7.05.2007

Doing

I spend a lot more time on the Web now than I used to. It's dangerous for me. When I want to learn or practice something that's out of my comfort zone, I tend to spend too much time doing research and reading about it instead of doing it. Research and reading are way fun; they're also a safe option to taking action .

As with most things in life, this issue has two sides. The other side is that I'm a learning junkie. There's little else that I prefer over learning. And, boy, was the Web ever made for someone like me. I can dig as deeply as I have time to spare into any and all topics that strike my fancy. Interesting details surface that enrich what I already know, and altogether new and fascinating subjects emerge -- all the time. The Web was made for inquisitive and curious people; and for procrastinators.

Making art is the big thing outside my comfort zone these days. Inspiration is everywhere -- on the Web and off. When I was working at BLF (Big Law Firm), I could work for twelve hours straight without skipping a beat. Part of it was my nature, and part of it, admittedly, was that there was always something more to be done, but a lot of it was the mastery I felt in what I was doing. Doing something I know how to do well feels terrific -- almost as good as learning.

But the type of art I'm exploring now -- working with paint and ink, combining fabric and paper, manipulating digital images -- brings no sense of mastery with it. I'm starting from scratch, and while a certain amount of R&D is good under the circumstances, too much can paralyze. It can even fool you into believing that you're doing something. And the clincher: I don't even know if I'm going to like what I'm doing even when (and if) I learn to do it well.

What's the solution? I'm not sure there is one. In any case, not a quick or easy one. Getting comfortable with what I'm doing is the only solution that truly makes sense. And you get comfortable by doing. I know this. I KNOW this. So I suppose this post is, more than anything, a public pep talk. Studio time first thing in the morning, regularly. Got that? You heard it here first.

20 comments:

Riverlark said...

BG, you could be talking to me! I keep wondering if my studio project isn't just procrastination in disguise. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is.
When we're in our studios, we're creating only for ourselves and that's where I think people like us get stuck. We don't see how our work fits in with the big picture (like our previous work at BLF or my own former employer) but we're also recognizing a very strong need in ourselves to create.
My teacher Julie Chen used to say that you had to make a date with creativity each day AND SHOW UP. If you didn't, your ideas would just stop showing up as well. Good luck!!!

BookGirl said...

Thanks, RL. It helps to know that there are others working through the same issues. You're right that creating for oneself is a whole different ballgame and that being part of the big picture makes a big difference.

Extending that to art-making, that's why it's much easier for me to work in a workshop setting (say, Penland) than on my own. There's structure to a workshop,and there are goals and deadlines. In making art on your own, there's much less structure.

It seems that it's all about living with the ambiguity of not having that structure and STILL showing up and doing. That's why I'm trying to create some kind of regular appointment with myself. If I can do that I'll feel like I've made a good start. Thanks for the encouragement.

Riverlark said...

I, too, love the workshop environment for producing, I mean, creating! ;-)
Living with ambiguity....man, there's a whole book waiting to happen in that one phrase.
The paint is drying on the wall downstairs, and I've promised myself I'll start making boxes to sell. So I'm off to MCBA to use their board shears this morning. Keep me posted on your progress!

Ann said...

I know exactly what you mean, too. It's so much easier to sit on my butt and surf for interesting book artists and new techniques and pretend I'm learning something than it is to get off my butt and actually make books. It's a struggle every day, especially interspersed with efforts to make a living.

I think on my part, a lot of it is fear of both failure and success. Like you, I'm starting mostly from scratch and venturing into something relatively new. I'm a work at home kinda person, so its really all up to me to get things done. It's helpful to know I'm in the same boat with others though. Thanks for posting.

Lee Kottner
www.leekottner.com

Dianne said...

Something I read recently that struck a cord:

Basically there are two reasons people procrastinate: because they don’t feel the need to do it, or because they can’t see what comes next. People want to see the whole staircase before they take the first step.

Proceeding without a complete plan and believing that solutions will present themselves when needed is often the crux of the problem, at least in my case.

BookGirl said...

Ann (or Lee?), yeah, the Internet is a mixed bag, isn't it? In spite of my post, I've already spent almost two hours this morning checking out the blogs of book makers and/or book readers.

The blogrolls of blogs that I look at regularly are my downfall. One leads to another, to another, etc. You know the drill. And, of course, I have to set up folders and bookmarks for the new techniques I find, which I then never look at again. Ouch!

Thanks for posting.

BookGirl said...

Dianne, that's a great quote. You and Riverlark have both raised the issue, in different ways, of needing to know where the road is taking us before we can move forward.

That resonates to strongly for me. Trusting the process without a plan is sooooo far from my natural inclination. Gives me a lot to think about (but, if I'm to follow my intention, not at the expense of doing, right?). Thanks.

GerryM said...

I find myself in a similar dilemma, coming from the opposite side. I'm already comfortable in my chosen areas of art and design, but now I often find myself in the same realm of procrastination and tangent-seeking when I engage in an area that is relatively new to me — writing. It's so easy to wander off into the ether following one promising "research" link after another.

I'd gone through an earlier transition when I moved into the arts, but at the time, the Web was still so nascent that I had to find other excuses to procrastinate — though for the life of me, I can't remember what I did for distraction in those pre-Internet days!

BookGirl said...

Gerry, I was thinking the same thing as I wrote my post: what did I do pre-Internet to procrastinate? I think my process was similar. I still "researched" and "looked into" things, but I did it with books and magazines rather than newspapers. And while books are still a passion for me, I find that my magazine readership has gone way down.

Coincidentally, I visited your blog earlier today. Interesting stuff. Your point about shortened attention spans struck a chord. Although I haven't yet encountered an e-book, I'm much less patient both with reading on the web (if it doesn't capture my attention immediately or the site is difficult to navigate or visually unattractive, I'm gone) and with bookreading (I'm finding it more difficult to settle in for long periods of time).

Sarah said...

Your post strikes such a cord with me (caught red handed infact!) There is a huge amount intersting stuff out there and I feel like I don't want to miss any of it, it inspires me so much and yet also distracts me... what a conundrum :)

And I like what you say about needing to know the end before making a start, that never really occured to me explicitly but... yep, it's true, as is your solution; DO IT!

Thank you for your insight, it's given me lots to think about (although perhaps I should really go and make something...)

BookGirl said...

Sarah, "conundrum" is just the right word. In a different context, I've heard and read that if you seek a certain feeling (for example, confidence in doing something you feel awkward about, or warmth toward someone you may not particularly like), one solution is to *behave* confidently or *behave* warmly, and the feelings will follow over time. So we're back to *doing,* rather than to observing, in spite of the fact that, as you mention, there's so much out there to observe!

Riverlark said...

Such great reactions to your post, BG! I have a huge collection of books on book arts and I would often dream over them, thinking of the books I'd make, instead of actually sitting down and making any of them. When I'd buy a new book, I'd feel like it was bringing me closer to doing something, when it was really only being added to my collection of dreams.
I find myself now in the position that I long wished for: all the time in the world to make books and I still procrastinate. You've left some lovely compliments on my blog, but I take inspiration as well from YOU and your questions. I also find that if I write about it, and get some encouragement, that I would really like to get it done so I can show you. Maybe it's like having the fellowship of a workshop online?

BookGirl said...

RL, maybe the reason we're inspirational to each other is because we share some of the same struggles. You would not believe the stack of bookmaking books I own! And, same here; rather than making the books, I look at the pictures and drool. My current fave is the latest book by Alisa Golden. I've gone so far this time as to put it on my worktable, with the intent of making mock-ups of each of the books over time. We'll see if this one small step leads to another one.

(And I do so love the thought of a online fellowship.)

Eero said...

I am just fascinated by this whole discussion. I, too, have a serious problem with procrastination as it applies to new experiences/projects. I have identified it as a "worrier personality" syndrome where if I cannot see the outcome, I am scared to proceed and thus procrastinate. Dianne's quote was so accurate! I've been gettting over this in the last year with my new, simple, bone-headed mantra, "Shut up and do it." (I've tended to talk about stuff and not do it.)
Positive leap forward was going to Penland---and SO many great things have stemmed from that experience.
Now I'm goin to shut up and go for a bike ride with a new friend.

BookGirl said...

E, you were so prolific and intuitively productive at Penland that it's hard to believe that you procrastinate. But I guess the operative word here is "new," as in "new experiences/projects." I read somewhere that the most important rule of making art is "to start," and the second most important is "to finish," and that if you do both of these consistently, everything else will take care of itself. Or, as you more eloquently put it: "Shut up and do it!"

GerryM said...

Thanks for the thoughts about my blog, BG. My reading periods for books have declined, too — down to a handful of pages at a time now, unless I make a conscious and sometimes painful effort to force myself to focus.

On projects—whether for work or for play—I find that the only thing that can keep me from multi-tasking wildly is a dangerously close deadline. Fortunately, that, at least, still has the power to bring some single-minded clarity.

BookGirl said...

Gerry, external deadlines have always worked for me as well. When I'm working on personal projects, I try to fool myself by setting internal deadlines, but it's just not quite the same, is it?

GerryM said...

Internal deadlines? Heh... no, not the same at all. For me, taking the time to make up internal deadlines and schedules is just another exercise in procrastination!

Sarah said...

Don't forget lists! They're a great way to feel really productive and not get round to actually doing anything, lists of lists fill my pockets...

BookGirl said...

Oh, Sarah, now you've really struck close to home. I am the queen of listmakers!