As I wrote recently, the pandemic, losing a long-time writing gig, recent surgery, a fall in my studio have all contributed to the doldrums in my creative life.
On one hand, my healing progress after knee replacement surgery has been spectacular, especially considering I did almost NO physical exercise during the year-long shutdown. (It hurt to do anything, what can I say?)
On the other hand, I have to make up reasons to go to my studio now. Fortunately, I found some work-arounds, shared them in that same post (making small gifts for non-profit staff, friends in need, etc.), and learned that other people found my experience helpful, too. It actually helped ME to learn that other folks were struggling, and I was not alone in my funk.
But it still takes mental effort to get outta bed and get there. Thanks to that Garfield cartoon, I adjusted my goals down to spending even just a couple hours at the studio. Anything above and beyond was gravy.
And today, I finally read an article by Rachel Syme called “What Deadlines Do To Lifelines” in the July 5 issue of The New Yorker magazine. I’d overlooked it, but checked it out when a letter to the editor mentioned that deadlines increase productivity. (Which is why I was missing my 12-year writing gig for FineArtViews.com. No more deadlines!)
Halfway through the article, Syme wrote:
Everywhere you look, people are either hitting deadlines or avoiding them by reading about how other people hit deadlines.”
I closed my tab.
Years ago, in one of the very first artist support groups I created back in New Hampshire, one creative struggled to do the work they loved. Some of our group exercises helped them get clarity about the corrosive, toxic voice in their head that told them they weren’t good enough. Yippee! They could move on and get busy, right?
Um. Nope. Instead, they began doing all the exercises in an otherwise very useful book for creatives, The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron. Every meet-up, they shared their latest exercise proudly. Month after month after month.
By the time the group disbanded (people moving away, etc.) that person had not accomplished one thing with their creative talents.
It was a huge insight for me at the time, and one I constantly plug: Creative exercises are fun, they can be insightful and enlightening. Cameron’s book helped me stay grounded with my own creative work. Even today, in a gig economy when we feel pressured to monetize every bit of our creative effort, she is a godsend.
But they cannot replace the real work of our heart, our voice in the world.
And here I was, on a Saturday morning, with actually projects awaiting me in my studio, reading about how useful deadlines can be. Irony with a capital “I”. (And not just because it’s the first word in that sentence.)
If you are struggling with reaching your goals today, consider this:
What works for you is whatever works for YOU.
Trying new habits and practices can help. But if they suck up all your creative juices, then they are not actually helping.
Deadlines work really really well for me. But they have their time and place in life, and are not always the best thing to get me motivated.*
And reading about the problem only goes so far. Sometimes, tiny steps, 10%, and a small reward for doing the right thing can carry us home, too.
***Bonus: If you love to read, and are not familiar with Bookfinder.com, this is your new, best tool to find that book you want, at the best price possible!
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If you have your own work-arounds for procrastination, please share in the comments! What works for you might be just what works for someone else.
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