February 22, 2018


Practical Matters:
Practical Matters

By Colleen Doran


Overcome procrastination: 

I suppose procrastination is different for everyone, but for me, procrastination is more about performance anxiety than anything else. It has been crippling at times. I suppose that getting into comics in the 1980’s when women creators weren’t very welcome had a rather serious effect on my self-confidence, and no matter how many nice things are said about my work, there is always the little voice in the back of my head telling me to go work at McDonald’s. 

Next month, I will have my art at a gallery in Vienna which should give me a fat head, but when you are insecure, you just sit around and worry about whether anyone will like what they will see. Every piece of blank paper is an enemy. Every deadline is terrifying. For someone who absolutely loved to draw and was winning awards for it from the age of five, performance anxiety is a learned behavior and like any learned behavior, it can be unlearned. 

I went to great lengths to learn how to control the anxiety even going so far as to do one of those motivational fire-walk seminars where a stroll across a bed of hot coals was the graduation ceremony. All procrastination is linked to some kind of anxiety or discomfort. In other words, the pain of producing the work becomes greater and more real than the reward of doing the work. This can simply be knowing that you are working with a difficult creative team, or having a really tight deadline that makes the job unpleasant. Whatever, the trick is to learn how to make the pain of not doing the work more real than the pain of doing it. 

I use a simple two-step process. First, I recreate the feelings and circumstances that enabled me to work at a time when work was pure pleasure. The best time for drawing and writing for me was when I was a kid in my room and I spent hours and hours working on my stories or drawing pictures simply for the fun of doing it. The work was not meant to be seen by anyone. It was just for me. I sat on my frilly canopy bed with a lapboard on my knees and worked for hours every single day and it was heaven. Whenever I hit a snag, I go right back there. I get away from the drawing board, I grab my lapboard and I go to my room. I put up the frilly pillows, put something silly into my DVD player, and get something to eat or drink that is bad for me. It takes me back to the time when I was a kid drawing for fun and it never fails to work for me.

If you are having a procrastination problem, try to visualize and imitate a time in your life when the work was going great. Then recreate that moment. It’s the same technique that athletes use and it really, really works. Try it for yourself. It might take a little practice to visualize, but you’re a creative person, so it should come to you eventually. Try to recreate the mood with some old music or even get something to eat that you used to like as a kid.

Second, try a technique called “The Dickens Model”. This is a great one for visualizing the consequences of bad habits and behaviors. Close your eyes and visualize what it is about your life that is not working. Think of the things you are doing that are working against your goals. Make a strong picture in your mind about it. Then think of how bad things are going to be in five years if you don’t change those behaviors. Give yourself a strong picture and be honest with yourself. Then picture the consequences of your behavior in ten years. Then in another fifteen. Pretty grim, hunh? Now, roll that mental image in your mind like a movie going backwards, until you are in the here and now. Then, carefully picture yourself changing those bad habits and self-defeating behaviors. Project that image ahead another five years. You’ve made some great changes and your life is much improved. Roll it ahead another ten years. Then fifteen. Now hold onto that positive image and take it back with you to the present. You now have a strong mental image of your life with two very different outcomes.

In the first picture, you never made the changes you should have made. In the second, you got your act together and you turned your life around. If the comparison between the two images doesn’t cure your procrastination, nothing will.



Learn to turn tasks over to others. If you’re a control freak like me, even letting someone else vacuum your floor is a major issue. If you’re not, this advice will not be any problem for you. The advice is simply to let other people take on some of your workload. Whatever is not essential to producing and creating, try to hand it off to others, either family members or someone that you hire. 

There are a lot of things that you can delegate. For me, I broke down and hired my mother to be my assistant some years ago. She lives a half hour away, likes the work, and is very handy for doing things like spotting blacks and picking up the mail, little tasks like that can eat up hours every week. When money is very good, I use a maid service. For some reason, the maid cleans the house much faster and more efficiently than I do. I would spend the weekend getting the house together. She does it in about two hours and that is a big time and money saver, especially while I am on deadline. 

My years self publishing convinced me that trying to do everything myself was not only impossible, it was going to kill me, so learning to let others do the ephemera freed me to do the important things like writing and drawing. The only warning is that hiring friends can be a problem, especially if some of your friends are fans that may not be as keen on respecting your privacy as they ought to be. Many pros have had books and art filched by fans they have let in their homes. Most fans are great people, but some are not. Be careful whom you let in your life.

Well, that’s all my sage advice for now. Hope it helps.


Colleen Doran is the creator, writer, and artist behind the popular series, A DISTANT SOIL, published by Image Comics. Having cumulatively sold over 500,000 copies of ADS, Colleen has been featured in such books and publications as
Comic Book Rebels and Sassy. Colleen's work has also appeared in X-FACTOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA, WONDER WOMAN, and X-MEN UNLIMITED. 


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