Ways of Approaching the Blank Page- Showing Up

Showing Up

My Own Experience of Not Starting Enough

I find days go by sometimes where I have opportunities to show up and get to work but I let time go by. Then when I do start, I wonder why I was putting it off. The stress involved in working can be less than the state of not working.

Problems or Distractions Interfering with Starting

Sometimes, I’m distracted by some problem in my life. Sometimes, I’m able to start work and get enough into it to forget the problems in the first place. It can even help problems to get your mind off of them for a while. The subconscious mind works better sometimes on things after you’ve forgotten them for a while.

Levels of the Working Trance

Sometimes you might be able to go deep into the working trance and sometimes you still are distracted to some extent. But if you just work, something comes through, however deep you end up going into the working trance.

Waiting for Inspiration

Many of us wait for inspiration. That can prevent starting.

Setting Deadlines

Sometimes having a deadline gets you showing up, but most people’s tendency is to procrastinate and work more as the deadline approaches, and then we feel like we could have done a little better after the deadline passes if we’d just worked more evenly the whole time we knew about the project and its due date.

Separate Space to Work

It can help to have a dedicated working space. Some people work better with a separate space they have to physically travel to, and some people work better in a live/work space where they can just drop everything and get to work immediately.

The Flow State

If you can get into a state of flow when you work, you end up being more complex and capable after that. At the other extreme, if you wallow too much in boredom or anxiety, psychic entropy sets in and you can start to become simpler and less capable.

FlowChannelDiagram(From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work)

Momentum

Sometimes you can take advantage of momentum by continuing to work of the same project or type of work you were working on the night before or the last session.

Professionalism

Professional artists tend to work whether they feel inspired or not. Amateurs’ level of inspiration might often be higher than professionals’. But most people find there’s inspiration enough once you start working. There is an extreme, when an artist finds something that sells and just starts making almost the same piece of art over again. This is know as being a Johnny one note. Most of us don’t have to worry about that so much, being at the opposite extreme of not knowing what would sell or for many if not most artists, not caring too much about whether the work sells, doing it being a need of the soul. Some people do bread and butter or tourist art and then work they do for themselves, and pretty much present the bread and butter art as a body of work recognizable as their own.

Scheduling Time for Working and Stopping

Sometimes if you schedule time to work, when it’s time to work you start. Sometimes I start a count-down timer. Or set a timer to ring when to start and another one at a stopping time, say two or four hours later.

Mistakes in Work Instead of in Life

If you work enough, you make less mistakes in your life. So that’s something to remind yourself when you’re on the verge of starting to work- if you do work you make some of your mistakes in your work instead of all in your life.

Coffee and Tea When Working

Caffeine has you trading creativity for productivity. Not only that, but there’s a window of opportunity where there’s a little pressure to work, and then the crash after which it’s harder to work. There’s a temptation to think that it’s going to help with the work in a way that it might not. Van Gogh recommended painting while drinking coffee and eating bread. A little bit can help for a while, as long you keep in mind the tradeoff.

Having Something Preliminary To Do First

Sometimes there’s something you have to do first before you start working and that can get in the way. Changing into painting clothes, travelling to a working space, even more so needing to buy or find some material you need to do your work.

Adding an Activity to Other Activities

One way to show up is to add showing up for your work at the end of an activity you do regularly. If there’s something you do every day, and you want to add some new activity, you can sort of sneak it into your schedule by telling yourself you’ll do it right after that oftentimes habitual activity.

Once You Start

I notice I feel better after a few minutes of working. It’s actually a little stress to want to work and not be starting, more so than the stress you project into the future imagining yourself working. So if you want to start working, choose to show up and get that start.

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