‘A habitual or intentional delay of starting or finishing a task despite knowing it might have negative consequences.’
Hands up who is guilty of this. I know I am.
For instance, I must have clean surfaces, everything in its place and an uncluttered head before I go into the studio. How mad is that? Great for having an ordered, spring cleaned life but NOT good for producing a body of work.
Picasso said ‘Inspiration exists but you have to find it working’. In other words, get your backside in front of that easel.
OK – That’s all very well and good but what next? You’re sitting there waiting … (after you’ve checked the post, done the ironing, fed the cat, checked the emails, and of course looked at Facebook and Instagram). You’re waiting, for what? Inspiration? – a bolt of lightning?
Let’s look at some of the reasons for putting things on the long finger.
The number one reason, at the top of the list, is FEAR. Maybe we don’t recognise it as such but it’s a fact that many of us feel it.
So, what are we afraid of?
We might be afraid of laying out our craft for others to judge – how scary is that? What if no-one likes the painting? If people do like our work, that’s great but what if we can’t repeat the success? So, we’re afraid of failure AND success. I’m a perfectionist and you may be the same, trying to live up to high expectations that can cause us stress and anxiety. Susan Jeffers wrote the book ‘Feel the Fear but do it anyway’ and I agree, a bit of fear and adrenaline is good.
If it was too easy – what would be the fun in that?
Another reason for procrastinating is MOTIVATION or should I say lack of. It’s not that we don’t want to do it but this inertia cloud descends and almost causes paralysis. We’re good at responding to distractions and making excuses which are much easier than facing those uncomfortable fears.
SO what do we do?
It’s not that you don’t want to paint but maybe you aren’t prioritising it. There are no two ways about it, you have to change your thinking. If you want to take your art to the next level, you must think of your art as WORK. You need to step out of the leisure and hobby mode and start thinking about your art more seriously maybe even a little more aggressively.
Put studio time at the top of the list. Have a timetable, treat it like going to work. That’s what you’re doing so don’t make excuses to yourself or others. However, don’t be unrealistic either. It’s difficult to hold focus for long periods and can even be detrimental sometimes, so plan your studio time into achievable chunks with regular breaks so that you can stand back and evaluate (and have coffee!).
Deadlines are great, if you haven’t got any – create your own. When we’ve committed ourselves to deliver something it focusses our energy. Stretch yourself to enter calls for exhibition and competitions and if you accept a commission, plan a delivery date there and then. The important thing is to keep working and practice, practice, practice every day.
I recently attended a well-run workshop where we discussed work practices, motivation and this very problem of prioritising. It was suggested that before we pack up our work at the end of a day, we don’t leave the studio without preparing for the following day. This means that when you arrive to work, everything is ready for the session. Tubes of paint are out, the canvas is on the easel your brushes are clean and everything else is within working distance.
You might decide to do some exercises for 15 minutes at the beginning of your day. This is a great idea for loosening up and mark making without fear of judgement.
If you’re still sitting there and staring into space, make LISTS. I’m an inveterate list maker, I have lists of lists and there is nothing more satisfying than ticking off the jobs done, one by one. However, this is an art in itself. Pick the most difficult job first and just do it. Then work your way down the list. Capitalise on your sense of satisfaction with each positive tick. A good idea is to set an alarm at intervals as a reminder of the time being spent on different activities. Be strict with your allotted times.
PRACTICE ART EVERY DAY
LIMIT TIME EATING ACTIVITIES SUCH AS SOCIAL MEDIA.
SET SMART GOALS THAT ARE SPECIFIC MEASURABLE ATTAINABLE REALISTIC WITHIN A TIME FRAME.
DON’T OVER COMMIT YOU WILL BE OVERWHELMED AND RISK FEAR PARALYSIS.
Practice, practice, practice
One thing I’ve learnt is that studio work does not always have to be a performance. We should enjoy the process of painting, it’s not always a race to finish a piece of work to hang on a wall.
‘Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.’ Chuck Close. SIMPLE ISN’T IT?