Blank Spaces

For me, and I assume many of us, the hardest part of creating is just getting started. And I find there are two parts to that getting started business: deciding and doing. I have to make the decision to start a project or whatever, which is overcoming inertia. Difficult in physics and life. If I conquer committing to start then there’s a second hill to get over. After the tools and materials are brought out and it’s all just sitting there blank I usually hit hesitation round two. At this point I’m often fighting the urge to peel off and do something that doesn’t require thinking too much.

Sometimes that happens. There’s always something strange or wonderful to find on Reddit. But most of the time I get started and accomplish at least something. And there are practices that help.

A few years ago – due date for a show looming – I got good at going into the studio at regular hours each day. It wasn’t a revelation, just the practical response to my situation borrowed from my office gig. I’d go in and see where I was on my paintings and figure out something to work on. Some days were good, others not so much. Soon bargaining was happening. I’d let myself leave early under two conditions: A. really, truly not caring at all, and B. really, really hating something to the point where I might destroy it. Even then I’d make myself stay a few minutes more, usually to tidy things up.

The new system served me well and evolved into discipline. I showed up (mostly on time) and either got working or my studio got a little cleaner. Sometimes both.

Another thing started happening too. Pieces thrown to the side in previous sessions started being picked back up and figured out. These had been dead ends but now they were opportunities unbounded by the fear of failure. The failure had already happened and so they were immune. By making a practice of showing up consistently, I was occasionally having breakthroughs. Pieces I wanted to set fire to weeks ago were instead forged into some of my best work.

This isn’t something I can keep up forever of course. I take vacations from creative work. There’s plenty to do elsewhere, and home is where my effort has gone for the last two weeks. I completed some sketches, but mostly I eased off any pressure to create while I make some repairs to the house. There too I’m holding regular hours and keeping the inertia going.

Starting Things

I’m starting this blog knowing the future. A future, anyway. One where I am hopefully a better writer than I am today. I am hoping that when a future me winces at a typo or rolls my eyes at a poorly executed mixed metaphor I will also see improvement. For the record, I leave open the possibility of expertly executed mixed metaphors.

There are other things I can guess at too. As I get on with the task of writing in a blog format my writing style will evolve. That should hopefully (that word again) be a part of the getting better bit. For example, I swear I’ve seen a major uptick in the use of em dashes over the last few years. I may have to figure out how to use those – they seem so cool. I’m pretty sure I just did that wrong.

This isn’t coming out of nowhere. I’ve been writing more these last few years. Around 2012 I started writing with real reliability in my personal journal. The rise of notetaking apps was the difference. Before then I’d occasionally make an entry on paper, probably in a Moleskin notebook. Always short, they’d start off in neat(-ish) block script, but quickly devolve into barely legible scribbles. Typing meant I actually got my thoughts down before my hand cramped or apathy set it. Either way it was text-based entropy. Not using a word processor meant I wasn’t distracted by features and the confines of paper-based formats. Good stuff.

Around that time I also made a change in my main gig. I moved from IT where all my writing was technical and procedural to the marketing department. Writing copy for brochures and the web is a whole different business from how-to guides. Before I answered how, now I was answering why. Totally different.

Only time will reveal where this goes, but I’ll venture a guess: this effort will merge those two writing styles into a third form. I’ll be writing in my own voice, but with a need to edit and at least give a nod to comprehension and continuity.

Now what will I write about? I have some ideas or I wouldn’t be starting. Art, of course, but creativity in general. Maybe my practices and insights as I create new things. Oh, I and I have absolutely no schedule.