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Procrastinating and Distracting Ourselves

“To begin…To begin…How to start? I’m hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. So I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana nut. That’s a good muffin.”

That is fictional writer ‘Charlie Kaufman’ [played by Nicolas Cage] in the movie “Adaptation” by the real screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

It’s a great film about the kinds of insecurities, anxieties and distractions that can so often affect us as creative people.

What is going on with procrastination? We feel inspired and passionate about creating something, so why do we procrastinate and distract ourselves away from doing our creative work?

Creativity coach Lisa A. Riley describes a common scene for many creative people facing a blank screen or page or canvas:

“So you’ve decided to get an early start, wake before the rest of the world begins their day and be productive. … You sit down in front of the computer facing the stark emptiness of your blank screen.

“You gaze for a moment and then take a few sips of coffee, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. … Nothing comes to mind. Your eyes conveniently notices the flashing email icon in the corner of your screen, suddenly drawn like a magnet, you decided to check your email.”

She points out, “If this sounds like a familiar scenario, well, you are not alone. Many of us have experienced this form of procrastination. Where we give into the rationalization that once these convenient distractions are completed and put to rest, we can create.

“When in reality, this is an indication of our own internal resistance to facing the act of producing something. Feelings of self-doubt, criticism and negative beliefs can produce anxiety around the creative process.”

She admits she has often caught herself in this “avoidance cycle when it comes time to paint” and has found that “leaning into the flame as opposed to retracting away from it, is the best solution.”

Continued in her article Seeking A Convenient Distraction.

Read more articles by creativity coach Lisa Riley on her blog, and see her multiple ‘Products for Your Creative Success’ on her site The Art of Mind.

Anxiety and procrastinating

In his book Mastering Creative Anxiety, creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD asks, “Are you creating less often than you would like? Are you avoiding your creative work altogether? Do you procrastinate?”

He adds, “That’s anxiety.”

From my post Creative Anxiety – Are You Procrastinating?

In his article The Distraction Addictions, Dr. Maisel comments about another aspect of this:

“The pull to avoid our work can prove so strong that it is fair to call our flight compulsive and to characterize our behavior in real and not metaphoric terms as an addiction.”

Self-limiting behavior like distracting ourselves from the creative work we really want to do may become a habit – but we can change habits.


Procrastinating and Distracting Ourselves

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Procrastinating and Distracting Ourselves. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Jul 2012
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