art in the studio

My Cure for Procrastination

Stop in the middle. Never stop working at the natural barriers. The next time you start working, the barrier will be the first thing you encounter, and you won’t have the momentum to overcome it. — Ernest Hemingway

Procrastination wasn’t a word I applied to myself. My husband would second that because if something needs doing, I can’t rest until it’s done. However, I did have a hard time getting on track again once I completed a painting. It wasn’t because I was putting it off but more because I didn’t know where to start.

Back when I taught creative writing I always mentioned Hemingway’s process to my students as sound advice to help them avoid the quicksand of creative procrastination. Knowing what you want to write next keeps the ‘juice’ flowing. I just never applied it to my painting process until now. Talk about tunnel vision!

Up until a few weeks ago, I worked on one piece at a time. I called it “focus” but now I see it created a natural barrier to the next piece. When I finished a painting, it took me a few days to find my next subject and face the blank sheet of paper. Flailing about, trying to decide on “What next?” is my version of creative procrastination. It frustrated the heck out of me.

Art is inevitable

I don’t remember exactly what inspired me to start 3-4 pieces at the same time but I will be forever grateful to the Muse for that whisper in my ear.

Since that AHA moment, I look forward to getting to my studio each day. Knowing what I’m going to work on feels liberating. Spread across the two tables where I paint are pieces in different stages so I can always find a place to start. I also keep a list of ideas and reference photos tacked up over my table. Also, working in a series helps. As I finish a piece, I choose something, start the sketch and do my colour tests.

I’ve completed a number of pieces in the last few weeks because of my “new” habit. It’s also why I haven’t posted on the blog for awhile. I’ve been too busy in the studio!

Found a fix for your procrastination habit? Please, share it in the comments and spread the word.

9 thoughts on “My Cure for Procrastination”

  1. Hi April, This makes sense and I will try it! I actually did 4 paintings in one sitting last week and it felt so great to let go. Nothing was planned, I just wanted to paint with less details and more with texture. This post reminded me of the freedom I felt and that’s a great place to be.
    …still admiring you from afar! (hugs)

    1. Now that you say that, I realize that having more on the go keeps me from “fussing” with detail Less planning and more of being in the moment. Thanks for pointing that out! Hugs back.

  2. I’ve been struggling with this, but recently I’ve been served well (as a writer) by always having a notebook close at hand and when an idea comes to me, I try to write not just the idea but also to flesh it out just a bit. This is a “messy first draft” prototype. I write “Blog Idea” in the margin. Then, when I’m at my computer needing to write something for my blog, I flip through my notebook and find something to flesh out.

    1. Love the notebook idea, Elizabeth. I tend to write on yellow pads and end up with a stack of them with so many ideas on each page. Much more difficult to go through. I’m liking the idea of a smaller notebook with just one or two items on a page and tossing that page after it’s used. Thank so much!

    2. I carry a notebook as well and jot down ideas as they come. Sometimes for the blog and sometimes for a painting. I think of it as my ‘sparks’ file.

  3. Love this post Aprille, great idea to have several paintings in a series going at the same time. Stopping in the middle never occured to me but I believe that could be an important key to keeping engaged. The quote by Robert Henri is wonderful. Thanks for all you share.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking part in the conversation, Mickey. I’m still using this method and it’s still working so I truly think I’ve found a key – at least in my own process.

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