5 December, 2002
Your December 5th, 2002
In today's ezine Blossom K. of Florida asks a very honest - and epidemic - question,
in essence "why can't I finish what I start?" The answer? See the following :-) Happy
I have a few questions for you. Maybe you can help me. I'm
Keeping the momentum going: why do we quit?
I can most definitely relate to what you're saying Blossom - and I think a lot of people
can too. When someone says to me (or when I say to myself) "I just can't seem to
finish what I start" which is essentially what you're saying, I have to ask this (though
I'm not a psychologist) :
Is there something you're afraid of?
And I'm not asking you to "get over it - just do it" when I say that, no, I'm really
asking you that - "what are you afraid of?" Because it's that fear that stops almost every
good plan in it's tracks. Often times it's old stuff - comments people made years
ago that make you scared - a misguided word from a parent, a teacher, a friend -
they can cut deep. Getting to the root of the resistance, identifying it is often the
antidote - because you can look at the cause and say "that's ridiculous!" and
When a comment like that causes pain,
Often at some level I know I'm repeating that barb to myself - and it'll keep stopping
me for a long time (even years) afterwards. "Yea, who am I fooling?, or "heck, this stinks
- why waste any more time on it?" In fact you might not have any memory of what was
said - you just get this crummy feeling rising up out of nowhere in your body any time you
find yourself in a situation that has some risk involved. If becoming an artist (caricature,
portrait or any other kind) is a deep desire, then any move in the direction of becoming
an artist will conjure up those nasty "who are you fooling?" demons. That will stop
you right there.
How to unravel "Artistic Voodoo": a look at human needs
So what else might stop people from going after something - from starting a business,
from going to the gym, from trying out a new sport, from traveling, from drawing?
We're certainty creatures
Well there's a whole list of other things there that'll stop us: the fear of looking bad, fear
of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of not being lovable. There's uncertainty
there! And we are "certainty" creatures. That is, if we don't have certainty about what's
going to happen, if we're uncertain that the ground isn't going to disappear underneath
us in the next 30 seconds (try living through the big 1984 quake in LA - talk about
uncertainty ...and yes, I was tossed right out of bed!), if we're uncertain that we can pay
the bills, if we're uncertain about whether the car we're doing 70 mph down the interstate
in is going to get us to our already jeopardized job, if you're having a sudden health
situation - you're living in the mist of uncertainty. It's hard to concentrate on anything
else when you're in that situation.
And it's because we have to have certainty. We turn into absolute certainty machines
in those survival kinds of situations.
But that's the extreme situation. Let's assume all those basic things (food, shelter,
employment, health, the earth under our feet etc.) are all taken care of. We now have
a built in paradox: as much as we have a need for certainty we have a need for variety
which is really a need for, guess what? Uncertainty :-)
We need uncertainty too! How's that for a contradiction?
So what the heck has that got to do with not finishing what we start? It goes like this.
You feel the need to stretch a little, to try something new. You realize you used to
love to draw as a child - in fact that it was a real talent you had. You don't know why
you ever quit. Now you want to go crazy diving back into it - the years are ticking by
in a scary way. IT IS TIME! But then as you sit before the blank drawing paper, or
in the gym door way, or in the new class room, all those little fears we talked about
in the first paragraph pop up again.
The need to feel important
We also have a need to feel important (to be a great athlete, musician, an admired
artist, professor, community activist, parent) but that clashes with another basic need: the
need to be loved (who could ever love a crummy artist? a bad musician, a bad athlete?).
Another version of the need to feel important is the need to be different - like the kid
around the corner who's got the purple hair, the pierced EVERYTHING, the black
t-shirt and cut off jeans with the chains and spikes doing the skateboard boogie right
down the post office front step railing?
There's a need to be noticed there - and can you see how that might clash with
the need to be loved? Same with the corporate exec who's so isolated from everyone
in his need to exceed and "be important" he doesn't see all the people ready to knock
him off - if it wasn't for his power and money and their fear of failing trying to do so. Nor
does he notice his kid is stuck on crack, skateboarding down the post office railings
with spiked EVERYTHINGs...)
Just a bag of contradictions :-)
So all these needs - that we have to have (the need for certainty/survival/predictability,
the need for uncertainty/variety, the need to love and be loved, the need to feel important,
the need to be different, and a couple I didn't mention: the need to grow and the
need to contribute - all these are clashing and bumping and grinding and basically
getting us all into all our trouble.
So how can you line these up so they work for you?
You can get the "Big Picture". Here's a way to do it...
Take the time right now, take 15, 20, 30, 60 minutes right now - but do this after you've
gone for a walk and after you've watched your favorite, most inspiring movie, or your favorite
comedian - so you're in a place where you're feeling pretty good about things. You
might even be laughing. And put on your favorite music - even it's corny and no one
respects it. Put it on :-). Then...
Write down your successes
Then, write down all the things you've succeeded at in your life - and I guarantee you
there's tons! It might be the way you raised / are raising your kids, or how you helped
the kid next door with his/her homework, or how you handled a really tough assignment
at work or school, or how you wowed everyone with your first forward 1 and 1/2 somersault
"in the piked position" off the three meter diving board, etc. I don't care how big or how
small it was, it was an accomplishment and a success if it felt that way to you!
Now list them. Grovel in them, picture in your brain the colors you saw that day, the
tone of voice all those happy, admiring, thankful people used to make you feel so
important, accomplished and cared for that day. Get up and walk around and walk
the way you walked that day you felt so good - put the expression on your face you
had on that day (probably a big old whopping granddaddy of a smile). You won't even
have to work at it, but if you do all this and go through these steps you're going to
start feeling soo good!
While your'e feeling great!...
Now, while your're feeling great, get back to your writing paper and pencil and ask
yourself what is it about drawing that excites you? The ability to make something
beautiful out of nothing? Or the ability to make people feel good (or just make you
feel good) by something you created? Maybe it's the act of drawing itself that makes
you feel so good you just want to go renovate the local community center for all
those kids with extra time on their hands after school - and maybe excite them
with your drawings. Or maybe the thought of shaping public opinion with your
national level caricatures in the Wall Street journal really jazzes you. Make it big!
Or maybe cracking up 1000 people at the state fair with your wild caricature booth
and walking away with 60,000 dollars after two weeks of work really blows your
mind (there is a real guy in the Pacific Northwest who actually does this - makes
60,000 dollars in 14 days drawing profile caricatures! I don't know him, but several
people have verified this...I still find it unbelievable :-).
The right "Big Picture" will pull you forward
Blossom when you arrive at something that really pulls you, a picture in your head
matched with a certainty in your body that this goal is really important, that it's worthwhile, that
it satisfies so many things you want in your life: economic, creative, that it makes you
feel important, that people will love you for doing it, that you'll grow in all these different ways
while you're accomplishing it, that it's a real and true contribution to your family, your
neighborhood, your city, the world! And all this arose out of you (and out of your God-given
desires) then you'll have a blue print to get you going! :-)
Let me put that into steps for you:
1) get yourself feeling really good:
- watch a comedy or a favorite movie,
- then go for a walk or exercise, listen to your
favorite music - walk and move like you would if you
were really feeling great!
2) With paper and pencil review your past successes - relive them!
3) Now that you're feeling great, write down what you want drawing
or art, or exercise, or a small business (but for right now start with
what you'd love to get out of drawing) and conjure up a vision of something
so compelling, so fulfilling, so cool! that you just have to get on with it :-)
A couple extra, clarifying steps: mapping and discovering what
you can do tomorrow
4) Now, start at the final picture - get out some drawing paper or poster board
(use some big paper!)
Draw a circle in the lower left hand corner. In it write today's date (or the date of whenever
you do this...which should be in the next day or two :-)
Then in the upper right hand corner of the poster draw another circle. Write in that circle
"my vision of what drawing means to me".
(***Your BIG IDEA - this is the big idea you came up with above. And to solidify your
"Big Idea", you might want to collage on another sheet of poster board all those things
drawing's "Bigger Picture" has in store for you. You could tear out pages from old
magazines of people doing what you want to be doing, surrounded by all the things
you know you were meant to get out of it (money, love, contribution, lots of beautiful
art work, fine cars, hundreds of admirers, it doesn't matter! ), collage all that stuff
on a big poster board. That big, colorful, image filled collage will now be a trigger,
a reminder for what you want to get done.)
So after having done all that, you now know what you mean by the words "my vision
of what drawing has in store for me". You've written that in that circle in the upper
right hand corner of your poster board.
5) Now...Work in reverse. Beginning in the upper right hand corner write down all the things
you'd have to do to get to the final step (your big picture), like "I'd have to learn how to
draw", or "I'd need a drawing table I could take to the state fair" or I'd need a teaching
certificate" or "I'd need a community center and a neighborhood of needy kids with
lots of time on their hands just waiting to be shown the power of drawing and the fun of
drawing" or "I'd have to have a good feel for watercolor painting".
Circle that. Now look at what you've just written and ask "what would I have to accomplish
to make that step happen?" To be a water color caricature expert you might realize you'd
need some Arches paper to do the best kind of jury winning paintings, but before that
you'd just have to do some painting on any old paper to get the feel for water colors, or
take lessons (Aha! another step. Circle it and ask "what would I have to accomplish
to achieve that?")
Concrete steps: something I could do tomorrow?
Well, you might need some water color paper and brushes and maybe a book to
guide you. Where would you go to find that? - open the yellow pages and look for
art stores - that's a concrete step - circle it - and ask "Is this something I could
Also, draw a line connecting the different circles you've written "steps that would
have to happen" into. That way, you'll have a MAP when you're done with this.
Getting the idea?
Now you may have asked "what else would I need to be a great water color caricature
artist?" And the answer in addition to studying water color might have been "I need to
draw faces well". Circle that. What do you have to do to accomplish that? Well that
eventually takes you back to the question we began with at the top of this email:
learning to draw the features :-)
Now ask yourself "How can I learn about and draw all the different features, and not be
overwhelmed or scared AND have fun dong it?
Write up a doable, realistic schedule that you can actually do and NOT be scared to do.
6) Make a move in the direction of your goal right now!
So how can you? Defuse the issue. Lower the stakes, and "bust" a move :-)
Get out a timer, paper, write up a schedule of 4-5 days where you'll block out time - not
a lot of time to start - but like 15, 20 maybe even 30 minutes where you'll do nothing but
draw. Make them short so you won't sabotage yourself by saying "If I can't draw for 2
hours it's not worth it.". Keep the sessions short and doable. You'll draw longer if
you successfully keep and complete your 15 minute session. That's a worthy success. :-)
(And you will improve on regular, daily or every-other-day 15 minute sessions - much more
so than a two hour session once a week)
Does that get you started? If not, check out these old
Archive e-zines for more "First Aid":
(See this archive for more on time management:
and this archive for the "Artist's Contract":
Get into a pattern of making and accomplishing small doable steps
Need a timer? Use the first drawing session to go get any supplies you might need. That's
a concrete accomplishment! A success! Pat yourself on the back
The next drawing session you'll be ready to go! And remember this to:
Make it fun!
See this ezine for Doug Hall's advice about getting creative (the key: having fun):
Still not working? Not getting you going? Throw temper tantrum!
Still having trouble? Maybe you need to... throw a temper tantrum! Yep, sometimes
this works :-) See the Archives for directions on throwing a temper tantrum:
Other things you can do to lower the stakes:
As a warm-up: TRY to draw bad for 5 minutes. That's right, pick a subject and do your
dangdest to draw it as BAD as you can. This makes even the most stoic artists start
laughing and loosening up - and amazingly often times results in the best art! If
nothing else, it'll take the pressure off and warm you up to do your daily practice.
I don't have the expertise to convey to you all the things you can do Blossom but I can
direct you to some other sources (click on the link after this list for quick connects' to
all these "first aid" resources:
Noah St. John's Permission to Succeed newsletter
Julia Cameron's excellent book: The Artist's Way....all at this link:
See Barbara Sher's book "Wish Craft" for some great ideas too. (Check Amazon.com,
or even you local library - this book is every where - a true classic.)
Miscellaneous helpful sites:
Now I only scanned this web page but you might something here applicable - for burnout:
Keep on chipping away at your drawing even while you're pursuing other avenues
-draw more consistently: short sessions (15 minute timed drawings)
-do just one little thing for a week - like concentrate on just drawing noses for 5
sessions, then do ears, then lips, etc. Take your time with them.
Lastly get inspired by other artists (check out Jan Op DE Beecks amazing art):
Whew! So, I'm going to take a break right there :-)
Hope that helps! (and Blossom, don't be shy about emailing me back if you can't
find you password :-)
Kasbohm & Company Strategic Multimedia
home of http://www.YouCanDraw.com
1351 Hampshire Ave. So., #127
St. Louis Park, MN 55426
"Once and for all getting you drawing faces and caricatures"