Throughout my three years at Virginia Tech, my writing has shifted away from the whimsical to the realistic. I’ve discovered that nothing fascinates more than the people around me: how actions and words betray what we really mean, what we try desperately not to feel. Observing strangers on the bus, friends at dinner, teachers in class will provoke questions; questions solvable through the exploration of creating art.
3. Make time for art—even if it’s just a little.
If it’s only a few minutes stolen before class, at the library, or just before heading out for a night downtown, sketch a little, write a few lines, or photograph what is around you. Revisit your work as often as you can and think on what you were seeing, feeling, and thinking in those moments. It will reveal what you truly wish to create next.
4. Be kind to yourself.
This is by far the most important one: kindness. If you find yourself not creating or not creating to your personal standards or not keeping to your doctrine, respond with kindness. It’s easy for creative individuals to fall into the trap of unworthiness, which will lead to laterness and maybe neverness. Chances are you are your own harshest critic but self-doubt never led to success. Learning from mistakes and trying again, patiently allowing yourself to try again, leads to success.
Good art is waiting to pour out of your fingertips if only it weren’t for projects, essays, and social obligations. I cannot begin to comprehensively list all the obstacles holding student artists back but don’t let yourself be one.