A couple of years ago, I looked in the mirror as I struggled to button my trousers and said, “You fat bastard, get to the gym.” I dutifully signed up for a gym membership, got a trainer and vowed earnestly to show up. My initial physical assessment was depressing. I was fat indeed. But, energized by novelty, I showed up at my first appointment with visions of a lithe me doing handsprings in my head.
God, it was grueling. I was red faced and puffing a few minutes into the session. I clearly had an awfully long way to go. How would I stick to it rather than retiring to a pint of ice cream on the couch? The financial commitment was somewhat helpful; I’d optimistically bought an expensive package of training sessions so I couldn’t very well blow it off outright. Instead I just started to space the sessions further and further apart, from three weekly sessions to one that I managed to fill with chitchat rather than cardio.
Here’s this week’s excuse. We’re in the middle of the biggest shoot we’ve done for Sketchbook Skool and I have been debating all week with the monkey on getting out this podcast. We’ve been at it from the crack o’ dawn till well into the dinner hour every single day this week and the Fuggedabout-It monkey has been gleefully urging me to skip posting a new episode for the first time.
I almost gave in a few times until the Perfectionist monkey chimed in to say, “What!? I thought you said this was gonna be a weekly podcast. You can’t miss an episode, you lazy buttwipe.”
I would nod earnestly until another voice piped up to tell me no one listens to or cares about the podcast, another would say I never follow through with anything, another said I was being a slave driver and it was time for a cold beer, and on and on till the break a dawn.
Which bring me to the podcast itself which you are about to listen to (I hope). It’s about how the monkey moves the goal posts, giving any sort of contradictory advice it wants, anything that fits its agenda and derails mine.
I had a nice chat about this topic and many others Ilise Benun. She is the founder of Marketing-Mentor.com where she dispenses sound, actionable advice for creative professionals. Ilise has been coaching freelancers and creative business owners for thirty years and has written more than a half dozen book essential books on how to build and manage your practice, connect with great clients, and be smarter and happier in what you do. She is intelligent and empathetic, and her counsel is practical and clear.
An interesting discussion on procrastination and its antidotes flared up on our Facebook group this morning. In case you’re not yet a member, I am reproducing my response here. There were even more interesting POVs from other members posted there.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao-tzu
I find that if I really want to do something, I find the time, The question is how to make myself really want to do what I think I should do. Sometimes drawing falls into that category because I know that if I become more and more irregular in my practice, the results are less satisfying which decreases my desire to do it, and so on.
The biggest obstacle generally lies across the threshold, the first step is the biggest one. Once I start in on a project, it becomes all encompassing and procrastination is no longer a factor. The ball is rolling.
My most potent solution has been to break any task into bite size pieces. I can conceive of doing a small drawing in ink but not painting a whole canvas or filling a sketchbook. So I think about it when I walk to work, mull over the things I could draw and what sort of significance they might have to me. I find that writing is rolle dinto that contemplation and sometimes I’ll write down a sentence on the pievce of paper I carry in my jacket or text myself a line or two on my phone. That sort of early work keeps the embers glowing so when I get home, I am raring to go. Then I’ll do the drawing in ink, telling myself that’s all I need to do, it’ll just take a few minutes. Then , as I get into doing the drawing, I find time evaporates and I spend more and more time until I like the results. Then I walk away. One of the things about working with a dip pen is you have to leave the piece a while to let it dry. That brief intermission gives me perspective and then I think of the painted layer as a new project, but also bite sized. I have all my paints and sumi ink hand and I just hop on it. Sometimes, I am too impatient and screw things up because my India ink is still not 100% dry. I guess that sort of sloppiness is my signature style, at least that’s what I tell myself.
Anyway, this approach, convincing oneself to just spend a minute climbing to the first rung, seems to work quite well for me. I have written a dozen books this way, one paragraph at a time (Anne Lamott calls it “One bird at a time” in her book of the same name), fitting in the time to create between meetings and obligations and family time and haircuts.
It’s how I wrote this overlong answer to your question*, when I really should be brushing my teeth and getting to work.
* A member kicked off the discussion with her question: “Procrastination seems to be a real roadblock to creativity…I do it myself, I would like to hear how others overcome the urge to *do other things* instead of art…”
What do you think? Answer here or on the Facebook group page. Don’t put it off!