I have a personal philosophy in life: If somebody else can do something that I’m doing, they should do it. And what I want to do is find things that would represent a unique contribution to the world – the contribution that only I, and my portfolio of talents, can make happen. Those are my priorities in life. Neil deGrasse Tyson
This is something I believe but don’t always practice. Time after time, I have to bring myself back to the studio. Back to what I say is important to me. So much other stuff gets in the way and calls for my attention.
I justify it by telling myself it’s the responsible thing to do until I realize my priority has shifted again. But that’s okay.
The responsible thing is to show up with our gifts and talents and use them. They are ours for a reason.
Like meditation, bringing myself back to center is an ongoing and dynamic process. No need to beat myself up when I drift. Life happens.
The important thing is to pay attention, recover and get back to the studio.
I believe we notice it more at the start of a new year because we revisit our resolutions and good intentions and wonder WHY did last year get away from us…again?
What is it? Where does it come from? Why do we avoid our work (even when we say it’s important to us) and how do we beat it?
The good news is , you’re not alone in this battle. We all experience resistance in one form or another. There isn’t a creative soul out there who hasn’t felt it pushing them away from their work at some point.
Here’s what I’ve learned about this tricky little blighter on my own journey.
Creative Resistance is…
invisible but it’s effects are very real.
It’s aim is to keep you from doing your work. And, while it may seem to come from outside of you, it is self-generated and self-perpetuated. It is also a force of nature and a liar.
It’s fuel is fear.
So ask yourself, “What is it about my creativity that I’m afraid of? If I did something about it, what is the worst that could happen? The best?”
(Weirdly, it’s usually the good stuff that scares us more.)
Get that fear out where you can see it. Don’t let it fester in the dark. Write about it. Make an art journal page. Dance it out. Whatever it takes. Get that fear moving and you are no long stuck.
The Resistance Compass
Creative Resistance is actually a very good compass , pointing the way to what truly matters to you.
In fact, the more you resist, the more valuable that thing is to you. That’s information you can use! Use your Resistance to navigate by and discover what it is you really need to be up to.
The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.
If your Creative Resistance is BIG then it’s a good indicator that something BIG is waiting to come through you.
Procrastination is a common symptom of Creative Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. (After all, the dishes MUST be washed.)
But when you put off doing your art, you put off important work. Not to put to fine a point on it, but you could end up putting off your life’s work. After all, something is calling to you to bring it into the world. Pay attention.
Change your response
You can do something about this right now. Sit down and create something. Anything. Even a doodle counts. You’ll be thumbing your nose at Creative Resistance, when you do.
The problem is this – we aren’t creative in special pockets of time or space. Creativity doesn’t occur in isolation from our lives. We are creative all the time, wherever and whenever we are. Everything in our life is raw material. (Just ask the family of a writer.)
Or at least that’s how it used to be
Frankly, I’m worried about the richness of our creative lives these days because so many of us are just so, well…distracted. Those smart devices are training us to avoid boredom at any cost. We turn to them constantly and when we do, we miss the inspiration all around us. There are ideas floating through the air, waiting for our attention but fewer and fewer of us are paying attention.
What’s got your attention these days? Are you actively looking for the creative sparks and ideas that are all around you?
Or does your social media feed keep you distracted?
If your creative well is feeling a little dry, that may be a sign you need to take a vacation from technology and get back to real life. Everything feeds your creativity, if you are awake and aware. Everything.
Challenge yourself. Let yourself feel the boredom. It’s actually fertile ground, contrary to what you might think.
A lot of creative brilliance had its roots in boredom
Start with just an hour. Put down that smart device and pay attention to the world around you for that time.
A couple of months ago I had an interesting conversation with an artist friend who asked me about my style. I admitted to her I couldn’t define my style. Yet.
Up to this point I’ve been learning the mechanics and mastering my craft. However, lately I’m feeling an inner push to go to the next level and polish a personal style. My raison d’etre, if you will.
This led to discussions in our Facebook group on topics like our Why, being authentic and creative courage as I wrestled with this question. It seemed to me I needed to know me better, if I wanted my style to ring true.
Then, just recently a friend who is also a coach like myself asked if I was overthinking it. Ding, ding, ding. Lightbulb goes off. Of course I was! I was working WAY too hard on trying to come up with the ‘perfect’ answer.
So I promised myself to hold the question lightly and wait for whatever showed up. To stop thinking and just hang out with the question and make the journey. For some it might be an “AHA” moment but for most of us I suspect it’s an evolution.
So I’m creating while keeping an eye out for those clues the universe loves to place in our paths.
Style Clue #1
In the Facebook group we focused on the word WHY for a week and one of the members mentioned her reason was to have fun. That struck a chord for me. No. Wait. Let me be clear. Her words gave me good bumps.
Here I was, trying to make my Why be IMPORTANT and WISE and PITHY. I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about here because I see this in folks all the time and I fell for it, as well. I’d bought into the myth that if my Why didn’t sound like a quote from Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela that somehow it wasn’t valid.
I mean, really, why can’t it just be about the fun? After all, I’ve always maintained if something I’m choosing to do isn’t fun, why am I doing it?
I used to do a lot of rug hooking but somewhere along the way I stopped. Too busy making a living, I suppose. Recently, my interest rekindled so I bought a small kit.
I was drawn to this little roly-poly sheep and completed the pattern in a week. As I hooked the last loops, the wind was howling outside and suddenly I heard Gramma’s voice in my head saying “He was 3 sheets to the wind”.
Only my brain heard “sheeps”.
Immediately I grabbed my sketchbook and came up with this drawing. It tickled me so much I kept going.
The ‘punniness’ demanded a painting that was playful and light. The next day I pulled out my acrylic paints, a canvas board and began to play with the idea. As it evolved I even found myself telling a story – something else I love.
Below is what I have so far. It needs the details like eyes and foliage but every time I walk by my easel I smile. I believe I’m onto something. The colours and simple figures appeal to something my heart. They cheer me up.
When I complete the final version, I’ll post it for you.
Style Clue #3
Most mornings, along with my coffee, I check out the CBC on my Ipad. I love the Nova Scotia news and also from Newfoundland (my husband’s home province.) While there are the usual crime reports and bad news stories, it seems to me they fill in with more local and human interest stories.
A ‘no limits’ philosophy — “Break away – The sky is the limit – Be all you can be” — is popular, especially among life coaches and motivational speakers.
As a society it appears we’ve accepted this philosophy without question. In fact, I couldn’t find any positive images depicting limits, constraints and boundaries to use with this post.
So let me play the devil’s advocate here and argue for the other side because I know my creative practice benefits from some well-placed boundaries.
Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
I’ve known a number of people who took a year off from work to write or paint or compose. They start out with good intentions, excited and committed but hey, there’s LOTS of time. I’ll just do this… And then that…And then one morning they wake up and realize the year is over with little to nothing to show for it.
As a freelance writer I understood Parkinson’s Law so I’d request tight deadlines. Nothing eliminated web surfing and other distractions than a commitment breathing down my neck.
Creative productivity doesn’t need huge swathes of time. Rather, it requires focus and making good use of the time I have. Tight schedules or short windows of opportunity create urgency. An empty calendar does not.
Last year when we moved to Nova Scotia, most of the second floor apartment became my studio space. Luxury! I stretched out and filled the rooms but it wasn’t long before I spent too much time looking for stuff, rearranging things, cleaning, organizing…
In short, all that space wasn’t the advantage I thought it was. Then, this past summer, we opened our Bed and Breakfast on the first floor of our home. That created constraints on my studio space as we moved upstairs while guests occupied the lower level.
I had to downsize – which held a certain irony after our long distance move. Less than a year later and here I was, purging again. I got real about what was a true creative priority to me. I chose my painting, quilting and writing over other creative outlets like paper crafts and soap-making.
Clarity about my creative priorities made it easier to sort through art supplies, storage systems and furniture. I packed up and gave the extra things to someone who would actually use it (and not just store it like I was).
One artist’s junk is another’s treasure, after all.
It was all good. Getting rid of the extraneous stuff often forced me to find alternative solutions to achieve my vision. My creative muscle (aka my brain) got a lot of exercise.
Once I completed the purge, I moved my desk and computer to a cozy alcove in our upstairs kitchen. Moving my computer off to one side held an unexpected benefit. Because the computer is off to one side and no longer sits between me and my paints, the siren call of email and social media isn’t as loud.
“Psst. Over here….that’s right…C’mon…you know you wanna…it will only take a couple of minutes…”
In fact, I put my painting table and supplies where my desk had been because that room has the best light in the house. I don’t know why I didn’t set up in there right from Day One. (Who knows why we do these things?) Now I step into my studio BEFORE I go anywhere near my desk.
I gave a lot of thought to what I needed to paint and pared down to the essentials only. I have two tables, one where I can be seated and one where I work standing up. My supplies and equipment are all within easy reach. The happy result is that I’m painting more because most of the time everything is right there, ready to go.
Limits, self-imposed and otherwise, force me to come up with better, more creative solutions. They keep me focused on my priorities by eliminating temptations and distractions. Too much time, space or stuff can lull me into feeling I’m being creative because I’m thinking about it or sorting through things or ‘researching’. By setting reasonable limits, I’m motivated to take action and stuff gets done.
How about you? Share your experience in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
I got thinking about lists the other day as my husband and I finished some last minute decorating before company arrived. We had so much to accomplish it forced us to write it all down so we wouldn’t miss anything. Continue reading Lists and Creative Inspiration