Six Things To Do If You’re Having Trouble Finishing Your Work

Here's the list: (1) Show it! Often we procrastinate because we’re afraid to show our work to anyone. (“Afraid” is probably putting it lightly—we’re often terrified.) So stop hoarding your work and start showing it. But be judicious: there’s no point in showing to clueless or callous people. Show only to kind supporters who “get” what you’re trying to do. Start now! Show bits and pieces, or the whole thing. Invite any feedback, or certain kinds of feedback, or no feedback at all. (Tell your audience what you want!) The showing, not the feedback, is the important part. (2) Finish small stuff. Finishing is a skill you can practice. If you’re a fiction writer, write anecdotes and vignettes. (Bring them to completion, and then show them.) If you write nonfiction, write up (and show) one small point instead of several big ones. If you’re stuck on a complex email, write (and send) several small ones instead. (Here’s how to overcome email overload.) Then move on (gradually) to finishing bigger … [Read more...]

Well Paid New York Times Writers Have Interesting Theoretical Discussion on Whether Poverty is Good for (Other) Writers

"Do Money Woes Spur Creativity or Stifle It?" This was the dingbat question editors of the New York Times Bookends column considered worth debating this week. I'll share my full comment on the piece in a moment, but first: can you even imagine asking this about practitioners in any non-arts field? I can't! Gives you a sense of how artists are valued in society. Unfortunately, the two writers the Times chose to address the question waffled and waxed poetic and seem to have needed to show off their erudition. So the question didn't get shown up as the bonkers thing it really is. If I sound peeved it's because I think it's obnoxious and irresponsible for editors and writers who are presumably being paid well for their work to speculate airily on whether poverty is good, especially in a field where so many wonderful and talented people go underpaid. Here's my answer - it would be great if you could take a moment to "like" it on the NY Times website. "The answer to the question in the title is … [Read more...]

Sorry, Kurt Vonnegut, You’re “Not Compelling Enough”

Everyone gets rejected. Even Kurt Vonnegut, Madonna, Andy Warhol, and others who went on to be luminaries in their field. If you get rejected, don't take it to heart. Learn from the experience and move on. Mostly, rejection is simply proof that you haven't given up--which is a great thing. … [Read more...]

On the Topic of Not Waiting for Ideal Conditions to Get Started

Here's a gent who, having lost a lot of his vision in old age, continues to paint amazing things **using Microsoft Paint.** Very inspiring - and you won't believe what he can do. … [Read more...]

Ira Glass on Developing Your Creative Skill: Go for Quantity, Not Quality

The below 2 minute video of Ira Glass explaining how the secret to artistic quality is to do a lot of art is well worth your time. Bayles and Orland make the same point in their terrific book Art & Fear. They tell a (true, I believe) story of two pottery classes: One class was told to create one fabulous pot by the end of the semester. The other was told to create as many pots as possible. In the end, it was the students who created many pots who also tended to create the best ones. This is for at least three reasons: As Glass notes, it takes a lot of time and practice to develop a skill. The "quantity" students were being nonperfectionist - i.e., focusing on process, not product. (It is likely that some of the "quality" ones didn't finish even a single pot.) Quality is not something you can force, and when you try to force it you sabotage the creative process, which demands freedom and flexibility. Rather, quality is something you work towards and hope for. As Flaubert said, "Success … [Read more...]

Designer Milton Glaser’s Universe of Abundance

An important element of perfectionism is a sense of scarcity and deprivation, so this quotation from iconic graphic designer Milton Glaser offers an important antiperfectionist message: "If you perceive the universe as being a universe of abundance, then it will be. If you think of the universe as one of scarcity then it will be...I always thought that there was enough to go around - that there are enough ideas in the universe, and enough nourishment." Want to live and work in a universe of abundance? Then work to overcome your perfectionism. ht Brainpickings' Explore project … [Read more...]

Seth Godin and Jennifer Crusie on Artistic Legitimacy

Following onto the post about Amanda Palmer's exhortation to legitimize yourself as an artist, instead of waiting for gatekeepers to do so, here are marketing guru Seth Godin and best-selling romance author Jennifer Crusie on the same topic. First, Godin: No knight, no shining armor "Sure, Seth can do that, because he has a popular blog." Some people responded to my decision to forgo traditional publishers (not traditional books, btw) by pointing out that I can do that because I have a way of reaching readers electronically. What they missed is that this asset is a choice, not an accident. Does your project depend on a miracle, a bolt of lightning, on being chosen by some arbiter of who will succeed? I think your work is too important for you to depend on a lottery ticket. In some ways, this is the work of the Resistance, an insurance policy that gives you deniability if the project doesn't succeed. "Oh, it didn't work because we didn't get featured on that blog, didn't get distribution in … [Read more...]

How to Live Your Summer Life All Year Long

  Summer is a time for play, but what does your play tell you about the life you'd really like to be living? Many of us, during the summer: Relax Get more athletic Get more sensual (Shakespeare didn't write A Midwinter Night's Dream, after all!) Interact more with nature, and Dress more casually and comfortably, at work and elsewhere. We also use our vacations to: Travel Catch up on family and friend time, and Make progress on an important goal (book, thesis, art, volunteerism, etc.) Why wait for summer to do all this? Or, asked another way: wouldn't it be wonderful if we could live more actively and authentically the rest of the year? Of course there are barriers: notably, for many people, work (or school) and family responsibilities. But think about how big a role habit and convention may be playing in your situation: If you haven't taken a vacation in years (an American disease, it seems), find and learn from others who have. If you have been taking a … [Read more...]

Terre Roche: Happiness Comes From Focusing on the Song, Not the Success

  Terre Roche and her sisters were substantially more than a flash in the rock ‘n roll pan in the late 1970’s. Their debut album, The Roches, was number one on the New York Times list for the year 1979. But as she describes in this moving article, massive critical acclaim does not always translate into vast wealth. The band of sisters parted ways with their high-powered manager without ever delivering the commercial triumph he wanted. Now in her sixties, Terre has long since come to terms with that chapter of her life, and has grown in her art. Now the music is for the music, and she is excited about the quality of her new song, Maxwell. (You’ll find a link to the song in the article.) “Maxwell is complete. It’s not a hit song. It’s probably not going to make any money. I’d rather listen to it, as if it were a teacher. I have friends whose songs have made lots of money. I envy them. But personally, I’ve given up on the idea of writing a commercial song. And when I did that, I entered into a … [Read more...]

Six Things You Should Never Say to a Photographer (Or, if You’re a Photographer, Never Say to Yourself!)

by Soraya Rudofsky and Hillary Rettig It's never easy to be a creator, or creative professional, but in the age of ubiquitous camera-phones, photographers have it particularly rough. Photographers, how often have you heard someone say one of these: 1. “Photography's easy, because the camera does all the work.” 2. “Photography's not a real art like painting or sculpting where you need to build your skills. For photography you just need a good eye.” 3. "You take such great pictures--you must have a great camera." 4. “Could you take the pictures at our next family reunion?" (Alt: "Please bring your camera to my five-year-old's birthday party that I invited you and your child to attend.") 5. “It must be easy to run a photography business.” 6. “You don't have a degree, so you're not really a professional.” These misconceptions are all around us, and they can do a number on our self-esteem as artists and professionals. They reflect not just a naivete about the realities of photography and photo … [Read more...]

Betty Ming Liu Quits Her Job: Liberated Time Management in Action!

If your job is not central to your mission, but simply a way to earn money, then one of the profoundest acts of self-liberation you can make is to reduce your hours or (even better) quit. Blogger Betty Ming Liu just quit her job, and her list of goals for her next stage is awesome: – I want to self-publish a book. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know that this is an on-going yearning. Maybe not the most practical solution for making money, but crucial for personal fulfillment. The rough first draft is done and I’m ready to rock this dream! – Expanding my YouTube presence. There’s not much up right now but look for more. During recent One-to-One training lessons at the Apple Store, I’ve learned to use Final Cut Pro X. Now it’s my chance to put those skills to practice in editing my own how-to videos about all kinds of things. Stay tuned! – Spend time with my daughter. She is now a college-bound, young woman. If you’ve been through this stage with a kid, you know that part of me wants to scream. … [Read more...]

Artist Sol LeWitt’s Productivity Advice: Create More by Focusing on the Work Itself

This short movie contains many F-bombs but offers valid productivity advice: The movie's text is an F-bombed version of a letter from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse, who struggled with self-doubt: Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping,…Stop it and just DO!… Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety… You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!… Try to do some BAD work – the worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell – you are not responsible for the world – you are only responsible for your work – so DO IT. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any preconceived form, idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be… I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest … [Read more...]

Why Rodin’s “The Thinker” Should be Renamed “The Perfectionist” (Plus, Bonus Balzac!)

Auguste Rodin's famous "The Thinker" statue (1902) is, all by itself, probably responsible for many cases of perfectionism and procrastination. It's such a forceful statement that some, looking at it, probably think, "So THAT'S what intellectual work is supposed to look like! A grinding inner struggle! I'd better aim for that, and if my work comes too easily--or, if it's actually fun--I must be doing something wrong." The problem is, very few prolific people really work that way: most "think" via doing. So, most mathematicians work out their math problems through the act of doing math, most sculptors work out their sculptural problems through the act of sculpting, and most writers work out their writing problems through the act of writing. Another problem is that The Thinker looks pretty miserable. Check out his deeply furrowed brow, tense muscles, and utter lack of joy. His seat also doesn't look very comfortable. Even if we could think our way through problems, most of us can't tolerate prolonged … [Read more...]