Ever hear of the three P’s? Perfection. Procrastination. Paralysis.
I used to start a piece needing it to be the best thing ever: perfection. It had to solve every problem of my portfolio development, it had to stimulate, it had to thrill, it had to make clients call me, it had to make women weep.
It was too much to accomplish. So, I hesitated: procrastination. The more I hesitated, the bigger the problem became, until it was so great I couldn’t start since it would surely fail on any level: paralysis. Idea abandoned.
It was simply fear.
Below are a few things I’ve used over the years to forge ahead. Once in a while, after having put in tons of effort on other paintings, a new one pops out almost having painted itself, as the saying goes. These points will work for you. I promise, but you have to apply them. Don’t wait for inspiration. It’s fickle and unreliable.
And no, there aren’t exactly ten points here. Sometimes, we just don’t need that much to begin.
1. Force a deadline.
I give myself a deadline. Could be a week, a day, an hour. For example: ‘I must put something on the page by 3 pm or I will get “those feelings” back.’ Feelings of inadequacy. A pit in my gut that suggests that time is passing and I’ve nothing to show for it. Life is full of distractions. That’s why I clear a path, make room, and show up on time for my own deadline. I begin whether I want to or not.
2. Seek stimulation.
Lots of times I look at others’ work. Studying the paint, the color, the shapes, the ideas of other painters stimulates something deep inside. I want to feel the same strokes, I want to understand the same feelings for myself. I can barely contain wanting to experience that quest.
3. Make it urgent.
I’ve always been in a hurry. I’m not sure why, other than I have a very heartfelt impression of life being very short. Always have. I hate wasting time on worry or hesitation. (even though I trip over both) I know that every effort I make now is rewarded down the line by saving me future effort.
4. Use fear.
There’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, I should be afraid. If I feel fearful, I know I’m on to something. I am about to discover what makes me tick. I want it to be authentic and real, and I fear that I might be an imposter. Everyone does. So forget that junk. We’re all afraid of discovery. At first.
5. Fail first.
Sometimes, I have to fail first. I don’t want to fail because it’s irritating and painful, and absolutely no fun. But I know that failure leads to interesting combinations, better solutions, success. We’ve spent thousands of years evolving, learning, testing. There is no other way. Yes, sometimes things come quickly, but only after tons of effort. Make that effort. Rinse and repeat.
6. Share the struggle.
I listen to and watch other painters talk about their struggles, their form, their techniques, research, and discoveries. The patterns are similar and the principles are always the same. I glean enthusiasm and inspiration from watching other artists penetrate the same travails that I encounter. And I steal their magic powers to push on through.
7. Just begin.
There is ONLY this. Prepared or not, begin. When I write, I don’t get writer’s block. I know from painting what is needed. I must start drawing, immediately. The writer must start putting words on paper. Doesn’t matter how bad, a writer will break that hesitation by throwing words on paper. Same for me. I put thumbnails down. The sooner the better. It breaks every spell. I can start to understand the problem, build the mood, the expression. Nothing is solved or expressed until I throw down a perimeter and draw within it. Nothing.