In my 2012 year review post, I mentioned that one of my goals for 2013 was to make more, and do the work. I mentioned that I would expand upon what I mean when I say “do the work”.
In 2012, I challenged myself to do more art, and set a bunch of goals and milestones to track how well I was succeeding. I managed to hit none of them. I didn’t do a single meaningful thing. I think I filled 3 or 4 pages in a sketch book with sketches.
The reason I didn’t do anything, I think, is two fold. Firstly, I was putting things off until I felt I was good enough to do them. Secondly, I was waiting for inspiration to strike before doing any practice. This combination had me spinning my wheels in place for an entire year, where nothing I wanted to get done was done.
“I’ll finish that painting when I’m better at painting”, I would tell myself. By waiting until I was better, I never got any better. It would have been far better if I had screwed the painting up and tried again, and screwed up and restarted 10 times than what I did. Derek Sivers covers it well in his article, Quantity + Learning = Quality . Except I didn’t get any practice done, due to my other problem.
I was waiting for a great idea of something to express to come to me, and let it flow out of me and into the paper. But that’s not how it works. I’ve heard or read it before from a variety of sources, but it was a quote by Chuck Close in the book “Inside the Painter’s Studio” (found via this post) that really resonated with me:
Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will – through work – bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea’
That’s exactly what I was doing! I was just sitting around, waiting, and look at how I did – I did nothing.
Doing the work is my answer at solving the second problem, which should also overlap and solve problem one. Just show up, start working and build fundamental skills. I’ll get more done by making crap and learning from it and enjoying the process than I will by waiting for the perfect combination of inspiration and skill to fall into place.