I have been psyching myself up and out–for months, years even, trying to re-establish an art practice. I have gone the way of the parent who decided to stay at home and raise a child(ren) and then never went back to work outside the home. Having done freelance work from home for years I thought I would just naturally drift back into that once the child had left home. But the husband was used to someone to run the home while he traveled for work, and the child didn’t leave home until she was 23…and then there was breast cancer. The practice was well and truly buried. Deeply.
I drifted from dribs and drabs of painting, to jewellery making, to various crafts but I never developed a discipline. That was probably because I didn’t have to. But something in me really wanted to. It felt like I wasn’t finished yet. I’d gleaned all these amazing shapes and colours and textures from living life where I wanted to be and it felt like they were meant to live through me in another form.
In recent years I’d have a burst of creative energy or ideas once or twice a year but somehow I couldn’t convert it to a sustained practice that was taking me on the journey of discovery I wanted to have. What to do?
Not even the stay-at-home days of the pandemic had given me the push forward I needed. I searched and read and listened and scrolled to get inspired. While all of that was interesting, I had not yet figured out how to convert it to a practice.
One podcast inspired me to take an online course presented by an artist who came to her practice in her middle life. I enjoyed the course but when it was over once again I found myself with a few new skills and no practice, no direction.
The next time I was inspired by an online course, I was not even that successful. I followed the instructor’s lead, but realised it just wasn’t my thing. The next course I never even started. I loved the idea and his lessons were good but it just didn’t float my boat. Once again, it felt like I would be working in his style, rather than developing my own.
The holidays came and I was back to doing what I’ve become pretty good at, being a homemaker, wife and mother. I love all those things and don’t want to abandon them, but I want more. So when the holidays were over and I had caught up on rest, I was back to trying to get myself inspired. I thought what was lacking was inspiration so I followed more people on Instagram, watched YouTube, read inspiring stories and occasionally visited my drawing table with sporadic and unfulfilling results.
And then on January 14th came a TED talk. Even they had been falling a little flat for me in recent months. Everyone was trying to communicate their idea of something great. I didn’t want someone else’s ‘great’, I wanted my own. The TED recommendation came via email, and didn’t interest me. But I scrolled down the same page. An unassuming small talk by a woman I’d never heard of, piqued my curiosity. ‘The one minute secret to forming a new habit’…and it was only ten minutes long. I was in.
The talk was given by a novice video editor presenting from home, as per the covid-norm, and so it was a little annoying, but I kept telling myself, ten minutes is not that long unless you are having root canal work done, so hang in there. She stated her case for taking one minute out of every day to establish a new habit. Her new habit had been running. Her only stipulation? You have to be okay if you suck at it! C’mon, that is doable, right? I can suck with the best of them! That very day I began. I would take one minute and sit at my drawing table and doodle. To be honest, from day one, I took more than a minute. And I did suck most of the time. But I loved that sitting down, and embracing the suck-ness freed me up to keep coming back. It wasn’t about the quality of the work, it was about showing up.
Every day I sat down, and curiosity would take over. In seconds I was wondering what this colour or this mark would look like with that one and where it would all lead. And I reminded myself it didn’t matter if it sucked, I was just establishing the habit. Even the days when I didn’t feel like doing it, I sat down and did a little something.
After a few days my mood lightened. I felt happier within myself. Maybe it was just coincidence, I thought. After a week or so I noticed that I was having more creative moments throughout the day. I would look at something and immediately wonder what kind of drawing or painting that would make. I was taking more photos again, and not to post on Instagram, but as reference for potential drawings or paintings.
On day 10 I had taken a striking photo of the light at sunrise, of the houses and trees that we see from our place. That day I made the first pastel work that I have ever liked out of several attempts in years gone by. The next day I went back to sucking again.
But the day after that, I still showed up for another minute…and another minute…and then more than a minute and then more than an hour! I couldn’t believe this simple change could make such a big difference so easily. Soon I found myself watching YouTube videos to learn how to use the soft pastels that are my new enthusiasm. Watching the videos was not included in my one minute session, that was in addition to the one minute, which by then, were almost never only one minute but stretched into half hours and more.
I began to employ a little trick I used to use when painting more regularly. Years ago I’d noticed if I began a painting and had it, say, two thirds completed, enough to see where I was going with it, I would walk away from it for a day or two and then come back. It beckoned to me to come back and finish it, so it got me back into the studio again. This time, I found that I would not fret about how much time I had spent on an image, but I could leave it to return to later. As I walked in and out of the room, passed the table, I would glance at it and mull it over all the remainder of the day. Then, fresh with enthusiasm I would return and finish it next day. For many artists this doesn’t work. They find the mood is broken and they can’t get back into the flow of that work again. But in my case, it works. For me it’s important to self evaluate, not judge the work good or bad, but evaluate effective procedures and practices, study the colours and composition so I can modify things or use the time to advantage.
For me, this little one minute change relegated my relentlessly judgemental self to a position that was much less inhibiting. It reduced the task to the smallest increment and allowed that to be crappy. I just had to show up. I’m good at showing up, just not very kind to myself about the results—or I wasn’t, until now! I will be writing more about my journey which is now beginning the sixth week.
I have not missed a single day, but if I do, I will know how to begin again.
Thank you for sharing this part of your journey, and another tool which will aid me on mine. I’ve been sort of employing a similar “just show up” technique but now understand it better, and will be able to refine my approach. I still haven’t found my one thing -and have to admit maybe I never will- but this year I wanted to do more exploring, hence the knitting -which I will continue, pottery class -just for fun, authentic self journey writing -a continuation, which has seen me consistently writing more than I have done for quite some time with either notebook or keyboard. Some news about a family friend derailed that a couple of days ago so “the one minute secret habit” will help me get back to it. You made me chuckle… I hate sucking at stuff but if I hadn’t long ago stopped listening to that part of my self I’d never try anything new. And really, when I look at your work, I think it’s marvellous and wish I was one tenth as talented. When I look at my own, well you know, I see pumpkin!
I’m glad this resonates with you Dale. I hate sucking at stuff too, but since I’m human I most certainly do suck at times! Thank you for the lovely compliment. I was listening to a podcast recently and they were saying that things you used to do repeatedly with a certain level of skill come back to us after years of not doing them. I can feel that happening with my drawing and colour skills. It’s very gratifying to know I haven’t forgotten it all. I hope your family friend situation isn’t too distressing. These things out of left field can derail us unexpectedly. I’m sure your pumpkin will develop into an accomplished tea pot. xx
LikeLiked by 1 person
Kim Smith said:
Ardys, I can relate SO much to this. I’ve felt much the same over the past 20 years…having short periods of creativity and productivity, but nothing sustained for very long. And the frustration of knowing you’ve got it in you but just can’t seem to get it together the way you want. And during the pandemic I’ve felt more rudderless than ever. But as I began to see your beautiful artwork in this post, I felt myself cheering you and thinking, “Yes, you go girl!” It seems you’re finding your groove now, and I can’t wait to see more.
I watched that same Ted talk a couple months ago but had forgotten about it. So glad you reminded me of this technique for changing habits.
I’m so glad you can relate to this post, Kim. Isn’t it interesting how sometimes we see something and it ‘connects the dots’ for us, and other times it just doesn’t connect at all? I’m honestly so amazed that such a small change has had such great benefits for me!
LikeLiked by 1 person
A genuinely big thank you for sharing your journey and the reaching of the end station. Love what you have shown us , appreciate what led to you finding the desire to accomplish what for long was in your mind. Methinks the journey seems to have comfortably settled into its motion. Actually I have used the same method of ‘yes I can and yes, I will’ for a considerable length of time – *smile* in my case I settled with my Gemini other to make it ten minutes – don’t give up !! Living on my own and being responsible only to myself there have been times every week, nay, every day when I should have attacked a variety of practical matters which both needed to be done and I actually sort’of wanted to do . . . and yet it was a case of ‘later’ or ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’. Until ,disgusted with myself, I said ‘ten minutes, that is all for today’. At the moment I have three ‘ten minute’ per day or say Mon-Wed-Fri endeavours afoot . . . I do not allow myself reading or friends or,social media or even paidwork until I have done ‘my bit’ ! When the results become visible as say deciding which of some 3000 books around the house gathering dust on every surface one really cannot do without and which others could share . . . one just may ‘forget’ to look at the hands of a clock . . . So glad you are making friends with your talent and enjoying it, Ardys . . . be well . . .
Thank you Eha. I realised down the road a bit I have used similar methods to this to achieve other things, but I hadn’t quite been able to extract that lesson for this particular use. Now I have. It’s wonderful to add new tools to one’s box!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Proud of your new works, Ardys! They transmit energy and hope, and they are beautiful! All the best, my friend!
Thank you so much Fabio! I hope you are right that my images transmit energy and hope, what a great compliment. Keep well.
LikeLiked by 1 person
No question about that, Ardys! Please keep painting. Best to you and the family! X
Once again, your post is timely and speaks to me in the moment. I have felt much the same experience as you with your role as a wife and mother, only mine was wife and caretaker of this place. Since Forrest retired in January, my duties here eased up, and I was surprised at myself in letting go of so much work and responsibility. And what I always said about retirement allowing me more time to write, well, it just didn’t happen. In fact, nothing new or interesting has happened. The inclement weather has kept us indoors, and Covid restrictions continue, and all of that time I have on my hands has yielded little productivity.
Deep down, I know this inactivity is just fine. For the first time in my life I feel happy and rested. The itch to write won’t fade away because it is what I love, but for now, I feel rest and just “being” is the experience. I know that Universe will present something down the road, when the time is right.
Your work is evolving and how exciting is that? Just “showing up” and letting your inner spirit and creativity guide you and allowing the outcome be whatever it is – sucky or grand, is much more pleasing than letting that ever-present ego to dictate and control. Your artistic pieces are lovely and expressive. You’ll totally rock this just like you do with your prose and photography, Ardys. I can’t wait to see more posts on this leg of your journey!
I have to correct you, you ARE a wife and deer mother! That takes a LOT of energy and focus Lori. I totally agree there is nothing wrong with relaxation and a good rest after! I’ve done lots of that the last five years or so and don’t regret it at all. Another creative friend and I have discussed many times how you can be ‘soaking up’ all kinds of input for future creative projects when you are seemingly ‘doing nothing’. You have only been in ‘retirement’ for a short while. Our experience is that it takes a year or so to settle into a new normal, and even then we have had further transition periods over the years. Also, it is winter for you and we all do a little hibernating then. Thank you so much for your kind words about my art. It is only in the fledgling stages, but I’m learning and improving all the time and that is my main goal. Also, to keep my Ego in check so that I can keep that inner critic to a quiet murmur. xx
LikeLiked by 1 person
MELVYN B SMITH said:
As Benjamin Franklin said: “To do what one must do is to first to know what must be done.” Since it is obvious you have ascertained the direction and you have taken positive steps… you are on your way! M.
Sent from my iPhone
Good quote by Mr. Franklin! Yes, I think I’m moving forward now and heading toward something new. Thanks for reading Mel. Hope you are both well.
Pingback: if I knew where I was going… | ardysez
So sorry Robyn, have just noticed I had not replied to this comment. Thank you, yes, very nice to have my own space.