In this 5-part series (released over five weeks) I will be sharing what I believe are some of the most important qualities in being an effective artist. I will then invite you to participate in an exercise related to each post and offer you some thoughtful questions (and maybe even some resources) to help you on your way. Let's get started!
TIP 4 - BE PATIENT
For those of you playing along at home, you might have noticed that I skipped several weeks in posting Tip 4 for my five-part series on how to be a better artist.
Funny story about that.
Turns out, I had Tip 4 all ready to go and was about to hit “publish” when it occurred to me that it wasn’t quite ready. It was missing something–a thing I couldn’t quite put my finger on—and I just couldn’t bring myself to launch it into the world with that nagging feeling still hanging on. That’s when I realized, I needed to slow down and take a deeper look.
When I did that, several interesting things happened.
First, doubt rushed in, and with that came a flood of unhelpful thoughts.
Slowing down meant that I would not be releasing a blog "on time” (even though I am the one who determines when “on time” is in the first place).
I questioned myself about why I was bothering with blogging at all. This is when I usually pull out several of my old classics and put them on the turntable. Precious gems like:
"No one cares anyway.”
“You’re the only one listening.”
“Makes you think (you have anything to say)?”
And the B-side classic, “Is this thing still on?"
I began to criticize and shame myself for being (I don’t know…just not a writer).
I knew all I needed to know about getting on the horse and just writing, despite my lack of inspiration.
I was the undisciplined coach.
As the days turned into weeks, my delays began to harden, like concrete drying around my ankles. What was once a harmless foul was now more like a burden, at least inside my own head.
Then I became ill. Actually, we all did. Everyone in the house was pinned to the mat with influenza. This was followed by a week of recovery and, eventually, a trip out of town for a week.
And so it goes.
Stopping is only quitting if you fail to get back to work in the end.
That’s TIP 4. Be patient. Don’t give up. Stay committed. And when you are able, get back to work.
After missing my goal and floundering in front of an audience, I would eventually be faced with a moment of decision. Was this thing still happening? Am I a writer who writes? Was I going to continue blogging? Was it finally time to give up on myself, submit to the chaos inside my head, and be an older, more-defeated version of myself?
The illness. The exhaustion. The self-doubt. The fear. The existence of “better” artists. The struggles of home and work life. One flipping thing after another. It’s more than enough to turn a motivated person into a napping Cheeto vacuum.
We all must stop from time to time—and there are lots and lots of legitimate reasons for doing so—but stopping is only quitting if you fail to get back to work in the end. With the simple decision to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going, you can turn what felt like total surrender into a mere moment of pause.
And so that's what I'm encouraging you to do.
Be patient. Don’t give up. Stay committed.
And when you are able, get back to work doing the things that make you feel alive.
EXERCISE: EXTEND YOURSELF SOME GRACE
Remember, you are the author of your story, not some hapless victim. You hold the pen and therefore determine the outcomes.
With that in mind, think of something that you have seemingly given up on and ask yourself if you are truly finished with it or were, perhaps, just taking a break. Consider the possibility that you've just been working something out in the back of your mind—some sort of riddle that needed solved—and maybe now is the time to return and pick it back up.
Alternatively, maybe it's finally time to retire that project or idea. Just as you should not feel like a failure for having things in limbo, there is also no good reason for allowing yourself to suffer over something that should have been formally put out to pasture long ago. In other words, if a project is dead or you are somehow certain that you mean to be done with it, then stop feeling guilty about its condition, let it go, and free up that mind-space for something else.
1 - How much of your delays are caused by fear? How much is the result of poor time management? What else could be slowing you down? Take some time to really tease apart the different reasons for your delays in an effort to make some meaningful adjustments.
2 - Does shame play a recurring role in your creative process? If so, it may do some good to take a little time to sort that out. After all, if you intend to continue creating, then it truly behooves you to find a way to do so with an abundance of self-compassion and grace. Shame—no matter how finely you slice it—only makes a shit sandwich.
3 - Who are some people you can include in your creative process? Allowing trusted people into your process can empower you with some of the motivation and push needed to carry projects to completion. Don't short change yourself. Give yourself the gift of (whatever you need) to be the artist you long to be.
EAT THAT FROG!
We all know that 'patience' can be a nice word that we give to procrastination. I found this book to be a useful tool in teasing apart my real need for more time from my tendency to procrastinate. As such, I reccommend it for your collection. To purchase, click here or on the book above.
Do you have any other suggestions for exercises, questions, or resources? If so, please share in the comments!
And here are the links to the other parts of this series (as they become available):
TIP 1: BE HONEST
TIP 3: BE VULNERABLE