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Completion Anxiety - Corinne O'Flynn
February 4, 2011

You might not be procrastinating if…  

Continuing with the theme of yesterday’s Thursday Haiku, I wanted to share something that has come up a few times recently.  Once with one of my sisters and once with another artist friend.  Each of us is drawn to work in creative endeavors.  I write. My sister is a musician. My friend is an artist. All of us have been having a hard time getting that next step completed.

My sister was lamenting the fact that she hadn’t made time to get to the studio to lay down some tracks. My friend was lamenting the fact that she hadn’t made time to get her portfolio in order.  I was lamenting that I hadn’t made time to get through this portion of a rewrite I’m working on.  It’s not like we really are procrastinating.  Well, actually, this might be the definition of procrastinating, but it’s the reason why we were not making time that I think is at the core of the problem.

I think most times people procrastinate because a job is tedious or boring and we’d rather pluck out our eyelashes than get it done.  Like doing your taxes, organizing the fridge, or cleaning the toilet.  But working on your art does not fall in the same category.  Not at all.

I have a theory about it.  It goes something like this: 

You’re not finishing it because it really, really matters to you. It matters more than most things. You are compelled, like Gollum, to be able to have your Precious in its finest form.  The more you avoid completing your project the closer you come to looking like poor Gollum.  It’s the stress, it killses us.  So, no, you are not actually procrastinating in the classic sense.  You suffer from what I am calling Completion Anxiety. This is your Art. Your Precious. It is not just that you have to finish it.  The issue is when you finish it you have to put it out there… you have put your money where your mouth is.  So, you’re a writer?  Let me read. You’re a musician? Let’s hear it.  You’re an artist? Let’s see what you’ve got.


You hesitate. Not because you’re lying. You are what you say you are. You have a huge catalog of your writing/music/art. You just forgot to package it all with the little spritz of confidence that most other people seem to have remembered.  So, instead of putting it out there and puffing up your chest to shout from the rooftops, you quietly move through the shadows and often times, you stall.

Does this happen to you?

About the Author Corinne

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  1. I agree, sometimes procrastination has more to do with worrying over perfection than putting off a monster of a task. I always feel like I have to be in the right frame of mind to sit down and write. Not because I’m putting it off, but because I want my BEST words on the page. The truth is, I should worry less and write more. Great post!

  2. I like your use of the Precious as a metaphor for writing. I find the opposite: I want to write all the time but laundry, picking up the kids, cooking, and sleeping get in the way.

  3. I hear that Susan! But when 9pm rolls around or they are all in school (and I am not loopy on pain meds, lol) I seem to sit a bit lately as I near the end of a project. *sigh*

  4. I do believe there is a time in a writer’s life when he or she completes something. Usually it is when it is published. Anytime before that…it can be changed, again.

    But maybe now it’s time to just write something else. This is also part of the process. What is calling you when you sit down at the white space?

  5. The short book, THE WAR OF ART, by Steven Pressfield,
    helped me see that creative people face something called “resistance” to doing creative work. Strongest recommendation.

  6. I have heard the saying “Perfection Prevents Production,” or Completion; and feel we sometimes run into it in life.

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