More Advice For Blocks – Sugarcoating The Bullet

Followers of this blog know that I have devoted a series of posts to blocking writer’s block and other creative blocks.  But the most common blocks don’t concern projects that are creative, but tasks that are onerous.  These are usually tasks that feel extremely uncreative and yet are difficult, daunting, impossible to begin.

I have developed a number of strategies to deal with such onerous projects:

1.  Close your eyes and wish for as long as possible that the project will just go away. You’ll be amazed how often, with enough procrastination,  a  project will simply be mooted, no longer relevant.  (Christmas cards are, of course, a prime example.  Though the worst case I ever had was with a wedding present I delayed sending long enough for the couple to break up.)

This strategy even works with projects that are not time-sensitive.   Take a cluttered closet that houses, in its depths, scads of missing clothes—time doesn’t make the clutter go away, but usually other demands surface, new clothes are purchased, pounds are put on—suddenly the disorder in the closet just doesn’t seem to matter.

2. Involve someone else.  Often you will still be the person who ends up doing the work, but you’ll at least have someone to witness the work, and, hopefully, to listen to you kvetch.  If it’s that cluttered closet you are working on, you can also ask them for permission to throw your things out.  (Generally, if it’s a good, useful, sort of person, they will be quite willing to have you throw your old stuff out.)

3.  Sugarcoat the bullet.  Sometimes you just can’t put a task off any longer; i.e. the tension of procrastination and insecurity has gotten way more uncomfortable than any amount of despairing but determined slogging away.

You have to bite the bullet. And yet you just can’t bear to clamp down.

Some kind of sugarcoating of the bullet may be required.  This should be a pampering that will make the task easier,  but won’t cause further delay.    (Don’t say, for example, I’ll just take a nap first. And don’t spend a couple of hours, shopping for items that will supposedly make your work oh so much easier.)

If your task is relatively mindless, listening to an audiobook or pod cast can make the work palatable.  If the task does demand a lot of your mind, try listening to music or an audiobook that you know too well to find fully distracting.  (Or, for example, the audio, with only occasional glimpses of the visuals, of a Robert Pattinson trailer.)

Remember that the point of all this is to create a distraction, but a mild one–a distraction that does not take you away from the work, but from your resistance to the work.

(Not the TV.)

4.  Just do it.  I hate to paraphrase a corporate slogan.  Still, once you’ve shut your eyes, delayed, given up on involving anyone, and used up all the sugar you have and still haven’t been able to get it to stick to the bullet,  just make yourself begin.  Momentum is a physical reality, but it can only kick into gear when you do.

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