7 minutes - what's YOUR excuse?
“Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow.” ~ Mark Twain
Nice advice for the stressed-out and overworked, until it starts affecting your art. And by art I mean anything that you do because you love it: whether it’s creating incredible explosions in After Effects or formatting a really attractive and readable infographic – that’s art! All of us in the creative fields are lucky – we enjoy learning and growing and sharing what we do – and then one day we look up and we aren’t doing it any more…
Things get in the way. Life gets in the way. Work. Kids. Church. School. Television reality shows. Maybe we don’t create because we’re so good at what we do we get promoted – when you’re in administration or supervisory mode it’s very exciting and challenging – and exhausting. When you’re in a new role, such as parenthood, it’s very thrilling and challenging – and exhausting! And one day we look up and wonder: when was the last time we actually created anything?
I think thinking we have to make a living at what we do – a good living, not “starving artist in a garrett” living get’s in the way of creating anything at all. We see the Oscars or attend SXSW to see the stars of creativity and sometimes end up discouraged. But when you can’t make a living at what you love to do, sometimes it feels easier to give up on it entirely – maybe you’re not as good as you thought or hoped you were. The trouble with this is, when you stop creating a part of you is lost – the part that is special and amazing and might just change the world – or at least entertain it for awhile!
Sometimes our perfectionism gets in the way: if we can’t create all the time, in the most incredible ways possible – why try? Perfectionism leads to procrastination – at least it does for me! I can’t create because I don’t have all the time in the world, free from distractions and worry… oh, and it should be incredibly supportive and nourishing too. Also great music! But mostly I can’t do it because I have all these other things to do that, while less meaningful, are easier and something I can cross off the great cosmic “to do” list.
The trouble with that is, at the end of your life you’ve bought groceries and paid your bills and picked up things for people from the dry cleaners and written blog posts and served on committees – but we don’t get to see YOU. That creative part that is so special and individual…
There needs to be a space between the work you do to pay the bills and all the things you do for others. Not that those things aren’t good and necessary and make you a better person – let’s face it, left to our own devices with all the time and money and talent in the world, most of us would do diddly-squat with our art! But give your art, whatever it is, some respect and a little breathing room. Give it 7 minutes a day – you can spare 7 minutes, anyone can!
I can hear the whining already – oh, that from inside my own head! Here’s what I hear, “But what can I do in 7 minutes?” Open the file. Touch the piano keys. Draw a really bad picture of the cat. Write, “I don’t know what to write about.” over and over. Tomorrow do it again – put it in your ical!
And then celebrate it: tweet it, log it like your runs: “I created for 7 minutes today.” Tomorrow do another 7 minutes. Then another. Someday you might do more, but never less. Give honor to that place inside you that won’t ever be lost. It’ll be hard, but life will be so much happier because of it that someday you’ll be glad of it. Like brushing your teeth, but a lot more fun – and when I want to quit, I like to post Neil Gaiman’s quote somewhere so I’ll see them:
“Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong — and in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship, and in health, and in all the other ways in which life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art… Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.” ~ speech by Neil Gaiman addressing the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.