I’m an artist! Of course I’m crazy! (Actually, believe it or not, there might not actually be any correlation between creativity and mental illness according to this Psychology Today article. When I got myself tested, I was only diagnosed with a minor form of anxiety, but who doesn’t have it in this day and age?)
Even so, sometimes we feel like we’re actually two people. There’s the rational side that has big dreams and knows that it requires hard work to reach said dreams, then there’s the instant-gratification monkey that doesn’t want to work hard. These are also things I say to myself when I’m feeling frustrated, scared, or lazy. These are things that help me a lot of personally, and I invite you to try saying these to yourself.
1. I Will be Okay.
I wish I could say I came up with this, but this something that I hear all the time from Charlie on his YouTube Channel Charisma on Command, which I strongly recommend especially if you’re socially anxious and shy.
Every time I think things are not going well, or I’m about to apply to have my art exhibited, or try something new that could potentially help my art career, I just think to myself, “No matter what, I will be okay.” And I will. Even if things turn out so wrong for a while, I know I’ll get through it somehow.
2. This Too Shall Pass.
A quote from my old buddy, Mark. Something I say when I’m really not having a good time for whatever reason like I made a mistake at work, am receiving harsh criticism that I can’t find a way it will help my art, or I’m sick and miserable (at least then I can read a book). These are the moments you really can’t stop and appreciate. All you can remember is that they will pass, and you can move on.
3. Don’t Compare yourself to others. Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday.
I really really should have put the book I got this from on my list of books that shaped my philosophy, but I’m happy to give a nod to it now. This is a rule from Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life that helped me a lot as an artist (that and Treat Yourself Like Someone You’re Responsible for Caring For). This is something that keeps me from being overwhelmed, and even happy for, the artists out there with skill that I will never come to close to, but I still get to keep my competitive spirit by competing against myself. Although, sometimes I feel I’m ahead, and sometimes I’m behind. And that’s okay too.
4. I am Not a Quitter
Running on a treadmill? Having a rough time at your job that you’re not sure you can take anymore? Learning something new and you’re hitting a wall? Whenever this happens to me, I simply whisper, “I’m not a quitter.” and it gives me the boost I need to keep going, even if it’s just for a few more minutes. Now, maybe you are a quitter. Maybe you’re the kind of person who quits 100 times out of 99. Not in that moment, you’re not!
5. It Will Only Take 10 Minutes
Every time I wanted to read a book, paint, work out, or something I needed to do, suddenly, I never wanted to do it. I believe you have felt this way repeatedly. I learned, albeit later than I would’ve liked, that’s not the act of doing something that’s all that important, but starting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked myself into spending only ten minutes on a project, ten minutes go by and I think, “Eh, I can keep going” and next thing I know, two hours went by, I have an almost completed painting, and I realize I forgot to eat breakfast.
6. Don’t Let Fear Rule Your Life
When I was about to graduate with my bachelor’s, I was in a kind of slump. I wasn’t sure where my life was going, what I was going to do next, and I was very, VERY scared. That was when I decided to go live in Italy for a year. Every step it took me getting there from the application process, to the acceptance letter, to the getting my passport and visa, it felt like something was fighting me. What if I end up destitute? What if it goes wrong?
My mother said, “Don’t let fear rule your life.”
If I listened to that fear, I would have never had that experience, met those wonderful people on my journeys, and have those wonderful stories.
7. If takes less than 5 minutes. Do it now.
“I will find a goddamn light, man.” Was listening to a Kevin Hart interview excerpt while I was writing this. The fact that this man is just “happy” and can take any moment and find joy in it somewhere is just a rare thing.
Or… “How to be Lazy and Accomplished at the Same Time.”
I thought 7 Day Lazy Challenge sounded catchier than the 7 Day Productive Laziness challenge.
Due to excessive burnout at my full-time job, my art habits that I’ve worked so hard to foster kind of fell by the wayside. Before, I was waking up at 5 am every day, painting, and leaving for work without feeling rushed. Unfortunately, it’s been getting harder and harder to wake up and I’ve found myself going days without painting or drawing. In fact, I lost interest in doing so.
I took a week long staycation to help rest up and get myself on track, and while I was starting to feel like my old self and get art done, I still haven’t gotten quite back into my old, good habits. Although, 7 am is still a good time to wake up, even if it’s sleeping in for me.
For the past several months, I’ve been taking notes from College Info Geek and The Art of Manliness to help find ways I could improve my motivation, stop procrastinating, and hopefully, turn my artistic passion into a part time job that makes enough money to pay bills. The advice I’ve been hearing is this: be lazy!
What does that mean? How can being lazy help you achieve your goals?
Think about it. If everybody didn’t have the proclivity to be lazy, we would all be working to our full potential, we probably would have had the flying car built centuries ago if more people used their free time to work hard, be productive, and achieve their dreams. Unfortunately, only a very few people in this world have the discipline to do so and even fewer succeed.
Look back on yourself, if you spent the time you’ve been playing video games or binge watching to learn new skills, improve yourself, or workout, I don’t have a doubt you would in a better place than where you are now!
But, again, humans are lazy. We would rather do easy and fun things than hard things for the unforeseeable, long term rewards improving our skills would give. We can clearly picture ourselves as more successful people (whatever your definition might be), but again and again we make excuses, procrastinate, and opt to do fun easy things instead.
That’s why it makes to rather than fight the urge to be lazy… we work with it! We make it super easy to get started on the things we want to do, and make the distractions less convenient!
Starting tomorrow, I plan to get up at 5 am paint for 30 minutes, and write a short blog post in order to report on my progress!
Day 0: Preparation!
Day 0 is very important. It requires a little bit of self reflection… and this actually the day where you’re not lazy: you’re getting breakfasts ready, you’re getting your work space ready, you’re finding ways to stay comfortable, and you’re eliminating your distractions.
1. Have your alarm ready!
How are you waking up in the morning? Do you hit the snooze button again and again until you have to leave for work/class five minutes before it actually starts? This would be a good time to think about how you would like to get up. There are several alarm apps out there that make you do things before the alarm goes off such as taking a certain number of steps, taking a picture, doing math problems, etc.
I do a combination of a couple things to get up early. I always put my phone on the other side of my room, and I have the app, Alarmy, on the setting where you have to take a photo before the noise turns off. I used to take a picture of my vitamins in the bathroom medicine cabinet so that I can start the day washing my face and brushing my teeth, but my body adapted so it was easier for me to take a picture, then go back to bed.
I changed my strategy to instead take a picture of the coffee maker so that I can instead be tempted by the smell of coffee (with the added benefit of the kitchen being a slightly longer walk than the bathroom) and start the day with the caffeine boost. So far, that’s been working for getting up at 7 am.
2. Make Breakfast(s)!
It’s important that whatever you want to do to achieve your goals, you start with a good breakfast. Even if you’re not hungry. There’s been a lot of studies done, and people are more effective in the morning, especially after eating a breakfast high in fat and protein.
For the laziness challenge, it’s better if you have breakfast all ready to go. Maybe you might want a nice, hot breakfast with fried eggs and bacon, but if you had the willpower to do that, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.
Today, I’m going to hard boil 14 eggs! Two for each day of the Laziness Challenge! Eggs are cheap, quick, and come pre-packaged by Mrs. Chicken. They are high in fat and protein which is what we’ll need to get the day started.
7 cans of Tuna could work too. Also cheap, also quick. Kinda smelly though.
Of course, you could have 7 yogurt cups, or, if you want to get REALLY fancy, make 7 cups of plain yogurt, fruit, and nuts/granola in some kind of container (recycled glass jars, cheap mason jars from IKEA, or plastic cups if you have a bunch leftover from a wedding you had… not because you hate the environment obviously…). Actually, after I do the 7 day challenge with hardboiled eggs, I might just do another 7 day challenge with daily yogurts! That sounds amazing right now!
And not to leave out the vegan artists either… though I don’t know much about the vegan diet. Avacados are probably your best bet with a lot of nuts/beans for protein.
3. Eliminate Excuses.
If there’s a reason the things you want to do are the slightest bit inconvenient, your body will do everything it can to put it off or not do it. For me, the biggest barrier is my studio. It’s pretty well ventilated, which means it’s very cold. Which means I would rather be anywhere but in there.
That is why I have a special jacket that I got from Target for cheap many years ago: it’s warm, but I don’t mind getting paint on it. I also have special sweatpants in there in case I need extra warmth for my legs.
The point is, try to find reasons why you “don’t” want to work and do anything you can to eliminate that excuse. You’re clever! You’ll find a solution!
4. Have your Materials Ready!
One of the reasons I think we don’t like improving our skills is because of how daunting it is. You have to get up, make breakfast, then open some books, or find the websites you need online. If you’re an artist, you have to make your way to the studio, grab your sketchbook, you might not even know what you want to draw. It’s just too much. It would be better to go back to bed…
…unless, you just had everything ready to go that morning already!
For art block…
If you’re up first thing in the morning, in theory all of your creative juices should be flowing in that river of grogginess (apparently, people are more creative when they’re groggy). If that turns out to be as ridiculous as that sounds, don’t worry! There are things to get you going.
An important part of art is practicing! Go online, find art tutorials (Have 7 tutorials bookmarked today! One for each day!)
I enjoy drawing using references from old master paintings, plus I have a couple paintings I want to do in the long term, so I went online, found paintings similar to the painting I want to create, and if I’m not feeling up for painting, I will have my sketchbook, pencils, etc set up and ready to go!
If you’re doing something online…
…like learning a new language, learning to program, or anything else that requires the computer, I would highly recommend having your websites, YouTube tutorials, programs, etc, bookmarked or set as your home page or otherwise ready to go the night before.
What about social media sites, Netflix, or other fun sites that waste your time and prevent you from getting work done?
5. Limit your Distractions (especially if what you’re doing requires the computer)!
One site I’m looking is StayFocusd, which blocks websites you don’t want to be distracted by for a certain period of time.
There’s also a NUCLEAR OPTION, where you have a limited number of sites you do want to stay on, and it blocks all other sites.
I wish there was a version of Stayfocusd for YouTube channels. It would be nice if somebody could figure out a way to temporarily prevent you from watching YouTube channels except for the videos you’re watching to improve your skills. But, for now, we’ll stick to what we have.
Since my activity has nothing to do with the PC, I installed Forest which prevents me from using social media for a certain amount of time (which I will set to 30 minutes).
Forest work by giving you a virtual tree that grows the longer you leave your phone alone. If you want to use social media, you have to kill your tree first.
You don’t want to be a monster who kills trees.
One of the nice things about this app is that the more these “trees” you grow, the bigger your forest gets. Seeing all those trees establishes a sense of pride and accomplishment… with more immediate rewards which we established earlier is something that we as humans love.
One downside is that while it blocks many sites including social media and games, it doesn’t block YouTube or in-phone texting. If you really want to be productive, especially for the first week, you may have delete your most distracting apps unless you really need them for work (which is unlikely, let’s be honest).
I was thinking today about my uncle who once told me that he paid an artist to make him a painting… two years prior to our conversation. Now, I understand a painting can take several years to work on, especially if you’re working in oils and have to wait significant periods of time before applying the next coat and whatnot, but no. My uncle has contacted this artist and the artist himself admitted that he hadn’t made significant progress on the painting because “he just wasn’t inspired.”
If I may backtrack a bit, it’s not inspiration itself that’s dumb. Inspiration is beautiful. It’s that harmonious, magical moment where you’re struck with the desire to create something. Few things are more beautiful than that. It’s waiting for inspiration that’s dumb. Unless you have unlimited leisure time to visit places like libraries or museums that give you said inspiration, chances are, inspiration doesn’t strike you often enough to the point where you’re producing as much art as you could.
You probably had several experiences in your life where you know you should probably develop a skill of some kind, make a video, write your novel, but the very idea of just sitting down and doing it is daunting. It’s rewarding once you actually worked on that project the results present themselves, but actually getting started, working on it, can be such a drag.
The unfortunate truth is that in order to create art, sometimes, you just have to sit down and do it.
I’ve been waking up at 4:30 am every weekday to spend thirty minutes on my painting. I hate it sometimes. There are times where I’m just too tired too not be confident enough to paint well, so instead, I focus on a simpler part of the painting, like the background or something that doesn’t require a whole lot of detail. I hate that stupid alarm that won’t turn off unless I get out of bed, then when I do, there’s no point in getting back to bed. This has been happening for about a month now, and even though I don’t want to get up so early in the morning, art is so important, that’s it’s worth suffering for.
So, what should happen if you’re not inspired? I think more often than not, you’re not in a state that allows for much inspiration. You may be stuck in a work routine that doesn’t allow much time to surround yourself with inspiration.
Instead of Waiting for Inspiration, Establish a “Why”
Inspiration is like your broke brother-in-law always promising to pay you back, but never doing so. Occasionally, Inspiration will rise to the challenge and make himself useful, but when you really need him for something, he’s just not there.
Instead of depending so much on this brother-in-law, you need to build your foundation through other means. Nietzsche said, “Any man who has a ‘Why’ can suffer any ‘How.'” Why are you doing art, exactly? Are you doing it for the beautiful results? Or because you fear the fact that if you never do it, you will end up a failure? What’s your philosophy on art? Do you want to add beauty to this world, or do you have a message that needs sharing?
First and foremost, be willing to suffer.
Now that you’ve established your “Why,” it’s time to start suffering that “How.”
How important is art to you, really? Or anything for that matter? Are you willing to suffer for it? Are you willing to sacrifice some short time comfort for long-term results? Van Gogh, for example, suffered immensely for his art. You can argue he was crazy, but some things are worth going crazy for.
Be willing to sit down and do your art, even if you don’t want to in the moment. Accept that you hate it, but do it anyway. It’s better to fail, then not do it at all. Get up early, go for a ten minute walk first. If you’re not willing to love something enough to suffer for it, then what are you even doing?
Watch motivation and self improvement videos
Weirdly enough, I find watching workout motivation speeches on YouTube a really good source of non-inspiration. The same values echoed in those videos can be applied for art. The idea that you don’t want to work out can be applied to the fact that you don’t want to draw and paint, but you want the results, you want to build something to be proud of, only instead of your body, you’re building your portfolio.