I recently received an email from Kate, who had a problem. I could relate and wanted to help. Maybe you need to hear this too.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with how many options you have, if you’re feeling stuck creatively, or if you’re a perfectionist and you’re super hard on yourself…. this episode is my letter to you. Here’s what to do.
And of course it’s actionable.
Podcast Show Notes
Recently I received an email from someone called Kate Lee and because her name is so similar to mine, Caylee, I immediately loved her, but also because of the story that she told me. I definitely could relate and I immediately wanted to help her. I thought that maybe you need to hear this too. Maybe your name is actually Caylee and you’ve got the exact same story. Either way… if your name is Caylee or your name is Kate Lee… if your name is something totally different, I think you might be able to relate to this and I think that this advice will help you. So Kate Lee said in her email, “I have so many beautiful supplies and papers and photographs and I’m just frozen. I’m overwhelmed by the number of photos I have. Because I’m a perfectionist. Any advice will be welcome. I have three little kids and I want to remember it all.”
I can totally, totally relate. I am a super perfectionist. I am a serial documenter. I want to write down everything. And I want to keep every moment immortalised and on top of that I want to make it super creative, super expressive, super beautiful, super artistic, super perfect. I think Kate (as well as you) might already be on your way a little bit. You are definitely creating in some way already. Maybe you are creating like Kate and you’re a professional photographer, maybe you are known as the baking queen among your friendship group, maybe you always put a thoughtful post it note in your husband’s lunch, maybe your house is beautifully decorated. I know that you’re really creating in some way. Moving past this frozen stage is just about adding a tiny bit to get it where you want and where you want your creativity to be.
The way that I would start is to think about what your end goal is. For example, my end goals creatively are
- emptying my head,
- releasing my creativity and, as a bonus,
- saving my son’s memories until he’s old enough to save them himself.
What I want you to do is figure out your goals. I would maybe even write them down somewhere. You might think that you know your goals, but spend a lot of time heartstorming it out, brain vomiting, figuring them out, articulating them completely and narrowing them down. It’s gonna be super helpful. I want you to write them down somewhere. I want you to refer back to them when you’re overwhelmed, when you’re frozen, frustrated, and when you’re wondering why on earth you ever decided to start trying.
I do that. I still go back to my reasons.
I still have to remind myself and I’ve been doing this for quite a while and quite prolifically.
Once you’ve got those down, I would start with the smallest possible thing. As perfectionists we love aiming high. I mean we’re aiming for 100% here. There’s nothing higher than 100 and I’m pretty sure If you’re a perfectionist, you’re probably saying back to me, “Caylee, you get 105%. You get 120%. You can definitely go higher than 100”. But yeah, perfectionism. I don’t know, man. It makes us love planning things out to a T. We love spending time figuring out all possible outcomes, and the response to each of these possible outcomes. That way, we feel as though we’re not going to fail if we’ve got all the options. You can’t really fail if you’ve planned them out, right? We love planning for success. But the problem is, especially in art, there’s no such thing as 100% and there’s no such thing as more than 100%.
Art journaling is beautiful because it’s all about failing, repeatedly failing, failing so often, sometimes it physically hurts. I’ve had times where my heart aches a little bit because of my failure. This failure makes you doubt yourself, it makes you question why you started when you clearly suck at this and there’s no reason, right?
But… remember those goals? Those are your reasons.
The other problem is that art journaling/art in general is not a university degree, there is not a nice little step by step guide to become exactly the type of creative that you dream of being, there’s no roadmap. The journey that we’re on is kind of like a hike that we’re taking multiple times. We’ll wander into the bushes a lot, we’ll get lost, we’ll find a more scenic route. Sometimes the more scenic route is fun. Sometimes we’ll do the exact same trail more than once. Sometimes we’ll find a shortcut. You just got to start walking.
So start with the smallest possible thing.
Newton’s First Law of Motion is that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed, in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Getting into motion is the most difficult part. Starting is hard. There’s a reason not everyone is doing what you want to do. It’s against human nature.
Luckily, I know that you are superhuman, you’re already doing superhuman things. I know that. You’re already beating Newton’s first law. You’re taking photos, you are creating cakes, you are leaving post it notes, you are decorating your house creatively. If you’re not doing any of these things, you’re brushing your teeth. You might laugh and say that brushing your teeth isn’t superhuman, well, that just shows how superhuman you are. At one stage in your life, you weren’t even brushing your teeth every night. Now look at you.
Creating, exploring a new creative path, it’s all a brand new thing so of course you’re going to have resistance. But you’ve made it past that point before and you can again. Think about how easy it is to brush your teeth now. Art can be that way for you, I promise you, I swear it. It won’t always be a zero barrier task and there are definitely times you won’t feel like it even after you’ve learned to master the beast that is resistance. Even brushing your teeth is sometimes met with resistance. When it’s late at night and I get into bed as soon as I can and I remember I haven’t brushed my teeth and oh man, it’s a struggle to get out of the bed and just go to the sink and brush my teeth. There’s always going to be resistance.
So if we’re starting with the smallest possible thing, let’s think what is that practically. If you have no idea, this is what you do…
- Put a very small amount of supplies out on a table (even your dining table) that’s ready for you to create when you have time.
- Find a prompt, so you know exactly what you’re going to create.
- If you’ve got no spare time in your day, set your alarm clock, wake up 20 minutes earlier, you can definitely do with 20 minutes less sleep. (I say that as someone with a toddler currently going through a weird sleep phase… they’re always going through a weird sleep phase).
Now in your set time, or after waking up and brushing your teeth, you’re going to go to the space, open your journal and create from the prompt that you decided in advance. There’s absolutely no cell phone allowed during this time, no social media, it’s just you and your art. And this is something that we around here at Get Messy call tiger time (#time), because it’s absolutely powerful.
If you don’t even have a prompt that you can from, I’m going to give you two from Get Messy’s free How to Start Art Journaling course. You can choose from these two. If you can’t choose from these two, choose the first one. Right, okay.
So the first prompt is, I want you to respond to this quote. It’s a quote by Chuck Klosterman. Art and love are the same thing. It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.
Second prompt that you can choose from, is to create a self portrait using items that represent you.
I’m not going to say more about those prompts. I’m already – my brains going, even though I’ve done them before, even though I’ve done them countless times before. Those are two prompts you can work from.
And there we go. Once you’ve done that, you’ve done it, you’ve done the thing.
I want you to ignore the end result, I want you to ignore the art journal page you’ve made or the creative, the tangible creative thing that you’ve made, and I want you to think about how you feel about it. Even preparing is helpful for creativity. Creativity – and maybe I’m spoiling some dreams out there but creativity is not some magical thing that happens when the light shines down from the heavens and has the angels singing at every paint stroke. Creativity is work. It’s small actions performed. A lot of times. Sometimes magic happens. There’s definitely magic there. But you’ve got to be doing the work in order to be around when it shows up. I swear to you that even the greats Michelangelo, Bob Ross, Frida Kahlo, they’ve all felt frozen before – often. You’ve got a lot in common with them. You’ve managed to start the momentum. And now you just need to do the working bit that they’ve perfected. Sometimes the smallest possible thing doesn’t feel as small as it once did. That’s okay. That’s okay. You can change it up, you’ve gained a bunch of knowledge now, to figure out what the change would be. Even I have to resort back to the smallest possible thing at times. Sometimes I have to just take a stack of collage fodder and go from there. Sometimes I just have to cut things. Sometimes I just have to clear my desk, you’ll figure out what the smallest possible thing is, and you’ll have a new one every time you need it.
The last bit of advice if you’re feeling frozen is kind of like the mushroom in Super Mario – it gives you a bit of a boost on your kind of hiking trail. Have a buddy along with you. This is a creative hack that will absolutely level up your creative game. With two people on a trail. You’ve got two sets of knowledge, double the amount of enthusiasm, and you have motivation squared. If you fail, your partner can help pick it up. If you’re tired and you want to rest, they’re there to either tell you to suck it up or to sit with you and look at the beautiful view and listen to the birds chirping and remind you of all you’ve been through how far you’ve come. Your buddy is there to encourage you. And it also goes both ways. You’re there to encourage your buddy when you cheerlead others on, there’s the added bonus that you can’t help but be splashed with that enthusiasm and kindness yourself. Helping others helps you.
So if you’ve been feeling frozen, if you’ve been feeling like just doing one creative thing feels like a lot. Maybe it’s the time that the world’s going through. I encourage you to do the smallest possible thing I encourage you to just do the thing. Start the like the thing against Newton’s first law. Start moving a little bit. Get a buddy, just create.
You can do it. I’m cheerleading you on.
I love you