That sounded all fist-pumping righteous, didn't it?
I'll be the first to admit that the process is hardly so glamorous. It's messy. You're about to get full-on nasty during this struggle, I assure you. Or warn you. I'm not sure which is more appropriate, because procrastination is mean and ugly and it will dig its claws into the sweet flesh of your motivation and strip it to the bone.
Okay, it's not that dramatic, I promise. But we are going to work at understanding our procrastinating tendencies and towards completing our goals.
Remove Distractions. This is the only step to combating procrastination, when you get right down to it, but let's look at this a little closer. Removing distractions removes our excuses. Have housework that just has to get done before you can sit down and tick creative goals off your list (this is a big one for me)? Then schedule yourself one day a week... just one. Just a couple hours. And clean your house. Telling yourself you have emails to write or phone calls to make? Schedule them. Aside from medical emergencies, there is very little in this world that can't be scheduled appropriately. It's not a romantic notion... that of scheduling... but it gets things done. Remove those excuses by assigning one day in which your only goal is to delete your excuses from your mental hard drive.
Having a hard time determining what your excuses are? Journal. I know this may sound strange, but write down your thoughts, feelings, the practical goings-on of your day during those days when procrastination has an ugly hold. You might be surprised by the revelations. Sometimes we struggle with self-love, with self-doubt, and we encourage ourselves to do nothing for fear of failing when we do something. This is a much more difficult excuse to banish, and it takes time, and it takes it's own work which, ironically, we can also procrastinate doing. We turn on the television, or fall into a YouTube black hole in an effort to quiet those internal voices of discouragement. And when the hours have been chewed up and swallowed whole, we breathe a little sigh of relief, wipe the figurative sweat from our brow and think "Shew.... one more day I wont have to fail at something". Oh man... that's such an shrieking, harpy little voice, isn't it?
And sometimes we have to make ourselves hear it. And then ignore it. We'll never learn to ignore it if we seek only to cloak it with louder noise. So turn off the TV. Turn off the computer. Hell, turn off the power to your house, take your project and go sit in the grass outside. Let the natural hum of the world create a rhythm for you, with which you can work in tandem. There is no audience there watching you. There is no judgment. There is only space and time to work. Give yourself that gift. Empty your list of excuses. Assign yourself one day to face each excuse with a full heart and good intention.
And then get to work!
We all need an inspirational boost from time to time, especially when we are self-employed in a creative industry, so I'm here to share with you some online resources that really had jazz to my "job"!
Planning & Organization for Business. By now, it's now secret to you that I'm obsessed with planners. I have three right now. I'm getting another. It's really getting out of control, but I have never been more productive, so I'll take it however I get it! One site I credit with my love for planning, and it's successful placement in my work day, is Strange & Charmed. Check out just one of her videos on productivity and planning.
Running A Heart-Centered Business. Kelly-Ann Maddox is an unapologetic warrior at the heart of a spiritually-centered business. Though her business model and practice isn't exactly product-based, her ideas, advice and ethical musings are appropriate for any creative industry. Read her Wonderworker Business Blog for fabulous tips and insightful, encouraging words meant to fire you up for success!
Favorite Resources (Supplies):
Favorite Resources (Education):
And because I cant start my day without some feel-good positivity, my favorite YouTube channel of all time.... Vet Ranch!
In the same vein, and because I can.... my cat, Charlie "Little Bit" Hanna.
"I don't outline at all; I don't find it useful,
and I don't like the way it boxes me in.
I like the element of surprise and spontaneity,
of letting the story find its own way."
- Khaled Hosseini
I've discussed, recently, the place planning and organization has in my business and life. But it's place is purposeful and, though it aids me in allowing me time and energy to be creative, it has no place in my creative process itself. That, my friends, I reserve for spontaneity.
I'm often asked if I plan my designs. Rarely. Because when I do, they lose a little life. Their energy becomes muted by a pre-determined design that is, inevitably, filled with pitfalls and potential disappointment.
I love the concept of creative spontaneity, of allowing the process to happen in whatever carnation that is. To reserve our judgment of that process and its result and to embrace the outcome. Whether pleased or disappointed in the final creation, the process... the journey of spontaneous creation... is its own satisfying freedom.
So I challenge you thusly (I used the word "thusly", so this is important):
Stop whatever you are doing. I mean it, stop reading this (well, after this paragraph) and spend 5 minutes doing something creative. Anything at all. Sing at the top of your lungs... make up the lyrics as you go. Write a short poem. Draw a silly sketch of your pet. Take one piece of wire and bend it into as many recognizable shapes as possible. Time yourself, but set the timer and then ignore it. And at the end of that time, see what you have, record the exhilaration of exploration without the pressure of expectation.
I took this photo and wrote this small verse in five minutes.
What did you create spontaneously?
I'll start with a caveat: I am not condoning incomplete, shoddy or sloppy work. Artists definitely need to invest time, energy and thoughtfulness in their crafts, and make products that are mindful of their use and how they will withstand use. With that said, let's get to the meat of this blog post, shall we?
Handmade goods, by their very definition, suggests an element of imperfection. We are not machines. And, despite our gifts and skills, we are definitely, most assuredly, not crafting gods. We are, however, very very human and humans are fallible. We make mistakes. I dare say we sometimes embrace our mistakes, for better or worse, and when it's worse... it's really worse, isn't it? We are our own worst enemies, our greatest critics, our own impenetrable wall of doubt and discouragement. We see every flaw, every wire out of place, every crooked weave. We see these things, I believe, as a reflection of ourselves, much to our detriment: "This isn't good enough, so I am not good enough."
But let me tell you this.... stop it. Seriously. We are not the sum of our mistakes. Unless your work is intentionally lazy and thoughtless, I'd even wager our imperfections are the sum of our charm and character and human-ness.
"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." - Marilyn Monroe
We don't want to be machines, do we? We don't want our work to reflect a sterility in our lives, do we? So, embrace your imperfections. Yes, even in the crafts you make or the products you sell. It may not be a popular opinion among artists, or business people, but I'm giving you permission to make mistakes and, not only forgive yourself for them, accept them as a representation of your journey.
Your imperfections are beautiful! Your journey is beautiful. Live it and love it, folks!
"The artist is a receptacle for emotions
that come from all over the place: from the sky,
from the earth, from a scrap of paper,
from a passing shape, from a spider's web"
How often have we valued our creative results based on the definitions of others regarding art, the meaning of art, or it's worth? I've been a victim of this toxic comparison on more than one occasion, for sure, and it's a worm that settles in the heart and begins to slither into our creative process, much to our own detriment.
I'm here to tell you that art is undefinable, an intangible experience and process that captures the essence of our own journey. Who can place value on our own journey but ourselves? We can create, we can hope that our art is a representation of our life, in whatever small or large ways, and if others appreciate the process, great. If they do not, it is not a reflection on our skill, our time, our emotional and physical investment. It's not a reflection of our individual finish lines, or how we chose to reach them, nor how long it takes us to do so.
Art is a reflection of our souls. It is the embodiment of every experience we've ever endured or celebrated. It is, to state it plainly, a mirror through which we view ourselves. No one else deserves the right to judge the reflection in that mirror, but should honor it as a courageous badge of self-expression.
When the value of your art is threatened by the opinions of others, remind yourself that you are the master of your own creation. I am not talking about skill, refinement, or the ability to "sell it". I am talking about using art as a spiritual awakening... a knock on the door of divinity, if I may indulge myself in mysticism for a moment. That is a relationship which, ultimately, only has two parties... you and the power you give it.
Don't give negativity your power. Don't allow others to devalue your journey. Take back your personal power and walk through the doubts of others like shadows... dark for a moment, but gone the next. Let every experience you have speak to you through the things you create, in whatever manner they may manifest, and continue the experience on your own terms. You are a priestess of art, the magician of intangible moments, even if those moments are as small as a spider's web. Find meaning in everything, and express that meaning for you, before all else. And definitely, always, eternally, love it fully as a reminder of your journey.
So.... I'm about to get candid. I mean, I always try to be honest and forthright and to the point, but mental illness, in any incarnation, is a delicate subject that often requires tact I've been told I sometimes lack, especially as regards my own personal experience. This post is about a journey. A process that sometimes requires frank honesty and self-awareness, and it's an uncomfortable journey at the best of times, but always... always... a necessary one.
When I was a child, a toddler specifically, my mother made me a glorious quilted blanket, which was carried with the fierce determination of a soldier and his weapon. I swaddled myself in it's folds like a cloak full of magic meant to guard me from the darkness and shine light at the pain it promised And in dark moments, I found myself beginning to grab corners of the blanket and rubbing it between my fingers for comfort. I was always a moderately anti-social youth, and uncomfortable moments had me reaching for the corner of my blanket, further and further destroyed by the friction of my fingers. After six months, there was a hole in the blanket the size of my head, which should have held keen insight into a developing problem that was otherwise ignored by myself and loved ones who, despite their concern and best efforts to encourage my comfort in all aspects of life, were otherwise as much a victim to my anxiety as I was myself. Ignorance is not always bliss, right?
And even now, well into adulthood, and full of life experiences, hardships and successes, I still find myself drawn to the soft and supple invitation of a beautiful fabric waiting for it's own worried hole. A stressful day, a moment amidst strangers, and the impending sensation of failing to move forward in my life has all, always, had me reaching for my shirt tail or skirt hem, which I'd absentmindly grip between my fingers. The fabric is sometimes perfect. Thick cotton is a disappointing experiment in further frustration, but I'd find one sweet spot on my wardrobe that would allow me to exercise my stress and anxiety in a way that was soothing and mind-numbing.
It wasn't until this year that I was officially diagnosed with severe anxiety, and medicated in a well-meaning appropriate way. Clonozapam, Valium, Paxil. These were all experiments in controlling my condition. Groceries stores break me out in hives. Parties and gatherings with an excessive expanse of strangers would have me wallowing with my phone in a quiet corner.... even if that corner meant an induction to the exclusive (and these days, dwindling) "smokers circle" outside. Their faces, hidden in their own fog, was also, in a way, a sacred solitude. I could breathe and, even if breathing second-hand smoke, it was a release of anxiety that inevitably builds in my body, turns my mind in every backwards, negative direction.
I am a wreck at public speaking that isn't heavily practiced and, I admit, sometimes heavily medicated. Beads of sweat begin to puddle on my forehead, fall slowly down my nose in a trail of shameful recognition of my own discomfort. And even family, trusted friends, can (at times) fill me with a sensory overload that my body has difficulty processing. These are real struggles. Difficult ones. Often downplayed by society, as a whole, who push to "get out there" and "meet new people".
And the internet has been a wonderful avenue for this, through which I express myself in meaningful ways, while still protecting my own psyche from an ever-growing cacophony of sounds, sights, and interactions that (so my brain and body tells me) is so far out of my control they are registered as a down-right dangerous sabotage to my well-being. The internet and social media has allowed me to meet people my condition would otherwise "shelter" me from, for lack of a better analogy. And my art, my love of the creative process, and my desire to share that process with others, is the conduit through which I ventured into social media at all.
Creativity has been my adult "blanket". But in a much healthier way, I hope. I'm no psychiatrist. I have no background in counseling. I admit that I'm probably as ignorant of my own condition (save for my exact experience of it) as anyone. But I do know this.... creativity has allowed me to express my anxiety, my fears, my apprehensions and self-doubt, in a package of love, solidarity and sharing. And I've found, over the last two years, that embedding myself in this community... this wonderful, amazing, accepting community, has allowed me to, in my own time and my own way, on my terms, begin to work myself into the world again in very real and tangible ways, which extend far beyond the social media platforms from which this was born.
I don't pretend this is the answer, or the only answer, at any rate. Because I don't know. It's a process. It's a road that has, so far, been less traveled and has, so far, proven itself beneficial to me and the handle on my health I've been striving to gain. Being creative, and sharing that creativity with others, has allowed me a beautiful opportunity to bare myself in ways I would otherwise pretend weren't worth sharing. When the moments are dark, I can make something, anything and, despite it's possible lack of fluidity or beauty or significance in the world, as a whole, it's significance to me is astounding and profound. And in the quiet moments I adore so much, I can understand and fully appreciate the beautiful peace creativity has allowed me over the years, even as a child sketching Garfield on my notebooks.
I wont even pretend I know what message I'm trying to spread here, if any message at all beyond... I understand. To those who feel the same darkness and perhaps have succumbed to it from time to time. I understand, if only by my own experience of it. And I hope you find your own "blanket" to shelter you through storm until you are no longer afraid to dance in the rain.
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