How You Start Your Work Can Make a Difference

What motivates us to draw, play the guitar or do anything that we have at one point decided will change the quality of our lives, help us grow, make us better people or give us more awareness?  These seem like pretty good things yet are so easily put off in favour of more distracting or seemingly urgent yet endless responsibilities.

I think how you start and approach an activity makes a difference and is where we usually face the most resistance and fear.

I’ve hung out with a few amateur surfers in my day (though I boogie board…so am not as cool).  The surfers I know call their hour or two in the surf a “sesh” – short for “session”, as in “that was a good sesh” or “how was your sesh?”  From what I’ve observed, starting a surfing sesh means – in Canada – checking the weather and wave reports – and if good, putting on your wetsuit, sitting on the beach looking for the best spots to catch waves and then stepping into the white water and paddling out to the break.  Once you get out past the break there is also lots of time spent sitting waiting for waves.  After a couple of hours you swim back in and stand on the beach feeling refreshed and energized – or tired and cold, but usually happy!

Time in the studio painting is also called a “session” and I think you can compare it to heading into the surf. Lately I turn on the CBC when entering the studio to distract my mind from too many complaints from the inner critic. Instead of starting off with my most challenging painting, (biggest wave), I just put on my wetsuit.  I’ll put together an Etsy order, varnish a painting or gesso a canvas.  Then I might head out into the white water and work on some random mark making on paper, sketch out ideas or work on small paintings.  Having a time limit, like “I’m going to work on this little painting until 9:30” helps with motivation and focus.  Gradually I’ll make my way out to the break and work on a bigger painting or one that is half complete.  Usually I have three to four different paintings going on at different stages.  I don’t like to work on something for more than about an hour at a time before I need to let it sit so I can see it fresh later.  Then I move on to catch the next wave.  Before I know it I’ve tricked myself into painting for three hours without too much complaint from you know who.

Starting with simple tasks is a way to get your mind primed for the activity ahead and to distract your inner critic – after all you are just sketching out a couple ideas, or wiring the back of a painting. (Also note, a surfer never brings his phone out into the water, just saying…).  I find that when I have a regular routine, I associate a certain time frame and space with work (or play!) and it becomes easier and easier to focus and therefore more rewarding. Enjoy your sesh!

Image above:  Tofino Heart