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Doing the Work of Creating

A couple of months back, I spent a week painting and puppy sitting.

It was a planned event during which I decided to keep in touch with my followers through the social networks. I created art, learned some important lessons, and played with the puppy, but to do so, I had to make the harder choice.

It would have been easy to choose to go off to the local coffee shop and fiddle with making my technology better. A new spot to check out was inviting and the thought of sending out constant photos of my journey pulled had at my attention. I would have felt better sending more tweets and updating Facebook about my progress. However, I don’t know how many messages would’ve been enough for me to feel satisfied.

I’m not sure why, but, somehow doing more with technology gives me a sense of accomplishment – at least in the moment. Yet, I really have few ways to measure whether my readers actually benefit from my efforts. Using the social networks to commune with my tribe is actually quite one sided, because I just don’t know who is out there reading and what they think about my exploits.

It would also have been more fun to play with the puppy. Her demands and affection were inviting.

I was smitten with puppy love and looking into her sweet golden eyes really took me far into playful thoughts like, “The heck with my creative work, let’s just have fun!” Or I could have been refreshed with more restful naps. I certainly needed the rest. I could’ve finished reading my books, and enjoyed filling my head with the thoughts and ideas of others, too.

It was tempting to just have dwelt in my sketchbook and acted the painter planning her masterpieces. I could’ve listened to my inner perfectionist and decided I brought the wrong tools, or paint, or canvases. I could’ve also let my self criticism direct my week, finding any number of reasons to not create.

Instead I chose the hardest way. I painted.

I risked feeling good for the self exploration of new creative territory. I worked, experimenting with my own schemes. I discovered that hard work is exhausting and exhilarating because, it holds the tension of creation. I grew, transforming my ideas into making lots of art. I completed nine paintings, prepared three more canvases, created three dozen acrylic skins for my collages, tweeted and updated my Facebook followers a little, played with the puppy a bit, took an occasional nap, read some and accomplished so much more than I would have if I made the easy choices.

Showing up and making my art was an eventful creation all by itself.

It takes conviction and consistency to make art. I had high goals to accomplish a lot of art work during this opportunity. It would’ve been easy to squander my time on fun stuff or busy work or any of a million distractions all of which I could easily justify. However, my art is not just dreamed up; it actually needs me to show up and do the work.

Do you ever get stuck with distractions instead of doing the work you need to accomplish your making art? Here are three tips to get you back on track:

  1. Catch yourself drifting off task. This may show up as feeling stress or euphorically lost in some other activity. Maybe you believe you’ll feel better getting other things out of the way first. Once you can identify yourself engaged in actions that are not doing the work of making your art, you can try the next step.
  2. Reclaim the energy of your creative zone. What does it feel like to be there happily creating your art? Where is your mind when you are heavily engaged in the actions of doing your creative work? Start feeling yourself back at work. If you need stimulation try music or scents that help you create. (These can eventually become automatic cues to jump into your work zone, whenever you get stuck).
  3. Next just show up. Go to your work space. Set it up to work. Hold your tools, brush your paint or type words on your keyboard or, for whatever your media is, physically engage your process. Put your body in the motions of yourself creating, and get to work!

Creating real art is a lot like riding a bike. When you fall off you only need to get up, climb on and peddle again. There will always be distractions and something else that needs doing or maybe even a cute loving puppy to play with, but real art has to be made, not imagined.

Sandy Nelson is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.