Don’t Touch the Brakes

MarigoldNothing is the worst thing I have ever done, I think. Yeah. Pretty much. Doing nothing.

I have to tell myself, “Don’t stop going, whatever you do.” For the longest time, whenever I felt like I was stuck/lost, I always just stopped whatever I was doing (drawing, writing, painting, driving) and tried to just stand still and figure things out. The worst time was when I thought maybe I should just take a break from art, and I stopped painting and drawing. For. Months. I was a cashier at the time, and I kinda thought, “Maybe I’ll just do this until my inspiration comes back.”

Holy crap, Batman. That was a miserable, sluggish period. Do you remember the Doldrums from Phantom Tollbooth? Because that was totally it. It’s a little bit like drowning. Maybe a lot like drowning. It’s that absolutely horrible feeling of “What if I didn’t do this thing that I love basically more than anything?”

“What if I’m just not an artist?” became the nightmarish theme of those months. What I learned from this phase of self-induced pity-partying was this: Never, ever stop moving. NEVER.

As an artist, life is all about momentum and velocity. Not in a crazy “rat race” sort of way, but an athletic sort of way. It’s about training, toning, refining, and building muscle and instinct. Every time you stop, you risk falling out of shape and losing motivation. Art isn’t just something you “figure out” and memorize: it takes practice, it takes dedication, and it takes showing up. This “showing up” bit is the hardest, but the most crucial, because nothing happens without it.

Waaayyyy back in January, my New Year’s resolution was pretty straightforward: be a better artist. I don’t mean draw or paint better, though. I mean be a better artist. Show up more often. Put pencil to paper (or stylus to tablet) every day, for hours. More art, regardless of how I feel or how it looks, means I’m being a better artist.

My biggest hurdle has always been getting started, so I guess it makes sense that my best solution is to simply never stop.

What’s your biggest hurdle? What always seems to keep you away from your work?

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