Everybody Wants The Medal, but Only a Few are Willing to Run the Race…This Demon called Procrastination…

This is an open letter to all my fellow artists and anybody who has a dream they are struggling to achieve:

“Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.”  I’m not sure who said this, but it is an extremely true statement.

Procrastination has been the ugly monster in the corner for most of my life.  It was shocking to learn that many people who do procrastinate are also perfectionist.  Anyone who has ever worked with me could probably vouch for that.  My sister teasingly calls me a slave driver because I won’t stop until it is as close to perfect as it can get.  But that same enthusiasm can be hard to crank up, especially when things are not flowing the way I think they should.  When I get creative blocks, they can last for months if I don’t do anything about them.  Some of my ideas have even taken years to come to fruition because I dragged my foot about them.

Finally, I had to take a long hard look at my behavior because it was counter-productive.  I finally noticed the clock ticking, my window of opportunity closing and I knew it was time to get busy quick.  Most of it went back to fear.  Fear of change, fear of failure and mainly fear of success.  I use to dismiss that idea whenever I heard it, thinking that didn’t apply to me.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be successful?  It’s a lot better than being financially strapped.  But as I started to go inside and unlayer why it took me so long to start on projects, I discovered a lot.  A fear that I was running out of time, fear I would fail, fear I would be rejected, fear I would be bored, fear it would take forever to even get started, fear I would be overwhelmed, fear that things would work out and my life would pass me by, fear that I would hit very well and I wouldn’t be able to top myself, fear I would leave those I love behind.

Weirdly enough, once I got started on something, it was tough to pull me off.  It was just the cranking myself up that proved to be difficult.  Now I had to cut myself some slack.  I work a full-time job and am working on side projects for other people.  So my creative real estate is often rented out to others when I’m trying to access it for myself.  I’m also taking a shit load of professional development courses so that I can better understand and implement certain things on my projects and usually by the end of the day, that wipes me out too.

So armed with all this information, I made some choices recently.  I made the choice to set some real goals, exactly what I want and start creating mini goals to get there.  A great portion of goal accomplishment is working through the blocks and often times, I struggle in that department, but I have to force myself to do it.  I also have to begin with the end in mind and head for the abyss/the unknown.  Is that scary as fuck?  Hell yes!  I’m changing my entire life.  Anything that I find comfortable, I now question whether or not it is really serving me.

I come from a city where there is a lot of talent, but not a lot of ambition.  So sadly this, “Hurry up and wait” attitude was modeled for me at a very young age.  There are many with big dreams and they shout their dreams to the top of world, but their actions betray their words.  I know some artist who have told me how far they want to go, but involve themselves with a mate who is comfortable here.  Or they become irresponsible with drugs, sex or both.  They have children whom they cannot support and are forced to give up or drastically limit what they want to do.

Thankfully, we live in a time where it is much easier for women to still go for their dreams full throttle and toat the little ones along, but sadly it is very difficult (not impossible) to do without emotional and financial support.  It also difficult to do when involved with a mate of limited thinking.  I lost years off of my own path consuming myself with past boyfriends who did not understand me or what I wanted.  To them, I wasn’t normal and although thankfully I’ve never dated anyone who tried to hold me back, I did find myself dating people who just didn’t get me nor understand the mind, habits and behavior of artistic people or their lifestyle in general. I often joke that to be an artist carries a certain amount of neurosis that the average person simply will not understand. And I can honestly say that I would be much further along had it not been for the constant distractions I let in dealing with men who did not understand me, my quirks or my vision…and if I wasn’t chasing up behind them trying to force them see accept me too.

To this day, I see talented actors, still quite young, never leaving the city to see could they make it in the bigger city.  I see talented singers who want a shot at the big time, try a few times and then give up when it doesn’t happen right away or when a producer cuts them off.  The most frustrating trend lately I’ve been seeing are talented artist in the many vessels of art not learning how to promote themselves.  We live in a time that never before did we have at our fingertips what we have now – the internet.

But I can’t tell you how many artist don’t know HTML or CSS or even Photoshop.  Just some basic things to help them position themselves.  Or the ones who do, instead building relationships choose to SPAM instead. And the ones who only go to sites like Twitter or Facebook when they have an event to promote, but never come back just to engage with people and wonder why nobody shows up.  It doesn’t work like that folks.  Just like in real life, grassroots marketing starts with relationships.  And you have to be just as genuinely interested in those other people as you want them to be in you.

Let’s not forget the main dish – the product.  That’s a major annoyance.  It doesn’t have to look perfect, but at least let it be professional.  Musicians, get your music professionally mastered.  Work with either a professional photographer or one that has a good eye and understands the art of light.  Filmmakers, invest in good sound and good actors.  Don’t just cast people because they are your friends.  Do market research, find a different way to tell a story.  There are probably 1 million stories done about the mafia and “Scarface”, if you choose to be 1 million and 1, find a unique angle that has never been dealt with before.  Although everything has already been done, every angle has not been examined.  Do professional development, study other screenplays.  If your goal is to be commercially successful (singers included too), study the market.  See what is trending.  It doesn’t mean you have to do what they are doing, but it will give you deeper intelligence into your competition so you can strategize on ways to stand out.

Know that procrastination is usually based in fear.  So do whatever you have to do to get the roots of that fear and pluck it and if all else fails DO IT SCARED AND DO IT EVEN IF YOU ARE UNMOTIVATED!  The motivation usually kicks in when you see progress is being made.

Actors, get professional head shots.  Learn a (published) dramatic and comedic monologue and being able to rip it when asked.  If you want a shot at the big time, know that most likely you are going to have to leave Memphis (or whatever small time city you may come from).  Writers…LIVE!  If you’ve never lived, you have nothing to write about.  Embrace life’s setbacks as more material.  Read the papers, study court cases, read books, listen to music and keep writing.

Lastly, don’t wait to be discovered.  This works for some, but not most.  If you can’t afford a publicist, become your own until you can.  Know that you will make mistakes, know that you will piss some reporters off (I know I have), but that’s how you learn.  Learn marketing and advertising.  Bring people on your team who are passionate about you, your success and limit your mental space to the ones who aren’t.

If you are in a relationship that brings more drama than peace – let it go!  It will be difficult to get anything done always having to worry about someone else’s actions.  And I’m a living testament to that.  If you have friends who focus more on your shortcomings than they do your accomplishments, you may want to reconsider those friendships.  It’s a distraction.

And know that you will fail.  Anybody who doesn’t fail, doesn’t know what real success looks like.  But whatever you do, DO SOMETHING!  It’s nice to sit around with our friends and converse about life over cappucino’s at Starbucks, but eventually, if you want a different life, you are going to have to do some different things.  And start by saying “No!” to procrastination.

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