I have a confession to make: I am actually a huge procrastinator. It's the reason I did not get much painting done this week + this newsletter is late. (Sorry!)
Since college, I would get by via the art of structured procrastination, which is essentially listing (for example) your 5 tasks by most to least urgent with #1 as the most urgent. Being a procrastinator, you will likely end up tackling #2-5 before even thinking about doing #1, but as more urgent tasks flow into your life that #1 will soon be bumped down to #2 and you will end up completing it in avoiding the latest, more important task. It's a crude strategy, but it usually works for me.
In the same spirit of avoiding the often terrifying act of creating new art, I did however, manage to finish my Marie Kondo room project! I started tidying my room in the first week of January, yet stalled to complete the process since. I also got a lot of playing done in the form of scrapbooking, learning hiphop dances, and singing covers mostly just for myself. Part of the reality of quarantine is that work that once was urgent suddenly feels distant and inconsequential. With this abundance of unstructured time and the lack of social appointments, does anyone else feel that they've reverted back to summer vacation mode? I spent those golden months in a haze playing long hours under the sun. Those days melted into each other like splashes in a pool of sweaty kids smelling of sunblock and chlorine.
So fast forward to April 2020, I had ideas floating in my brain about what to write you this week. Yet when it came time to actually do the thing, there was a lot of inner pouting and dragging of feet involved. My usual bribes to coax myself into productivity (lock phone in a drawer + aircon + music + coffee/wine) didn't help this time. Serendipitously, through my cleaning a book I'd been missing resurfaced: The Tools by Barry Michels & Dr. Phil Stutz. One of my fave psychology titles, the book introduces "5 tools to help you find courage, creativity, and willpower and inspire you to live life in forward motion."
Fittingly, the first chapter of the book applies to the very real struggle we all experience: the self-sabotaging habit of avoidance. The tool is called the reversal of desire. In a nutshell, it looks like this:
The illustration to the left shows you stuck in the Comfort Zone. Enveloping you in the warm bath of the familiar, the Comfort Zone is defined as any habit, place, person or thing that indulges your need for comfort and pleasure but may not actually be serving you in the long term. For some, it's guilty pleasures like Netflix and junk food, but for others it becomes a major way to cope with life in the form of chronic procrastination, sarcasm, toxic relationships, and more.
The brain thinks that the Comfort Zone keeps you safe, but it actually keeps your world small. This is a problem because in the creative life, you must constantly venture out to reach new goals of ~endless possibilities~ but when you try, chances are you'll immediately run into a wall of pain. Whether it's the pain of possible judgment, rejection, or even the pain of acting against simple laziness, point is, growth in any form involves a degree of pain and struggle, no matter what.
So most of us will choose avoidance instead. And over time, we stagnate our goals. We don't move forward. We convince ourselves we're fine with this, we settle for less than our best efforts. That's where the reversal of desire comes in. The key is to train yourself to DESIRE the pain, embrace it even. In the book, they have 3 technical steps to do this. Your cue to use it is any time you feel yourself avoiding anything you deem difficult. Mentally, you say to yourself:
1. "Bring it on!"
2. "I love pain!"
3. "Pain sets me free!!!!"
Practice this over and over until you feel strong enough to tackle the work in front of you. It should help, even a little. It's obviously unnatural to do this, but it's necessary because it's the only way to push through and get to the other side of endless possibilities. By harnessing your fear of pain and using it instead as fuel to charge forward, what you're actually doing is earning your courage. And we all know that to make anything happen requires spades and spades of courage.
As an artist, courage is also the antidote to managing imposter syndrome, the voice of your inner critic. But that's a big scary topic for another week. For now, I'll end here. I hope you try out the reversal of desire, and let me know if it helps!
Sending you all my love and good energy,
PS. Feel free to share the artwork below & tag @polipaints!
PPS. Here's where I drop my recos for the week!
READ: The Tools by Phil Stutz & Barry Michels
(Since you can't technically run out and buy this during quarantine, check out their website! They detail all the other tools in their blog.)
WATCH: Tim Urban's TED Talk "Inside the Mind of A Master Procrastinator"
One of my favorite TED talks mostly as Tim Urban's storytelling about his procrastination is awesome and largely entertaining.
LISTEN: reverse your desire, a Spotify playlist by yours truly
Thank you for your time. Whether you loved, hated, or felt nothing towards this issue of #StudioNotes, I want your feedback! Reach out via email, IG DMs or Twitter. Stay healthy and with any luck I'll see you again next Friday! xx
Read my next letter, Vol. 5 - Suspend Your Beliefs.
Read my previous letter, Vol. 3 - Own Your Story.
Binge read from the top with Vol. 1 - Start With Why.
The artist, elsewhere: