How often in my life do I have something new, or important, or exciting to do, but there are other things that really do need to be done first?
Sometimes, they’re prerequisites. For example, while I could just follow the transmutation tuesday prompt and draw a giant with very long hair, wearing a shirt with my towns name on it…and it might be fun to just doodle it out on a post it and be done with it…wouldn’t it be awesome to do a more considered drawing like it feels the rest of the community is doing? So first I have to research giants, and see what gives them their giantness. Is it just the comparative scale to their surroundings? Would a giant still look like a giant if they were simply floating in the void? What makes a giant a giant? and then I need something clever to put on a shirt from my home town. Do I copy a shirt that I’ve already seen, or make up my own? What a great way to flex my design skills and leverage both things for more work…I am very capable of overthinking things. Of climbing to great heights, making projects bigger and cooler and unnecessarily complicated. Unattainable. Even when they’re kept simple though, it’s easy to put off things that I want or need to do, because there’s always something I can do first.
I have this great post idea about focus, scheduling, procrastination, and feeling overwhelmed. But first I gotta draw a ship in a bottle, because that would so perfectly illustrate the bottleneck that happens when my wants, needs, and expectations get in each others way…
More often than not though, it has to do with scheduling and priorities. It has to do with the difference between knowing that something’s important, and treating it like it is. When everything is assigned the same importance, then nothing is important. Daily work tends to be smaller projects. Tasks that can often be completed in an hour or less, but there are a lot of them. Commissions are usually larger projects that can be done in a few hours or a day. If daily work is slow these are easy to get to. It’s easy to commit to a whole day of working on one thing. As a freelancer, this can tend to create a sort of trap. I kind of hate to admit how often I fall in this trap out loud. Knowing that a project can be taken care of in one shot, it’s tempting to wait until all the time is available at the same time… On a day when there’s no emails coming in. At night when the email is quiet anyway, because that daily work I didn’t get to during office hours can wait, and anyway, remember when we used to stay up all night and work on things in college (twenty years, and two kids ago)? Then, there’s always the weekend…
And so it goes. And so the list grows.
Sally and I got together to talk about our goals for the year. Usually, this talk revolves around breaking down a big personal project. A calendar. A new book or comic project. What we’ll be offering at shows during the fall, holiday season. This year, my goal is different. I’m thinking about residencies and possibly finding an agent so I can focus more on doing illustration work instead of spending so much time on design and administration. That big project breaks down into doing researching agencies and resident programs. Writing letters and proposals. And taking a hard look at my portfolio and the work that I really want to do.
I’m excited about this season of my life. I’m overwhelmed. I recognize that I’m not good at maintenance. I’m a lot. Oftentimes I feel like I’m either too much or too little…and the in between place suffers. This is all very much on my mind because I’m working on things. Things that I love and am excited about but feel like I’m haven’t been making the necessary time for. I’ve made a list. I’m working on the items on the list. In the meantime I’m trying to keep an eye on what I allow to be added to that list. It’s scary to have too much now, but it’s also scary to not see enough in a month. Kelly loaned me the book “Shameless” by Nadia Bolz-Weber, and I’m in my second read (well…listen) through of it. One passage stuck with me especially, Nadia writes (reads) “If you have a piece of chocolate cake and then all other food loses its flavor for you, If all you can think about is chocolate cake, then maybe chocolate cake isn’t for you.” This is the part that I’m still working out and where I’m feeling rambly, but I feel like I treat my work like this. Like I either want to do it all the time with no space for anyone or anything else, or I don’t want to do it at all because I get overwhelmed. And maybe the solution isn’t to find a moderate, sustainable pace, but rather to find a sustainable rhythm of on and off. Make lists. Work a little bit, consistently. Rest a little bit, consistently. Revisit and remain intentional about the whole thing.
I guess that’s really what my work goal is this year. To find that rhythm and build the rest around it.
But first I gotta… heh.
I hope you have a productive and restful week. I’m talking about Lent and about my maker story over on instagram this month, and am excited to share those stories and my progress on this list as I bring everything back to a more manageable place. Until next time, take care and be good.