by Bethany | October 26, 2017
Here’s your answer on the most basic of questions! “How do I begin?”
Think of what you can accomplish in just one month if you could only begin today….
“How in the world do you have the time?”
“I am not creative at all.”
“I can’t draw a stick figure.”
If you’re an artist or an aspiring one most likely you’ve heard these phrases 10,000 times. I hear them almost daily when I talk about my work and it is a constant mission to teach and educate others… it really is just about beginning. It’s not magic and it’s absolutely not about pure talent.
Learning and practicing any craft begins with courage and a leap. We are often unwilling to start something when we can’t imagine our success or success is so distant it seems impossible. It’s the nature of being human. We are guarded and careful, testing the waters of ability and strengths. Deciding things about ourselves based on fear or someone else words.
“We deny that in order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly. Instead, we opt for setting our limits at the point where we feel assured of success….Usually, when we say we can’t do something, what we mean is that we won’t do something unless we can guarantee that we’ll do it perfectly.” – Julia Cameron
We assume things about ourselves based on *very little* information. People who say “I can’t draw a stick figure” have probably never actually sat down and tried to learn (or maybe they’re scared, or maybe they don’t like drawing people, or maybe their pencil wasn’t sharp). You have to begin somewhere even if it’s with a dull pencil on a piece of grocery sack paper.
I can’t play the banjo, but I know I could learn if I put in the practice. I am not wonderful at Yoga, but by practicing I can improve. When you have a “practice” in anything…be it wood-working, knitting, painting, running, writing, singing, or dancing you don’t reach an end-point. Like “oh! I’m done now! There’s no more to learn! I got it!”
So…how to begin?
I have made a habit of creativity for long enough to recognize my patterns. In order to develop a habit though, you need to have a game-plan to begin.
1. Start small – make little goals that don’t seem insurmountable. If you’re faced with a task that is too hard, you’re more likely to say “to heck with this” and give up.
2. Eliminate too many options – simplify your process. People get confused and overwhelmed when they’re faced with too many resources, too many ideas, too many goals. Pick one that is doable.
3. Visualize – close your eyes and visualize yourself in the process of your new habit. How does it look and feel? What is the one goal you want to accomplish in this session? Don’t just imagine your finished product, imagine yourself in the process.
4. Be patient with yourself – research states that it can take anywhere from 21 to 60 days to form a daily habit. Be gentle and kind. After all, this is a practice.
This is how my day starts:
I put on my favorite pandora station (which seems to change seasonally), light a candle, and I sit. I look through resources and references, my mind wanders a little. I pin some paper to my board and walk across the room and stare at it.
I go inward.
It is my habit to remove the world like an onion skin. I want to soak into my painting.
I realize that something will exist on that support in an hour or three (or more) and I have to ask “what are you?” I muddle with my thoughts and almost always come to agreement with my intuition that yes, the painting I’m imagining belongs on that specific piece of paper. When I don’t agree with my gut, the painting is usually unsatisfactory, frustrating, and burdensome. Wrestling with our intuition (right brain) vs. our analytical mind (left brain) is key here.
I imagine first, paint second.
“Creativity is…seeing something that doesn’t exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God. – Michele Shea
I don’t paint many multiples of studies and variations on a single painting possibly because of this practice. Some paintings only exist for that particular time and energy. I may paint the same piece with a different crop or aspect ratio but that’s seldom. The important thing to grasp is every artist is different and all have different practices that work for them. Something exciting and new is waiting for you.
You may not have the time to sit and wait and listen to your intuition. It is hard to feel clumsy and new in your efforts. It is often frustrating to be backed up against a wall of limited time and energy. Life is just so busy. Everything pulls at us and wants our attention when really we just want to watch Stranger Things on Netflix and eat Captain Crunch to dull the day away.
It all begins with retreating into a space that is yours alone. This may be a room, a corner, a closet! It is somewhere for just you.
When you are alone, you can focus. Silence your phone, turn on some music (I choose instrumental so the words won’t distract me), and relax. Breathe deep. Recognize in yourself that “success” is relative and subjective. Whatever happens with that day, it is about growth, learning, and dedication. Remind yourself that though the world wants to say success is measured by money and fame (and is constantly reminding us of our lack of it), you are the one who gets to decide your success. Maybe the goal is just to get something down, even if it’s a scribble. The goal could be to focus on tree shapes or studying value. Sometimes the goal is just to listen to a podcast or read a book or article about an artist you admire. Those daily habits form a web of knowledge intermingled with experience. Those two together are power! Even when the day gets away, you can do one thing that moves you forward. The energy you spend in practicing comes back two-fold.
“I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.” – Duke Ellington
What is holding you back? Often, it’s just to decide.
What have you always wanted to do? I bet your intuition will tell you.
What are you waiting for? You can begin today.
p.s. this post contains affiliate links