Getting started can be the hardest part of being creative. Whether it’s getting started from scratch with a new practice or getting started on a daily basis with an existing practice, taking that first step can seem daunting for any number of reasons.
Maybe you find yourself cleaning the house rather than face the prospect of your creative practice. Or maybe social media is you kryptonite. Or the fridge or the tv or any number of inventive things.
Whatever your favorite avoidance technique you use to avoid your creative practice, you can chalk it up to one thing: Resistance. That insidious word, resistance–just look at it! It’s innocuous, but it’s persistent, waiting for you every waking moment. And so often it comes in the form of procrastination.
“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.””Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
There Are Ways, Dude
But have no fear! You have tools at your disposal to overcome resistance the pretty much all revolve around one concept, which is to take that first action. Steven Pressfield not only names that which holds us back, he also offers a prescription that experience tells us here at DreamSmith is 100% true.
“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
9 Tips To Overcome Resistance
Here are few tips to take that first action (some of these in themselves are the first action! How cool is that?)
- Action comes before motivation. This is one we lean on pretty heavily. It’s the idea that if you wait until you’re motivated, 99 times out of 100 you won’t get started. Instead, just drag your butt to the easel, the laptop, the woodshop, etc. and get started. If you’re just starting out, go ahead and start clearing that space or just start in on your practice even though things aren’t perfect or completely figured out.
- Let yourself off easy. Tell yourself you’ll just putter around or work on your craft for 10 minutes. This takes the pressure off you to be productive for a large block of time. More often than not, you’ll find 10 minutes has come and gone and you’re in the flow state, or even that you don’t want to stop.
- What am I getting out of this? Try asking yourself this question when you’re doomscrolling on Twitter or thumbing through Facebook and you’ve lost track of time. Then follow that up with, “Which will make me more glad: Spending time doing this or starting/doing my creative practice?”
- Implement blockers for digital distraction. Jonathan uses Freedom and SelfControl (Mac only) from time to time when he’s having trouble focusing and they work. Bonus points for putting your phone on the other side of the house when it’s time to create.
- Schedule your time (with reminders). This is crucial when you’re starting out and developing creative habits. This isn’t as much about being every day at the same time as it is about setting aside time for your practice. It’s important to make it clear to people you live with that you will be unavailable during this time. In truth you will be developing habits for them as well. It’ll get tested, but if you honor your commitment, they likely will too.
- Chunking. Don’t look at the end product of what you’re trying to create (including your practice itself) or you’ll feel like your about to scale Everest in sneakers and knapsack. Look at what’s in front of you for the day (or night) in which you currently exist and focus on that. As a novel writer, Jonathan can fully attest to this.
- Set a timer. This is the love child of Let Yourself Off Easy and Chunking in that you set a timer for a 30-40 minutes so time isn’t sprawling out endlessly before you and it’s enough time to get some deep thinking in. Again, you may find yourself looking up an hour and a half later because it was just a matter of getting going. This can work for getting started on your space, organizing materials, and doing the creative thing itself.
- Prepare. If you’re setting up your practice, make a simple list of the bare minimum you need to get started. If you’re in the creative process, write down one thing to do next time you’re in the studio/writer’s garret/workstation so you have something to get started on when you get there. Jonathan has been known to stop his writing in the middle of a scene and make some quick notes about what comes next so he can hit the ground running next time.
- Quick hits (for varying practices): Open your sketchbook, write one sentence, put paint on your palette, mood boarding, try doing something different/shake things up.
We’ve used all these techniques at one time or another over the past 12+ years. They don’t all work all of the time so it’s good to have as many tools in your toolbox to help you take that first action when you need a little push. Do you have a favorite method to give yourself a jumpstart? Drop it in the comments!