While leafing through a sketchbook earlier today, I came across this drawing that I made in January. It took me by surprise because I have no memory of having made it. I drew it and then moved through, creating without resistance or attachment.
I didn’t criticize it or question why I did it. I didn’t analyze or look for mistakes.
And this may be the most important part to me- I also didn’t share it (until now). I didn’t post it on Facebook or on Instagram and then wait for validation. In fact, I don’t even care whether this drawing is any good – it was just something I simply did as a matter of course during my regular day. And this is how I like it to be.
A mundane activity
I like it best when art-making is part of my regular routine, like brushing my teeth, eating breakfast, and taking a walk. I try to treat it with no less importance – but also no more importance – than other daily tasks. Drawing or painting doesn’t always have to be a big production; I don’t want it to be too special. I want to move through it.
I am usually most satisfied with drawings and paintings that are created with little fanfare. These are the paintings that were done during a lunch break from my former day job, or the drawings I did in the morning when I had an hour, or a painting I did on a scrap of canvas I had laying around. Even when I work for longer periods of time, I enjoy the process more when I don’t try to hold onto it too tightly. It helps me take risks when I paint and not be too worried about the final result.
Trying too hard
But lately, the anxious part of me has been resisting a lot and is having trouble not getting too attached to the outcome. Why?
I recently made more time in my life for painting, but I’ve been pushing myself to paint too much, and I’ve been sharing a lot through this blog and social media. I’ve been over-thinking, which for me is a path to paralysis and certainly not good creative experiences. And I’ve been letting other opinions and voices influence me.
To put it simply, I’ve been trying too hard.
Being a conduit
All of this new activity is interfering with my usual intuitive process and creative flow. I believe that all of us creatives are meant to be conduits but I haven’t been doing it so well lately- perhaps because “doing” is an act of interference.
And so this leads me to ask – how do I actively try not to actively try? How do I clear out the filter, so to speak, to get back to creating without resistance or attachment?
Mindset – awareness
I am the first to admit that I haven’t yet mastered the art of mindfulness or meditation; that I have not yet figured out how to quiet my racing mind. But I find that things flow better when I am able to:
- Recognize when I am over-thinking and do what I can to let racing thoughts pass without settling in.
- Accept the self-critical, self-blaming voice as part of me but not give it too much attention.
- Remember that thoughts are just thoughts and that they are not necessarily true.
- Be open to what comes, even if it’s not what I expected or thought I wanted.
- Listen for the voices and opinions of others when they run through my mind so I can keep them in the background.
- Trust myself and the process above all else.
Methods – non-action
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.Tao Te ching
There are also some specific ways of doing things that – when practiced regularly- help me paint more joyfully, which ultimately leads me to becoming a better painter. I try to:
- Treat painting and drawing just like any other daily activity so that it doesn’t feel like a special event. It helps that I keep my materials and setup simple.
- Avoid long painting sessions if I am overly-tired or anxious. Yes, sometimes it’s good to paint even when you don’t feel like it, but not always. There is a time for rest.
- Resist sharing everything on social media. I keep some drawings and paintings private and never share them at all.
- Put aside drawings and paintings for a little while before I analyze them. And some I won’t analyze at all. It’s important to develop a self-critical eye, but not at every moment.
- Wipe out or erase freely.
- Talk less about what I am doing. That doesn’t fit so well with this blog idea, but I will keep it in check.
These ways of thinking and actions (or non-actions) take time to cultivate, and I can’t say I have it all figured out. I am working on it (though not too hard).
My wish for you today is that you are able to create without resistance or attachment. Thank you for reading.