I have a tendency to procrastinate. Maybe you can relate? Sometimes I think it's a case of thriving on the frantic energy of a deadline. It's not uncommon for me to triumphantly pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat at the eleventh hour. Other times it's simply fear. Most of the time it's fear. Okay, let's be honest … it's ALWAYS fear! You'd be amazed at how frightening it can be starting a painting or even continuing a painting. You have this extraordinary vision in your mind that you want to bring into being but you have some niggling doubt that you can pull it off. What if you fall short? What if people see it and look embarrassed on your behalf? What if it fails to be extraordinary and is just, well ... ordinary? Or worse, really bad! Often it IS really bad in the early stages. That's a particularly scary point in time. It bears no resemblance at all to the finished product you have in mind. It's shortcomings are glaringly obvious. That's often the point where I start to think I've forgotten how to paint and I need to just call off the whole charade. It's amazing how painting a really bad painting can mess with your self image. But really you never get to the point of painting a really bad painting because you either keep going and it turns out just fine, or it looks so bad early on you don't have the courage to keep going and you end up doing the equivalent of exposing your newborn on the hillside. Which is a shame really as oftentimes the ugly duckling really is the awkward bone structure of the soon-to-be swan. And of course the whole point is that you lose the joy of the journey because you're spending all your time feeling bad about an outcome that hasn't happened yet and likely won't.
I came across a meme about the creative process and it made me laugh in recognition so I copied it out and pinned it to the cork board in my studio so, when in the throes of self-esteem-shattering crappy looking painting, I can see it and go “oh yeah! This happens EVERY time!” (See image to the right. It applies to any creative venture, not just art.) >
I liked to joke that I'd made procrastination into an art form … and then I did - literally! In order to make my procrastination look productive and completely justifiable – not only to anyone watching, but to my whip-wielding inner taskmaster as well - I developed an artsy looking procrastination technique. I began painting “Procrastination Rocks”.
It's deceptively artsy looking while being utterly mindless and requiring no skill or innate talent. The end result is usually at least somewhat visually pleasing and it kills time and keeps me from working on a painting that's unnerving me, which is, if we're being honest here, the whole point. But it kind of backfired because in its mindlessness, it's surprisingly mindful, which means it quietens that part of the prefrontal cortex that's a perfectionistic judgmental SOB, thereby allowing the creative part to step up to the plate. It's about the moment, watching the inks blend and flow and coat the rocks. The silver alcohol ink, in particular, fizzes in a very satisfying way as I drip the other colours in. It's mesmerizing! The gold ink flakes apart and forms jagged lines in places that it chooses to without accepting direction from me at all. It's all fascinating to watch and keeps my brain focused on “now”. It's like meditation … or perhaps I've just forgotten to open the windows and I'm getting a bit dopey on alcohol ink fumes, but it feels very meditative.
As you can see from the photos, I've procrastinated a fair bit. But I have an amazingly colourful pile of rocks to show for it! And strangely enough, as a result, more actual paintings as well. My clever technique to procrastinate turned out to be a mindfulness technique in disguise. It settles my doubting left brain down with its lack of agenda, while stoking up my creative right brain with colour and pattern, and then the real work can get started again. Who knew procrastination could turn out to be a powerful productivity tool?
Unfortunately now I have a new distraction to procrastinate on … where the hell am I going to store all these damn rocks?! Never mind, I'll worry about that later. I think I have a closet that needs organizing.