Honest question for anyone reading this blog: how do you start doing artwork? Seriously. It’s awful and I still haven’t figured it out yet.
Art, being creative, whatever you’d like to call it, is one of those things that makes humans a special sort of animal. Does any other creature create stuff just for the sake of creating stuff? Maybe there is and I’m just ignorant, but as far as I know it’s just us making art. If you’d like to simplify you could probably argue that art/creativity is not just one of the things that makes us humans, but the only thing that makes us human. We create. Others don’t. And here we are.
This makes my inability to sit down and write/paint/draw/play music even more infuriating. Going from this supposition, shouldn’t it be inherently easy to create something? Shouldn’t it be as natural as breathing, drinking water, or having sex? Apparently not. Or maybe I just suck at the whole creativity thing. At least I’m pretty damn adept at sleeping and drinking water…
But then here I am writing this post without much trouble so what am I even getting at here? If art is so hard then how am I currently arting so easily?
My sister visited last weekend (not really, it’s just taken me that long to actually write about it) and she’s an avid painter. Every few days she sends me a picture of something she’s started painting, or of a painting that she’s made progress on. Literally twenty different pieces all being created at the same time, haphazardly scattered around her apartment.
[Note: I finally convinced her to start an Instagram for her art. Here’s the link! Please follow her if you’re interested! She’s very good but her profile is pretty sparse as of now. Give her some time to get her Insta-legs and I’m sure she’ll be shitposting in no time.]
The question for her was obvious. “So, how do you like, start painting?” She looked at me like I was on drugs. “I mean I get it – you just start fucking painting, but…how? When I go to write and I have a blank screen staring back at me, I just can’t start. I can’t type a single sentence without deleting it. You don’t have that with a blank canvas? Like at all? How do you get started?”
Her secret, apparently, was – okay get this – to be bored. She works over forty hours a week and lives alone in a rather small apartment in a different state from everyone else in the family. So on the weekends, burdened with the total lack of burden at work, she’s bored. She sits around. Doesn’t do a whole lot. And when she’s sitting alone in her living room with about twenty paintings sitting around in various states of being finished, she somehow finds herself working on them. It makes sense; the human mind seems to hate and despise boredom, so if you force yourself to be bored maybe you’ll get around to making something.
I suppose another tip implied here is to have your work easily accessible. I much prefer writing on a computer, but maybe a notebook would be more accessible? It does hamper the writing process when I have to wait ten minutes for my toaster of a laptop to turn the fuck on. And by that time the motivation is long gone.
And isn’t that a shitty protip from my sister! It’s better than my old mantra of ‘just fucking sit down and create something’ but it’s not a magic bullet either. It makes perfect sense but isn’t there a better way to trick yourself into creating something without being paralyzed by fear or whatever it is that holds me back? Drugs maybe, but we all know those have plenty of downsides. (Drinking and art works great until it doesn’t. I found myself needing to drink to write, and that’s a bad association to have.) The only other ‘protip’ I can think of is a shitty hack where you do something for five minutes – only five minutes – because starting is often the hardest part. Once you start, you’ll find you’ve gone well-past five minutes on your project. But this still has the downside of actually needing you to commit to the initial five minutes. It’s just the same problem, only slightly different.
I’ve realized I spend an awful lot of time on Reddit, especially between the hours of midnight and three a.m. Three hours browsing Reddit in one session! This is not good for a bunch of reasons but I’m focusing on how I don’t allow myself to be bored. When I am bored I dick around on my phone doing absolutely nothing, distracting myself with utter trash. Not that Reddit is trash — it’s my favorite form of social media — but it doesn’t feel right when you spend three hours doing something to not recall a single thing you watched/read. This is how it is with everyone I think, just not necessarily with Reddit. TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, whatever your personal addiction is; you probably don’t allow yourself to ever properly be bored.
Roundabout plan to finally be creative: stop browsing Reddit (and other social media) as much, get bored, and maybe fuck off to my computer/guitar to actually do something worthwhile. It’s sort of working – I have a little more to show for my time, like this post – but it’s hard to keep yourself in check. It’s just so damn easy to find yourself mildly bored, pull your phone out, and start checking your emails or Twitter or Whatever. And constant vigilance is exhausting.
There’s more to say about boredom, especially because I’m fascinated by boredom, but that’s not a topic for now. Boredom seems to help with creativity, at least somewhat, but it isn’t ideal. I’ll ask the same question I did at the start: how do you get yourself to be creative?
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