Friday, 21 August 2015

When procrastination strikes….

I'm on something of a roll with the topic, and very concept, of creativity at the moment. 

I've made peace with the odd bout of children's TV (definitely a post for another time) and found some burgeoning confidence thanks to a great deal of personal growth, self-discovery and a fairly major breakthrough (yep, another one for another time).

I have committed to practicing creativity inside and outside of my scope as a mother. I'm here, I'm ready to go.

So today after lunch Cherry and Violet took some down-time with the Octonauts and I came into my study and turned on my computer, checked a few social feeds, responded to some blog comments and…


What now? I've given myself full permission to create. I have a billion and one things on my list including, but not limited to: a new book pitch; redesigning my blog; sewing new dresses for Cherry and Violet; creating a mood board for my study; reading the range of books and magazines I have lined up for a quiet moment; a feature for the Telegraph; a travelling notebook to read and contribute towards; and a daily journalling practice.

All systems go!

All systems stop. Enter procrastination.

A pointless loop of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, Twitter again, oh look what's this link abou- NO STOP. Just STOP.

I took myself downstairs and opened my journal. Ignoring the wreckage of my kitchen post-lunch I wrote down every single thought that was in my head. It was very illuminating. Here's some of what I was wrestling with.

I can't think of a blogpost idea!
I haven't heard back from my editor at the Telegraph regarding my latest pitch.
My book idea feels too big to even attempt to start.
I haven't got much time! I need to use it productively!
The house is a tip.
There are actual flies buzzing around the kitchen.
The garden needs watering. The trough needs replanting.
If that fabric had arrived I could start sewing. But it hasn't. Even though I have plenty of fabric to practice with and am very rusty with the machine, I'm still holding off for that new fabric.
There's so much laundry that needs doing.
The kitchen needs tidying.
The toys need sorting out completely.
I can't connect the printer to the computer because I don't have an ink cartridge. We probably shouldn't buy anything unnecessary until after Noel has been paid.
I don't want to waste my time reading books and magazines! I can do that later.
I don't want to waste time creating a mood or inspiration board! I can do that later. 
I don't have time to 'get into' Pinterest.
I don't have time to redesign my blog.
Should I be paying the children attention instead of letting them watch TV?
Octonauts is nearly over, I need to get back to it! 
What am I going to make for tea? 
Why don't I meal plan?!
Do I need two notebooks - one for journalling and one for creative brainstorming and ideas?
Don't forget the travelling notebook! And don't do that thing you always do and leave it until the last minute because you're looking forward to it and want to give it special time and attention that never materialises so you end up rushing and doing a really half-assed job!

I looked at what I had written and thought, no wonder I can't get going with all that swirling around up there. Especially as I am clearly creeping into frustration and beating myself up, which never leads anywhere good. I'm totally over making myself feel bad to make myself 'better'.

Since I learned to observe and detach a little from my thoughts, rather than blindly accepting them as whole truths and following them to the letter, I have begun to really appreciate how flawed and often jumbled my thought processes are. What does come through very strongly though is a complete fixation on productivity and outcome.

My main fears around creativity and general time spent outside of mothering involve 'wasting' time. I feel like I need a result, an outcome, some proof for every hour - every minute - spent not meeting the needs and demands of my children.

It's quite understandable, because having such short snatched pockets of time in which to do so many things does create pressure. Although truthfully I think I have always thought this way, been overly preoccupied with outcomes. Our social and education system is pretty outcome-obsessed.

Processes rarely get a look in, both inside my head and outside in the wider world. Which is such a shame because 95% of the joy in any project, and in fact life in general, is in my humble opinion in the process, the journey.

But that's not to say that everything in my head was nonsense. It certainly was an epic attack of procrastination but some of it was still relevant. Despite the popular rhetoric that 'the housework can wait' I find that often, actually, it can't. Not just because of the flies in the kitchen (I feel compelled to point out that everybody on our street gets invaded by flies in the summer, it's not just me!) but also because if my house is covered in crap and all the dishes are dirty and we have no clean clothes, I can't really mother to the best of my ability.

I'm too busy falling over Lego and boxes full of bags full of boxes whilst looking for a cup for one thirsty child and a pair of shorts for the other or more likely the same child who has tipped previously-proffered cup of water all over herself mentioning no names here Violet.

I'm no neat freak but I do find the more cluttered my house, the more cluttered my mind, so I try and stay on top of the day-to-day carnage.

Once I'd finished writing I thought, what needs to be done here?

I got up, lit some citronella and washed up. As I did so, I watched my thoughts drift past, like the bastard flies still determinedly buzzing around the remains of our lunches.

One or two seemed worth noting so I jotted them down in my notebook before carrying on.

By the time I'd finished, I had a clean kitchen and three blogposts already written in my head, all ready and waiting for me after I'd spent the rest of the afternoon with Cherry and Violet and put them to bed.

And you're reading one of them right now.


  1. There's so much to relate to in this post. You're so honest about everything from procrastination, to distraction to messiness and I identify with it all. That list of things you're thinking made me laugh but actually I find jotting down my thoughts can sometimes get me past whatever is holding me back from being productive or creative. That and doing the washing up or the vacuuming (a bit sad, maybe?). I even find that when I have many ideas for blogging (I'm addicted to writing lists), when it comes to getting in front of the computer, I may not fancy writing any of them!

    1. Do you know what Adele you can totally tell the state of my mind by the state of my house. It really helps me 'think things out' if I am also doing something physical, but not so engaging that I can become distracted thinking about that instead. In fact the breakthrough to which I refer in this post occurred as I was washing the walls of the downstairs toilet :)

  2. Dear Cathy
    I discovered your blog recently and think it's great! I really enjoy your take on life and love hearing about your girls and how you are bringing them up. My two boys are just about grown up now but the things you write about bring lots of memories back to me of their childhood. I especially liked this post as I can currently relate to your feelings about how to best use one's time. I have started using a journal myself and it really helps. I'll keep checking in with your blog.
    Best to you all from a Yorkshire "fan"

    1. Thanks so much Karen. As it turns out I'm a big fan of Yorkshire ;) I married a Yorkshireman and I have to say it's been one of the smartest decisions I ever made.

      My journal has, literally, changed my life. I am really excited for you using yours, you learn so much about yourself and also, how lovely to have a record of this time in life, any time in life actually. My only regret is that I didn't start keeping one years ago!