Sunday, 21 October 2012

But That’s Too Hard!

Quite often we know we need to do some creative work, we want to do some creative work, but we don’t turn off that game show on the TV and get off the sofa to do it. What could be keeping us from doing what we really would enjoy more? That old bugga-boo ‘fear’.  There are lots of components to what we are afraid of when it comes to a creative block but one of the fears is that what we want to do will be too hard for us.
If we deem ourselves not to be capable or competent enough for what we are envisioning, then the task we want to undertake appears insurmountable. We stand at the bottom of that creative mountain unable to move. The doubt that we’ll make a mess of any attempt we undertake or that once it is done it will fall short of our vision stymies our first move. And we don’t have to know how bad that piece will be if we never make it.
One of the things that will help us scale down the momentousness of what we want to do is talk to ourselves in a helpful manner. Someone I know often looks at work that I’m doing and says, ‘Why are doing that? It looks so hard.’ I try not to look at the difficulty but the beauty of what I’m making. My focus is not on how hard it is to make something or how long it will take or how much frustration I will experience along the way. Instead, I focus on the satisfaction that will come with the finished product, the joy of the process itself, the sense of mastery  that comes from completing a difficult task (even if it took me twenty times to get it there) and being willing to make mistakes along the way.
When you consider a creative venture do you first see difficulty and roadblocks to accomplishing your goal? What phrases are you using to discount these ideas? Are you saying things like ‘That’s too hard;’ ‘No way could I do a whole painting like that;’ or ‘There’s no way I could write an entire book’ ? If so, then some challenges to those automatic negative responses are in order.
If you say ‘That’s too hard,’ break down what it is you think is so difficult: is it the style, the size, the colours you want to use, the time you’d have to commit to completing something? Figuring out what part is really scaring you allows you to focus on a challenge or a solution to that. If it’s how to mix the colours, then you can spend some time just learning how to do that and then tackle the project. If it is the size,  then talk to yourself about how you can only paint one stroke at a time any way so that’s all you’d be doing. But first, when you say to yourself ‘that’s too hard’ remember to answer with ‘yes, it may be hard, but not that hard’. Or, ‘it may be hard, but I am ready for the challenge’.  Remind yourself that you are capable and competent and that each venture is another chance to improve.
I think it’s ok to acknowledge the difficulty of a task. But to follow with an encouragement is the key. Talking to your self as your own personal cheerleader (without the gymnastics and shouting) is how to get through a tough project. Using phrases like ‘this may seem hard but with practice it will be easier’ and  ‘this may be hard but I’m willing to make the effort’ will carry you a lot further than the defeatist lament (to be said with a whine) ‘this is too hard!’ If I find my self saying a lot of times while working ‘Man, this is really difficult!’  I then have to follow it with ‘but I’m going to keep making the effort.’ And with that encouragement, the piece gets done!
Another aspect of the ‘it’s too big, too difficult, too much’ syndrome is to remember to break things down into smaller chunks. Like the old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That is how you do any art piece: one bit at a time. We don’t start with the whole painting; we don’t start with the whole novel instead we start with a sketch, a few ideas, a line here and a line there. We start building with one piece at a time. Remembering to break it down in your head as well as with your hands into one small piece at a time helps us from getting overwhelmed with the entire project.
It’s ok to step back from time to time and see where you’re going. When you do, you’ll be surprised to find how far you’ve come. And hopefully your thought will be, ‘that wasn’t so hard after all!’

1 comment:

  1. Great advice Mary - as always!

    I love that joke about the elephant - ha!, but true! I've just started reading a book on writing which advocates writing a 1,000 words a day, that's all, every day; which when put in perspective, are small steps which make up the grand purpose of a novel. Makes it seem so much more 'easier' doesn't it!

    I think another block - well for me anyway - is that engaging in creative practices will shake us out of our sometimes self-protective 'numb' state. Like, if we're trying to block out a troubling emotion or truth, writing or art is a process that will ultimately open us up to truth and feeling, and is as such cathartic, redeeming and healing; but it's just that first initial fear of it that can stop us, as sometimes it's easier to remain numb than feel...