It is way too easy to procrastinate. I often find myself falling into the trap of thinking “oh, well I’ll just do research now, and then focus on the writing later.” Initially this seems like a good idea, but in fact I believe its a form of resistance. Resistance is a termed coined by Steven Pressfield in The War of Art. It is the supressive force that keeps us from our work. It is a manifestation of our own laziness. It is the thing that drives egos and makes people unwilling to change. Putting off writing for the sake of research is resistance. Do you need to be well researched in order to write well? Of course, but research is easy. It can be done anytime with a mere fraction of the internal gusto that it takes to actually put pen to paper. Producing a product is the most important thing. Does research result in production? No. It never can. The only thing it can do is enhance the information content and credibility of a piece.
Production then should not be a concentrated effort on making something perfect. It should be a practice. Something you show up to regularly and consistently. Something you do when your tired, energetic, happy, depressed, vibrant, or hungover. It is work towards overcoming whatever internal challenges you feel at the time. They say practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. And perfect practice is regular and consistent. It’s something you show up for again and again regardless of internal or external circumstances.
Two fighters are preparing for a match. One fighter has spent hours and hours doing push-ups, and jump rope. The other fighter spends all his time hitting the heavy bag and sparring. Which one will win?
Let’s look at it this way: the first fighter has spent all his time and effort to become good at doing push-ups and jump rope. If they were in a jump rope contest surely he would be the winner. But this ain’t no jump rope contest; this is a fight, and the fighter who spend his time getting good at fighting (sparring) is going to win.
The ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.
Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
What becomes clear, is that those who show up to do work, to move things around even when they’re not perfect (especially when they’re not perfect!) do much better than those who sit around stuck in their own “analysis parlysis” trying to come with the perfect execution. They haven’t been practicing execution, they’ve been practicing analysis, so when its execution time what are they left with?
This principle cuts at my personal behavior in a deep way. In a very real sense I have an anxiety of what other people think about me, which is both silly and irrational, but if I could make it dissapear I would. I have often found myself sitting around practically trying to not take necessary and dramatic action because I’m afraid that the execution will be horrible and will reflect badly on me. Guess what: not taking action reflects badly on you, worse than taking imperfect action. Its time to change this mode of thinking and put some points up on the board, no matter if the shots are ugly, as long as they make it in the basket.