Soon after this revamped website went up, a very good friend of mine asked me a question: Do you ever have a hard time finishing a project (one with no deadline) that you’ve started? If so, how do you move past that?
I told her there’s no hard answer. A glance inside my massive studio complex will show that there are a lot of unfinished projects leaning up against various corners gathering cobwebs, dust and god knows what else. And that’s because when the going gets tough, I quit.
That may fly in the face of what motivational experts and career counselors might say, but I don’t care.
Hell, I quit making art, period, for two years. But I came back, and I’m now happier and more focused than I ever was before I stopped.
My thought is that if you’ve hit some kind of wall, whether it’s running out of interest or you don’t know what to do next or you thought you knew what to do next but what you did ruined it, by all means quit. Stop. Walk away.
But here’s the second part: do something easier. If you’re stuck on a painting, go make a simpler, smaller painting. If you’re stuck on a drawing, go doodle. Or bake a cake. Or write a poem. Anything that only takes a few minutes is always good.
The point is to do something else that is also creative, just not as hard. It helps to keep the juices and the creative actions flowing, and shows you that making art can actually be fun. Frankly it should be fun. Or at least satisfying.
The artist/businesswoman Ann Rea helps struggling artists figure out their deals, and while I disagree with a lot of her premise, she has an interesting exercise for figuring out creative blocks. She says that as an artist, you are the boss. And the employee. So, the boss should ask the employee why she or he can’t finish the thing. Then, the employee should ask the boss why it is so important to finish it. Then you have a conversation about whether or not the boss is providing the employee with the tools they need to do the job.
One last thing, and I can’t believe it took me almost fifty years to finally realize what everyone said was true. Keep a sketchbook, and do something in it every day, if you can. Doodle, draw, write, collage, anything. Even if it only takes twenty seconds. Don’t worry if it isn’t any good. It shouldn’t be. It’s a sketchbook.
It doesn’t even have to be a sketchbook. Notebook, pad of paper, whatever, just something you can carry around in a pocket. It will keep you creative, and that will keep you thinking creatively.
And that is especially important for those of us (like my friend, as well as myself) who have a life to lead. A life that includes making a living, being a parent and/or a spouse, and dealing with all the other stuff that will keep you from being the artist that you are.
Ten minutes. Three minutes. Twenty seconds. You’re worth it.
Wow. I should be doing seminars at that Holiday Inn out by the airport.