In today’s episode we’re going to talk about working till you can’t start again then I’ll give an update on my SMART goals exercise form a couple episodes back and I’ll play an animal impression I received on the Spark Line. That’s what I just this second decided to call my toll-free phone number. Okay, let’s get into it.
It’s been a few days or a couple weeks and you are moving along on your project like you haven’t done in a while. It feels great. You’re happy and you reach your flow state and time flies by in a blur you pack up for the night and sleep like a baby. Then the next evening with your talent in hand and your face lit up with smiles you head down to do it again.
Nothing. “I’ll uh … organize my email. Yeah, that needs to be done I’ve worked really hard this last while and my inbox is a mess.” or maybe “Wow, look at these cables. How can electricity get through them they’re a disaster. It has to be a fire hazard. I’ll uh … spend tonight detangling them and finish up my project tomorrow.” Then tomorrow comes and your spam folder needs managing or your printer needs a good polish.
How is it you can love to do something so much and be able to do it for hours and days and weeks and then suddenly you … just … can’t. I don’t know the reason but I have a theory. I think you just use it up. In the book The Power Of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, he talks about how patience is a renewable but not infinite resource. A study participant was put in a room with a bowl of fresh, warm, fragrant chocolate chip cookies and were told the cookies were for a different study and the person wasn’t to eat any. Later, another group of individuals was put through the same room with a bowl of radishes and told the same thing. After sitting in the rooms for several minutes the participants were then given a written test and their level of frustration was measured. The cookie group had a much higher rate of visible frustration and missed test questions. The people doing the study concluded that the cookie group used up their patience and will power by being tempted by but not eating the cookies and and then had less patience to offer during the test. The radish folks didn’t really have to fight to hard not to eat from their bowl.
I have a colleague who loves to do hand lettering and has gotten really good at it. But she said she could letter for days on end then suddenly not even want to open her notebook. Last week’s guest Karyl Gilbertson has a podcast called the Indie Team Up. In one of their early episodes they talk about how they can code the games they are creating for days or weeks then suddenly not have the desire to continue.
So, that was a long description of the problem. How do you keep going. In our talk last week Karyl mentioned his trick that he uses. He tells himself to just go work for five minute and quite often he’ll start getting into it and his project will keep going. This is similar to comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s chain of Xs. When asked his method for writing jokes he said on a day he works on material he puts a red X on that date on his wall calendar. Then the next day he works on jokes and writes another X. The idea being to have a giant chain of Xs. Don’t break the chain.
But what if, like we mentioned, you tell yourself you’ll give yourself five minutes but can’t even open the notebook. Well, then you may have just used up your creativity for a little while. Take some time and work on a different part of the project. I think that’s the secret. Don’t sort your email or untangle your cables during your creative time. Make an appointment with your self and plan to do those things at a specific time. Instead look at the other parts of your project and see what you could be progressing on.
Personally, and we talked about this as well last week, I’m going to try and set up parts of my week as different parts of my projects. For example Mon and Tues could be production work like coding or building or recording. Wed Thurs could be creating days like writing or sketching and so on. This will allow me to focus on tasks but not burn out on any one thing and keep my creativity topped up. I’ll let you know how it goes.
The spark is what keeps you going. The work is what you need to get done. The art is what you wind up with at the end it’s the goal. You need to nurture your spark though or it can burn out and need rekindling. It’s those times that we are talking about today.
Here’s where you get to do some thinking
- Have you been wondering why you can’t get started on that one project again?
- Does it feel like you’ve used up your spark for a little while?
- Perhaps it’s the Fear Of Done like in the episode found at TheSparkAndTheArt.com/29
- Have you been working on one part of your project for a while now?
- Have other parts of your project lagged behind?
- Could you take a break from what you’ve been grinding away on and work on another part of the project?
Back in episode The Fear Of Done TheSparkAndTheArt.com/29 I talked about my Going To The Zany Zoo Kid’s Songs project and how I couldn’t get to this one part that would make the project finished. I put together a SMART goal to help me and put it in the episode to create some accountability for myself. I’m happy to say that I did in fact complete the goal and had all of my files to the printer before my goal date. The packaging is currently in production and should be shipped to me before the end of the month. Whew.
Also, a caller has left an animal impression on The Spark Line (is that even a good name for it? I can’t tell yet.) Here it is ….
[You'll have to listen to the episode to hear it.]
See, that’s just spectacular. Thank you so much, anonymous monkey. If you’d like to leave an animal impression. Or you just have a question or comment about How To Keep Going I’d love to hear it. Give me a call toll-free on The Spark Line (yeah I’m not sure I like the name you can leave a message with a new name for it too, I’d appreciate it.) call 1 877 966 4886
Also, if you know someone who has a tendency to go all out for a while and then have trouble regrouping please send them this episode the URL to send it TheSparkAndTheArt.com/33. You’ll hopefully help them and you’ll of course help the podcast and then you’ll look like a hero to both me and your friend.
Thanks for listening and remember. You won’t get the art without the work and you won’t do the work without the spark.