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.