What to Do When You Know You Should But You Can't
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Thoughts of A Sociable Artist

What to Do When You Know You Should But You Can't

“Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre.” ― Albert Camus
“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” 
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” 
― Jim Ryun
A friend recently posted the following on Facebook: "Help!  I have all the supplies, the space set up to create, but I can't get myself to paint."  This is a common refrain I hear from my creative circle.  Once we set up the studio space and spend the money on supplies, we feel pressure to be productive at all times.  Nothing is surer to kill the creative spark than pressure and stress.  I don't know about you, but I absolutely require empty time to create space for inspiration to enter.  
So you're stuck?  Here's a frightening thought: give in temporarily to the apathy and lack of motivation  Take a walk in the woods and empty yourself.    After dwelling in this empty space for no more than a day or two, get moving or you risk getting mired in inertia.  It can suck you in like quicksand.  How to avoid this fate?  Create a habit.  Force a routine.  

Try this internal script... "I will sit at this desk between 9-11am.  I will create something whether I just doodle scribbles on a piece of paper or make progress on a larger project. Let's face it, some of us are naturally better at self motivation and the discipline necessary for habit forming.  If routine is not your strong suit, seek out someone who shows strength in this area.  Consider them as the Yoda to your Luke Skywalker.  

I am relatively self disciplined by I do have a tendency to get distracted and waste time.  I am also easily influenced, so I have to be careful who I choose to spend time with.  During my second week of college, I had the good fortune of meeting a dedicated and serious student.  He was driven and self motivated.  He was training for a marathon and paying his own way through college.  He took his studies and his health seriously.  At his insistence, we went to the library every evening for three hours.  Sometimes I didn't even have enough work to fill the time in which case I would write stories or put my head down on the desk and take a nap.  Most importantly, I was sitting there every night regardless - no excuse.  Let me tell you, if you sit in a library for three hours nightly, you will get good grades.  I finished the year on the Dean's List.    Could I have done this without my driven boyfriend?  In all honesty, probably not.  

We know the positive effects of healthy habits, but that doesn't me we always do what is best for us. I am a runner who is often in some sort of pain.  Why?  Because though I know I need to, I can usually not get myself to stretch.  It is important.  I would feel better if I did it, but this rational logic alone is not enough to force me to create the habit.  I have a friend who is even crazier about running than me.  He needs to stretch even more, but was he touching his toes on a daily basis?  No, and as a result, he is often injured.  We discussed our reluctance to embrace yoga and anything designed to increase flexibility while agreeing on the necessity.  We decided on a team approach.  I text him daily to tell him I am stretching an urge him to do the same. It's like positive nagging.  We had created someone to whom we were accountable.  The fact that we are both competitive helps.  
If I've nudged you enough to consider working on creating helpful habits to get yourself out of a creative rut, check out the following resources.  Jason Selk offers realistic tips on getting through the "honeymoon phase" of habit forming and fighting through to lasting success.  In his article, James Clear talks about the three R's of habit forming; reminder, routine, and reward. 

To sum up, when you find yourself stuck and mired in inertia, try the following...

  • Give in.  Empty space for inspiration to enter
  • Create a daily work habit involving strict hours.  
  • Enlist an Accountability Partner, an individual who will work with you to enforce a strict daily habit. Attach yourself to someone who exhibits the qualities you aspire to.
  • Try a Team Approach.  Join a group with like minded interests to encourage your success and create accountability.  Check out the Daily Painters group, artists who create a work of art each day.
  • Do it first thing in the morning.  If you have something you must get done, but you don't look forward to it; do it before you do anything else otherwise it will hang over your entire day like a gray cloud, and you'll feel like Eeyore.   

Happy creating,

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