I'm having a sort of love affair with female comedians. Even the librarians of our fantastic Indianapolis Public Library system must cock their heads a little to the side as they shelve the books I request online. Because really, how many Chelsea Handler books do you need at one time? I don't know. Maybe ALL OF THEM. But it has been a male comedian that has caught my eye as of late. He's been around a long time and his schtick with the Soup Nazi has now been re-enacted and quoted by more than a couple generations courtesy of back-to-back reruns. Yeah, it's Jerry Seinfeld and he's going to help me out with my procrastination problem.
The “sit down” for me is the problem here. Like you, I expect a lot from myself in a day. The to-do list runs the gamut from family to work to household. Pepper that expansive list with other line items like relationships and exercise, and you got yourself some things to get done. But for me, the to-do list for generating my creative task is always the rub. I want to create, but struggle to do so. It's that taking the seat and beginning that's tough. And when I went to explore online the remedy for procrastination in creativity, it was Jerry Seinfeld who took my hand and gave me some great advice.
You gotta listen to the guy. According to Forbes magazine, at the peak of his earnings in 1998, Seinfeld made $267 million dollars. Not in a decade. That was in one year. Comedy Central regards him as one of the “Top 100 Comedians of All-Time” and of course he was the cocreator and cowriter of Seinfeld, a long-running (nine seasons) sitcom that received numerous awards including TV Guide calling it the greatest television program of all time. Not too shabby. Seinfeld is both a long-lived and successful comedian by almost any measure of wealth, fame and critical acclaim. What's more -- and to me, most –- is that he is incredibly consistent, generating good work as each year passes. He's the real deal.
In an interview on Lifehacker, comedian Brad Isaac shared his conversation with Jerry Seinfeld while backstage when both comedians where performing at a comedy club. Isaac asked Seinfeld if he had “any tips for a young comic.” Here's an excerpt from Isaac's conversation with Seinfeld:
"He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes, and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.
"He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
“After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
Nothing was said about results or motivation. Not a word was mentioned about the quality of jokes and the success that would follow. All that mattered was “not breaking the chain.” The strategy, although so simple it seems almost trite, helps to take the focus off of the individual performance and places the emphasis on the process instead. You shelve how you feel along with how motivated or inspired you are. You just do. And then the next day you do the same, and pretty soon you have hopefully a month of dos and something to show from it, tangible or not.
I'm going to try it. First to Amazon.com to order the calendar,and then Staples for my large read Sharpie. Then let the Xs fly. And if I miss a day and break my chain, there's always tomorrow, always keeping in mind what the Soup Nazi says as he dismisses the customer from the counter, “NEXT!”