It’s that time of year again, when Santa is going to be checking his list to see who’s been naughty or nice. And it’s time for sin #5 in our series on The Seven Deadly Sins, as they apply to Art and Artists. We’ve hit ENVY, WRATH, PRIDE, GREED/GLUTTONY, and now we’re going to talk about SLOTH.
No, not that kind of sloth.
No, not that kind either.
Sloth means laziness. Now, sure, we all get lazy sometimes, but I don’t think that’s a very common sin among artists. Not professional ones, at least. If your drive to create didn’t overwhelm your laziness, you probably never became a professional artist in the first place. But if you go back to the old school latin-language sins, sloth was actually called acedia. And that’s a much more complex idea. Acedia is loosely defined as a state in which you can’t get anything done — listlessness, ennui, boredom, depression, a lack of focus, but also anxiety, and racing of the mind. It’s a kind of mental funk that doesn’t let you get anything productive done.
Acedia was referred to as the “monk’s sickness” and personified as a demon that came to tempt the minds of diligent monks away from their prayers, or their manuscripts that needed illuminating.
|Acedia depicted by Pieter Bruegel the elder.|
Whether we are depressed, or anxious, or lazy, or overwhelmed, this sin is about not being able to get shit done even when we really really want to. We all procrastinate. There’s a lot of reasons for it, least of which, in my experience, is laziness. (My previous post on procrastination is a personal fave and was illustrated with Dune quotes, in case you missed it.) So how do we battle the Demon Acedia? We learn how to focus.
Then there’s more involved productivity systems out there that can help you minimize your overwhelmed feelings. Getting Things Done is the old classic, but I prefer the revised and simplified version, Zen To Done. People swear by The Pomodoro Method. Honestly it doesn’t matter which you pick, it’s about forming a habit that will put you on autopilot thru the funks.
Here’s the TED talk by Andy Puddicombe, who is the founder of Headspace:
That’s how I’m trying to maximize my focus and my time, and keep acedia at bay. If you have a good suggestion, definitely share it in the comments…