I have been doing a lot of study and reflection on anxiety and the role it plays in procrastination, something I wrote about a few weeks ago. I was recently reading a book my sister-in-law recommended entitled The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression. The author Eric Maisel had this to say about anxiety:
The net result is that we do not write the story and do not make any meaning. Since we are not making meaning, depression strikes. The relationship between anxiety and depression, therefore, is direct and significant. If existence merely troubled us but didn't rouse so much anxiety in us, if we could hold our painting or composing as hard but not threatening, we would have a far better chance of making meaning and avoiding depression. If we heard ourselves say, "I don't want to paint because I don't find painting meaningful," we could reply instantly, "The heck with you, insidious thought! I'm off to the studio!" But because the thought is threatening and because Nature hates threats, we are bathed in anxiety and stopped in our tracks. . . .
If you don't write your nonfiction book, which you have every reason to write and which you have been talking about writing for years, it is unlikely that you will call your blockage a phobia and point to anxiety as the culprit. . . . Many of my clients I see complain of procrastination. Instead of starting off a Sunday turning right into their creative efforts, first they write in their journal, then they read the newspaper, then they have a third cup of coffee, then they head out to the laundromat. It turns out that they will do almost anything to ward off the anxiety they might feel if they said to themselves, "Time to create!"
While at work, they tell themselves that they will get to their novel or their symphony as soon as they get home, or after dinner at the latest. When they get home, they look at the ads that came in that day's mail, make dinner, do the dishes, and watch television until bedtime. Anxiety steals away their evening.
Sound familiar? Since I identified anxiety as one of my main creative culprits, I have found it easier to write my school papers, do my research for my dissertation and complete other creative tasks. I am able to control my self-talk and say, "This is easy for me. I can do this in no time at all. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it will be the best I can produce!"
What about you? What role is anxiety playing in your lack of productivity and creativity? What are you prepared to do about it? More on anxiety later. You have enough to think about based on what I wrote above.