Why even bother?

This question is often part of my inner dialogue.  If you’re like me, you find yourself with an idea that you would like to explore, only to abandon it because things aren’t right where they should be.  And yet we will never be able to attain the ideal. There will always be something that could make what we’re doing better. Always.

I’ve worn the label of procrastinator for much of my life. it was given to me by my parents, and I’ve worn it proudly ever since. In my mid-20s, as part of a life reboot, I took the Myers-Briggs assessment. The result was not unexpected: INFP.  This personality type is often referred to as “The Idealist”. Becoming aware of my type was liberating to me – it meant that I could perhaps set aside the procrastinator label and instead see myself in a more positive light.

Of course, this information alone did little to influence my results.  They often remain the same. I am remarkably adept at finding excuses not to start things.  Many of us are.

What does this mean to me as an artist? Well it impacts me in a few different ways.  Here are a handful of examples: Blog posts ideas are never realized, because I fear I don’t have the time to author them according to the standards I’ve set for myself.  Songs are never written, because the atmosphere isn’t just right. If I don’t have the right microphone, the right instrument, the right software, or even the right pencil, there is no way I’ll be happy with the end result.

While it’s good to understand this about myself, it doesn’t move me to the next step. How do I get myself off of high center?  Here are a few things that I’m going to try in 2017 to increase my creativity and to get past my idealism:

1. Break things into small pieces. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You’ve heard this before, right?  As I look to start something ambitious, I can tend fixate so much on the end goal, that I only see the distance between myself and that finish line. It can seem so far away, that all I see is the effort required to get from point A to point B. But if I break it into smaller chunks, it’s less intimidating and perhaps easier to get going.

For example, it can take four or five hours to edit one of our artist interviews. If I try to do that all in one session, there would never be another interview on Frequency. Instead, I set up micro tasks for myself that, by themselves, take no more than 30 minutes each.  By doing this, I’m giving myself permission to make little gains every time I sit down to work. And I love the feeling of being able to cross items off my to-do list.

2. Give myself permission to start something without finishing it. For most idealists, getting started is the most difficult part. It’s not necessarily the finishing. Many times our own momentum will carry us through. At the same time, working on something that we’ve already started can be a much less daunting task then staring at a blank piece of paper.  

3. Develop quickstart tools. And make these tools cheap or free so that money doesn’t become an obstacle itself. In my case, I started to use Google Docs along with its built-in voice recognition functionality for writing. In fact, most of this post was written that way.  I wrote over 1,000 words in about 20 minutes, which I could almost never do if I started with a blank document.  For songs, podcasts, and voiceover work, I created templates in my recording software (PreSonus StudioOne) specific to each.  I set the templates up in such a way that, once I open a new one, I can hit record and go.  

The tools will necessarily differ according to medium.  As a songwriter, you may carry around an inexpensive journal in which to write down any song ideas that pop into your head. Or perhaps you catch ideas for melodies by humming them into the voice recorder on your phone. Just don’t fixate too much on the tool. That tool itself can become the barrier.

So this is how I’m going to attack 2017. This blog post itself is evidence that I’m putting it into practice. In the forthcoming weeks, I’ll have a better sense of the sustainability.  Hopefully, it will not fall away like so many unfulfilled resolutions.

Are you an idealist or otherwise have trouble getting your creative ideas out of your head and into the world?  If so, how are you getting past the “get started” barrier?

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