So it has been raining, a lot, for two days now, and will continue to rain. I finished the little painting I was working on and pulled the protective cover off my big easel piece. Then I checked facebook forty-seven times and read some more internet malarky and then I said to myself it appears you are in a bit of a funk and so I did some yoga (just a little bit) and that didn’t help so I stared at the painting I finished and I decided I really hate it. And then I stared at the big painting I haven’t finished and I decided I hate that one, too.
Blame it on the rain. Blame it on the chocolate deficit in my kitchen. Blame it on January, and next month blame it on February. Check, check, check, and will check in fifteen days.
And then, what? Because after blame there’s got to be something else, something a little more exciting or in depth, some insight or epiphany, right? Oh, yes, says the angelic epiphany inner voice, I have encountered this block, this hindrance, this minor shadowland in myself because (insert epiphany here) and I now have the affirmations/herbal tea/yoga pose to fix that. To make it never come back. Right?
Wrong. Oh, so wrong.
It’s funny that I’m reading a book about willpower. The truth is that at times like these I always say to myself, I have no willpower. Then I let the monster that embodies self-doubt out of its cage, the monster that growls, this painting or poem or creative venture sucks, and so do you, while slobbering all about the place. Think Tasmanian Devil here. I throw it some bones and walk out of the studio. I find something else to do. Clean the house, maybe, or take a walk, though there’s no chance of my attempting that today. Today my diversion of choice was to open up The Willpower Instinct and continue to read.
I’m so glad I did. All my life, I swear, all my adult life, when I’ve encountered this challenge of fading motivation in my creative practice, I have beaten myself over the head for failing to conquer my own demons. How many times have I told myself I’m not dedicated enough, I’m not passionate enough, I’m just not enough. Today, amongst other wonderful words, I read this:
When our willpower challenges overwhelm us, it’s tempting to assign the blame to who we are: weak, lazy, willpowerless wimps. But more often than not, our brains and bodies are simply in the wrong state for self-control. When we’re in a state of chronic stress, it’s our most impulsive selves who face our willpower challenges. To succeed at willpower challenges, we need to find the state of mind and body that puts our energy toward self-control, not self-defense. That means giving ourselves what we need to recover from stress, and making sure we have the energy to be our best selves.
It’s true! Today, when I got up to my studio, I was already in a state of stress. I am still learning how to flow with the particular challenges of my life as a homeschooling mother who tends the family’s business finances with one hand while making sure the kids get that one piano piece just right, while stuffing laundry in the washer and hanging it up to dry with the other, while checking facebook forty-eight times. At the heart of that challenge is learning self-care. Of learning what to say yes to and what to say no to. Yes to bike rides and board games and all manner of adventures. No to dull routines and math drudgery.
Zoë beat me at Clue, fair and square, and I loved every minute of it!
I have so much more to discover, and to re-program, about myself and my creativity. And I’m once again excited about that journey. Sometimes I feel like a little revolution is going on in my life every day. Because by now I can see that I have to be in a playful state in the studio, which is also how I want to engage with my kids learning adventures, which is also how I want to be in life. Because it is beautiful and messy and there’s so much I don’t know yet. So thank you, Tasmanian Devil of Self Doubt, for clarifying my motivational issues. Thank you, Kelly McGonigal, for writing your awesome book. Thank you, kids, for reminding me that playfulness is at the heart of life.
By the way, I’m still not very fond of that little painting, and I’ve decided to put aside the larger painting for just a little while longer. I’m going to engage with some playfulness in the studio for a week or two and see where I am after that. Also, I think I’m going to auction off a lot of older artwork on ebay soon. It’s just been hanging around, and I’d like to see it somewhere else. So stay tuned for that. Take care of yourselves, and be merry!