Like other forms of resistance in our lives, procrastination comes up when we need to do something difficult or unpleasant.
The funny thing about the most chronic of us procrastinators is that we tend to be perfectionists— we want everything done perfectly and nothing else is acceptable.
When we want things to be perfect even the simplest task gets built up into a terrifying, time consuming project.
I’ve been there. For a matter of fact, when I was a teenager I quit art for two years because of perfectionism, procrastination, and art block. For anyone that knows me now that very idea seems absurd. Art is all I talk about, I love it, and I create something no matter how small everyday.
But four years ago I was a very different person. I wouldn’t even call myself an artist back then. Actually, I tried to repress my more creative side especially around those closest to me. Quitting art was a result of a pretty toxic cocktail of all different forms of resistance spoken by an insatiable inner critic.
At first, I wasn’t creating because I didn’t know what to make.
Once I didn’t make anything for a while the idea of it became scarier. Because when I haven’t drawn in two months I better draw something good to make up for it. But what if what I make is bad? Maybe it’s ridiculous to even try. Maybe I’m better off if I just didn’t make art anymore.
So, how did I go from creating nothing to creating daily?
Well, I’d say it’s about letting go of being perfect and focusing on just creating rather than creating something good.
Talking to Other Artists
Being around other artists is one of the best remedies for when you want to stop creating or haven’t made anything for a while.
Talking about your craft and realizing that other artists face the same struggles as you is relieving. I mean, misery does love company. But it really shows that you’re no less of an artist for having doubts, fears, and insecurities.
It also holds you accountable to create work. It’s easier to bail out on a piece when you are the only one invested in it. However, when you have others invested in your work and supporting you it makes finishing your work more important.
I would highly recommend going to a figure drawing course to see other artists. On top of that, or if figure drawing is not an option for you, joining an online artists community can be immensely helpful. You can join our A-Z art challenges and join our artist community over on discord!
Quantity over Quality
I will tell anyone that my best advice to you is quantity over quality. Art is all about learning and when you make a lot, you’re bound to learn. Actually, in art school they give us time limits on each assignment as well as lots of assignments to teach us. Quantity over quality is one of the most valuable things my professors have taught me.
When you make a lot of art, and when you do it regularly it takes the exceptionalism out of making art. It just becomes something you do. Not every piece needs to be amazing because there will be more tomorrow. You don’t need to be in a certain mood to create, because rain or shine it happens.
Creating Good Habits
The best way to create more is through good habits. The best way to create a habit is to make it easy, I mean that’s how bad habits are formed right? Like eating out. After work getting groceries, cooking and cleaning all feel like a chore. So we eat out, and what was once a special treat becomes an expensive habit.
To break the habit does take some discomfort, but there are ways to make cooking more appealing again
Like meal prepping over weekends, having a shopping schedule, and cooking fast recipes that you’re used to. These few things make eating at home a little easier and might not seem too complex. But when you're tired after a long day they make all the difference.
I’ve found that it’s like that with other aspects in life.
If you want to do something, make it as easy as possible.
It’s our base instinct to take the path of least resistance which sucks when we want to do something difficult. So I try to make difficult but rewarding tasks easier.
To apply this train of thought for art making I actually always have my sketchbook out on my dining room table with my pencils and erasers beside it. It’s basically the first thing I see when I get home. I did this because I draw 15 minutes everyday.
I found that when starting this routine I was actually less likely to draw if I had to go through the process of setting everything up.
It streamlines the process. I only have to draw for 15 minutes as well. If I’m not really feeling art that day that’s all I do. However, I found that starting is usually the most difficult part. So 15 minutes turns into a longer practice session, or even a more serious piece.
These three things have completely changed the way I have a creative practice.
If you haven’t made work in a while or are struggling with making art I would recommend you try any one of these things.
Just remember everyone is different. These might not work for you, and they might not take effect overnight. These are habits I built over two years that got me to create regularly.
It’s also helpful to be mindful of when you’re not creating work because of resistance or if you are facing burnout. Everyone needs a break sometimes so be gentle on yourself. Resist the inner critic!
To hear more about our topic of resistance make sure you are all caught up on our A - Z art challenge where you can find resources that guide you on building your art career from A - Z. Our month of August is actually all about resistance, so if you’ve ever struggled with fear, doubt, art block or procrastination go check it out for more information.
Jessica Zwick, is a fine art student at Langara College in Vancouver BC.
She has a passion for bringing artists together through organizing events and knowledge share.
She is the community manager of artterra's A-Z challenge.