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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Habit is the enemy

Habit makes some things easier, like brushing your teeth, setting the table or tying your shoes. Once you've learned to do these things, habit allows you to do them without thinking, freeing your mind to work on something else.

But to an artist, habit can be deadly, keeping you doing the same old things and staying in your comfort zone instead of challenging yourself to be more creative. Yes, habit makes things easier, but it doesn't necessarily make them better. When you get entrenched in your habits you lose the impetus to improve your work. Eventually your habits become a full-fledged block, and you find yourself getting bored with your work but afraid to move out of that comfort zone.

Why do you do this? It's mostly fear of change, of stepping into the unknown. And to complicate matters, you probably set overwhelmingly high expectations for yourself and are afraid you can't reach your own goals.

You can overcome your fear by changing one thing to start with. Not a laundry list of things--just one thing--like the size or shape of your paper or canvas or the angle you look at your subject. When you change one thing, no matter how simple it may be, everything else looks a little bit different and you find yourself making small, creative adjustments that make your work a lot more interesting than it was before. So each time you find yourself falling into a rut, ask yourself where one small change might make a difference.

Don't set yourself up for failure with rigid, high expectations when you're stuck. Your mind simply won't apply itself to a problem when it already knows (even if you aren't consciously aware of it) that you have set an impossible task for yourself. By all means set goals, but make them doable. Perhaps you think you should paint every single day, but realistically you can't do that and still work at your day job or drive those car-pools. So you do nothing. Instead, find one day or part of a day that you feel you can make a commitment to paint--even for a short time--and honor that commitment. Here's where habit can be a good thing, just to get you started.

And once you keep that promise to yourself, continue to make small changes in the way you work, to stimulate your creativity.

For more on creativity and change, see these articles on my web site:
Change One Thing

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Blogger Sandy said...

Hi Nita, I found the link to your blog on WC.
I have enjoyed reading your articles and must say that I certainly agree with your philosophy.
I will make it a point to search for your book.

4:09 PM  

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