You know that old joke? A traveler lost in the Scottish countryside stops a local farmer and asks him which way to Aberdeen, and the farmer replies “Och, if I were going to Aberdeen, I wouldna start from here”.
We feel that way a lot in life. I don’t think it’s only artists – anyone who has far-reaching goals has at some point thought to themselves, ‘if I wanted to get to that level of achievement, I wouldn’t start from here.’ The gap between your current position and your ultimate goal seems so big, you feel there have got to be some more intermediate steps between your messy reality and you actually starting to work towards your ideal.
But there aren’t.
Every time you tell yourself ‘I’ll start working on this seriously as soon as I……’, you are procrastinating. You don’t need a studio. You don’t need better pens. You don’t need better quality paper. You don’t need more time. You don’t need to take another course. You don’t need to browse the web for more inspiration.
You need to do at least one thing every day that moves you closer to where you want to be. Draw something, sketch something, color something, post something online, reach out to a new potential client. You don’t have to do all of these. Don’t finish a piece if there’s not enough time. Just start it. A started piece will beckon to be finished.
I follow a lot of artists across social media and I love to see pretty photos from their beautiful, airy, paint-flecked studios. I love that vision of an artist as someone whose world is made of gorgeous art supplies and streaming sunlight. But the fact that most artists who share their workspace are the ones who do have photogenic workspaces means that you start to imagine that this is the ‘right’ way to be an artist. That you need to invest in all these things before you can really start. Know who doesn’t share their workspace pics? Those of us who work on cluttered desks surrounded by empty tea mugs and errant Lego bricks. Those who draw their linework on the backs of misprinted office documents. Those who sketch with pencils they picked up in random hotel rooms.
I confess. My drawing conditions are deeply uninspiring. I do draw on the backs of misprinted documents. I have nothing to contribute to ‘what’s your favorite micron pen’ debates. If you walked past my work desk while I wasn’t there drawing, you’d never guess anything arty ever happens there at all. This is partly circumstance and partly character, and it will certainly change as my art career moves further. But the key is this – I can still make kickass art. I can still make things I’m proud of. I can still make things that sell, and that make clients happy.
Don’t ever tell yourself you are not a ‘real’ artist because you don’t look like one from the outside. Start from where you are. Be relentless about it. And squeeze some little step forward into every single day. Not just an art-related thing – any action that moves you a fraction of an inch closer to where you want to be in five years. And inch by inch, you’ll get there.
It doesn’t matter how slow you are, as long as you don’t stop.
Do you ever struggle with that feeling that you need to spend more time ‘preparing’ for reaching your goals before you start to go after them? How do you combat it? Let me know in the comments!!
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