Getting Jump StartedBy
You want to make something, but you can’t seem to get to it. You imagine yourself getting to it. But every day you come home from work, make dinner, take care of kids (if you have them), maybe go to the gym (if you don’t), connect with your spouse/partner/kitty and the next thing you know, it’s bedtime. One minute it’s Monday and then next it’s the weekend which gets filled with all the usual mixture of chores and fun, (probably less fun than we’d hoped), and still our creating doesn’t happen.
How do we break this inertia? I have one simple technique that helps me all the time.
My Trusty Steed
Sometimes there are big, heavy reasons why we’re not creating. But sometimes it’s just because we’ve stalled–maybe you got stuck on a step in your latest project and now weeks (or months) have slipped by, or maybe you went on vacation and then someone in the family got sick, or you’ve had a lot of late nights at work–and now you’re officially out of your groove.
If this is the case, then I’d like to suggest a technique my mother employed with me when I was a kid and didn’t want to clean my room, one I still use on myself to this day.
What is it? A timer.
What you need to do is break the inertia of the pattern that you’re in, and you can do that by creating super concrete parameters.
Set the timer for 20 minutes and agree that you’ll work on your thing, whatever it is, for at least these 20 minutes and then you’re allowed to go back to whatever else you were doing.
And you might feel a little silly about it, or that you’re some kind of big fake because it seems like, sheesh, someone who really wanted to make things wouldn’t need to resort to a timer, like they’re being so tortured that they need to know when it will stop.
That’s not it.
It’s a jump start technique, and it helps you crash through that yucky awkward out-a-wack transition feeling that happens when you’re out of a groove. Or when it hurts to do the next step on your project, because it’s hard or confusing which is why you’re not doing it. Or that thing that you honestly want to try out, but it takes some (or maybe loads of) courage to do it because it’s new.
Maybe you’ve been sewing a pair of jeans and you were happily speeding along a while back, but then you got to the zipper part and you’re kind of hung up about inserting zippers, and you haven’t gotten back to it. It’s hard to do something you’re not good at, and it’s hard to do something new. So we stall.
But I bet you can suffer through looking at it for 20 minutes.
Not necessarily successfully completing it. Not solving it. Just being with it without rules or expectations–you might find yourself doing stuff like this:
- Taking out the pattern and re-reading it.
- Putting in your zipper foot.
- Experimenting on a piece of scrap fabric.
- Maybe going back to that site with the cool zipper explanation that you bookmarked.
- Smoothing out the almost-done-jeans that have disappeared under a bunch of other clothes piled on that chair by the bed.
- Checking the timer.
- Finding your box of zippers and pawing through them.
- Thinking about what a cute zippered pouch you could make with that bright red zipper you forgot you owned.
- Not answering the phone when it rings or telling someone you’ll call them back in just a bit.
- Saying to your spouse/partner–does this make sense to you? And then start reading the pattern directions out loud.
- Checking the timer.
- Starting a cute zippered pouch instead.
- Continuing to work on your jeans project.
And then the timer will go off. And you’ll have made progress–and it will be progress because you’re attending to your thing even if you didn’t figure it out yet.
And you’ll either keep going because you are making visible progress and you’re kind of enjoying yourself, or you’ll stop, which is totally okay because the agreement was just to last at least as long as 20 minutes, and then you’re off the hook. Because what you’re doing is breaking your inertia, changing your momentum, creating that groove again, which is what makes the making possible.
And then try that again tomorrow or maybe the next day. (No one has to do something everyday).
Maybe tonight you keep going for another couple of hours, feel great and think wow, this 20 minute trick is neat because it’s really a sneaky way to be productive for 2 hours and it works.
No, no!! This 20 minute technique is about doing it for at least 20 minutes–sometimes it’ll turn into a blissful 2 hours and sometimes it’ll be an excruciating 19 minutes and 59 seconds, but both occasions are equally good because that’s the agreement and sometimes slogging through 20 minutes shows extraordinary commitment. To yourself. To the long haul. And that’s impressive.
And you’re breaking the inertia–so when it’s hard to make it to 20 minutes, remember that sometimes it’s just about showing up. Maybe you’re very tired or maybe the next step in your project takes all the courage you have. I’ve been there more times than I can say.
No Ideas (another “for instance”)
Maybe you’re not facing some next terrible hard, hard step in a particular project where you have to confront your fears/feel awkward/possibly fail. Maybe you’re just not in your groove.
You think about your photography (or your painting, or your felting, etc) and you seem to have no ideas. The longer this goes on, the fewer ideas you have.
This is because making things begets ideas. They don’t generally show up of their own accord.
So set the timer and just go through your box of photos, or maybe get your last bunch of pics out of your camera and into the computer. And then while you’re there, you think, you know, maybe I can upload a few to my Flickr account. And then maybe you’re tweaking them in Photoshop first so they look really good in your Flickr account. All good stuff.
Or you go back to your most recent painting and stare at it for 20 minutes, just thinking. Or you gesso over another painting that, well, it turns out you still hate.
Or you decide to create some backgrounds for your collages. Or you’ll card some wool. Or cast on the stitches for that sweater–or actually sit down and figure out how much yarn you’ll need. All good. The timer dings, and you stop or you continue. Commitment met either way. Keep doing this and the ideas will begin to flow again.
20 minutes. It’s great. Try it.
Hate 20? Do 10 instead.
What do you think of this technique? Have you tried something similar? I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment!