Doing and Starting

I've been working for the last couple of days on a mock-up of a book that I hoped to make by Friday for an upcoming exhibit at BookWorks. I absolutely, positively needed to do a prototype because I wanted to use some new techniques with photos and acrylics that I'd never tried before. I didn't like how my experiment turned out, although now I have a much better idea of what NOT to do and how to get a better result next time. But making the "real" book the right way is going to take considerably longer than the couple of days I'd allocated, so I'm going to turn in a book for the exhibit that I made earlier this summer.

So now there's nothing that I HAVE to do in the studio over the next couple of days.
But since I'd left that time open, I thought: "Well, I could start the new book, or finish the one I started last month or try that new structure I've been looking at..." To which I replied: "Ha!"

A little later, I saw a quote on Roben-Marie Smith's blog, Every Life Has a Story:
"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action." -- Frank Tibolt
and stopped to think how often I stay out of my studio because I have no pressing idea for a specific project and no looming deadline. I know that, as Woody Allen said, "80% of success is showing up" (not quite as good as what most people think he said: "90% of life is showing up."), but it's still difficult to get my foot in the (studio) door, so to speak.

My lonely worktable in my empty studio

Now, deadlines -- real deadlines are great, and I'm good at rallying to the cause. But I'm not one of those who can use artificial deadlines as a motivator. "Whom are you kidding?" , I always wonder when someone suggests this to me. You know it's a fake deadline, so why would you take it seriously?
(actually, I say "Who are you kidding?," but BookGirl, an English major, always knows when she's speaking ungrammatically.)

A better approach, I think, if you have no actual deadlines in sight, is to get your friends to agree to exchange stuff: handmade books, ATCs, prints -- whatever. And set a deadline. This usually does the trick, since I'm embarrassed to be the one who doesn't hold up her end of the bargain. The larger the number of people participating, the more embarrassing it is opt out. It doesn't work for me to do this with only one other person, since it's too easy to call on that one person's sympathy with sad tale about one's dog (BookPuppy) having eaten one's book.

The other thing you can do is to take a class. Somehow paying good money to have someone assign for homework exactly what I should have been doing on my own in the first place works wonders. Of course, it's depressing to think that I have such little self-discipline (and less money for art supplies after paying for the class), but BookGirl never expects life to be perfect.

Coincidentally, this wasn't the first quote I saw today about "doing" and "starting." Here's the other one:
"In fact, the ability to start out upon your own impulse is fundamental to the gift of keeping going upon your own terms, not to mention the further and more fulfilling gift of getting started all over again -- never resting upon the oars of success or in the doldrums of disappointment...Getting started, keeping going, getting started again -- in art and life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm." -- Seamus Heaney
I'm beginning to think that someone is trying to tell me something (insert theme from The Twilight Zone here). All in all, this is not a bad thing to be told, and certainly something I need to hear. Often. Maybe I'll go back into the studio tomorrow after all.


Riverlark said...

Ah, BG, everyday I have the same list: start exercising, start a book, start looking for a job. (grin) Someone in weight watchers this week said, "I keep waiting to be inspired to exercise and it never happens."
I'm rereading a fun book by Twyla Tharp called "The Creative Habit," sort of half-memoir and half-creative counseling. It has some very good advice, if I would just follow it......

Riverlark said...

PS Does anyone really say "whom" anymore? ;-)

Clara said...

I'm with you, RL. I figured out long ago that understanding the problem is about 1/20th of the issue and understanding the solutions is about another 1/20th. I want to believe, 'though, that if I just develop good work habits -- like getting into the studio by 10 every morning -- good things will happen. Not that I'll create great art, just that I'll make some. Seems simple, doesn't it?

TJBookarts said...

You sound alot like me. I find it hard just to walk into the studio and start making things. I need to have a project that needs to be done. I also work well with deadlines. Don't give me a project and say "get it done whenever you can" because that could be three years from now.
Your desk does look inviting though. I have three workspaces and two are under piles of stuff. The third is being crept up on as we speak.

Clara said...

Thanks, Jackie. You should see that same desk today! I've actually gotten myself into the studio for the past two mornings, so that's the good news.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry... I get moody too when it comes to making art. I go so long without making anything, and then after a month I'm itching just to dig in. But then I dig in so deep that after a week of making 5 things back to back I get burned out and thus, I go back to that whole month of not wanting to do anything and the cycle starts over again!