On laziness and procrastination


As some of us discussed in a previous post, I have a tendency to act against my better knowledge because I’m impatient or too lazy to take that extra step of preparation before I can move forward. And I’ve often wondered how I can train myself to not only pay attention to my inner voice but also stop in my tracks and do what it says, because it really is quite clever sometimes and doesn’t deserve to be told off.

Is it about slowing down in general, in thought and actual physical movement? A question of planning and making a structure before you push ahead? (I know people who keep doing that to perfection and thus never getting started – argh! But alas – I guess this is why I don’t play chess) Being more mindful in general, less goal oriented? Just a matter of habit?

Then Birdie suggested there could also be an element of self-sabotage in there. But who would want to do such a thing?! Which in turn made me think of having subconscious fears of succes. After all, once you really make it, there is even more pressure, because now you have to top everything you’ve done previously. And keep doing it! I still don’t quite get how this applies to ordinary daily activities, unless you take your life way too seriously for anybody’s good. But it’s a theory.

I would for instance LOVE to just sit at home in my snuggly little corner and get paid to write books. Never risk having to do another slave job in my life. They’d be great books of course and I’d like to make a truckload of money. Well, a fair amount anyway, enough to make a good life for myself and some extra to share the love around. What I don’t want is to appear in magazines and tv-interviews, even a book signing tour sounds pretty horrible. * Now, that’s really sending a mixed signal to the universe, right? I want the succes, but only the nice bits! Disregarding my chances of producing a best seller or not, could this and other similar disharmonies of intention be causing some of those weird reactions? “I want to paint but I have a million excuses before I can get started.” Later is not as real as now, so it’s also safer in terms of showing what you’ve got.

This is definitely something I need to be working on and thinking about.


* I don’t mind putting in the long hours of research, writing, editing etc. But is seems that today, if you want to sell, you don’t have to just output great stuff, you also have to be a travelling circus. In fact I have a feeling that publishers only bother marketing the authors that look good in pictures. (ok, I’m a lost case already….)


I’m also trying to teach myself, not to stop procrastinating, because I don’t think I can at this point in time, but to do it differently. Trick myself into not wasting time; and by that I don’t mean well deserved naps, but the times when you hang out in front of the computer, checking the weather page (again), looking up new tags on WordPress, read Facebook (I’m a stalker – never post, only comment my friends’ posts). All because you want to avoid spending 3 minutes walking to the (chilly) back room to start a load of laundry. Or stack firewood, trim horse hooves etc.

So what I’m practising is: Say that I plan to spend the day painting because it’s sunny but cold, so I have enough light but want to be inside, I’ve been having some ideas, perfect, yes? And yet I find myself pottering about not really doing much of anything, getting more coffee (which I honestly don’t even like much), clipping my nails, or getting overwhelmed with exhaustion, feeling the flutter of moths (not pretty butterflies) beating hard inside me; instead of flopping down for something completely brainless, I now do useful displacement activities. So I may not have beaten my performance anxiety, but at least the floor is clean, the laundry all done, my desk is shiny (very useful) and I feel a small victory in not having spent 4 hours reloading silly webpages. (not counting those of you wonderful, inspiring people whose pages I read regularly of course 😉 )

This has also (I hope, since this is a fairly new practice) solved another old problem of mine: having too many hobbies. This used to stress me out completely, because I felt I had/wanted to do all of them all the time, with equal skill, attention and results. Painting and knitting ended up on a shelf for many, many years, the horses were gone for over a decade too, but then all of them insisted on coming back as well as the photography, the computer graphics, new ones entered such as gardening, spinning and dyeing. And, well, you still have to cook and clean and mow the grass, fix the fences, and if you had the money it would be nice to fix up the house too. I’d love to start writing again. I want to learn to felt, and how about using all that plant dyed yarn to make tapetries? Calligraphy is cool. Collages. I love to read – for days. Etc. etc. So no matter which activity I chose for the day, I felt guilty about the others. And sometimes (often) not doing any of them just from the stress of juggling them in my head (clicking webpages again while I worked on my decision). And some of you may have noticed, I didn’t even talk about jobs…

Now I’ve decided that

  1. I don’t need to be doing any of it all the time. I can totally justify having a spinning wheel and only using it once a month, even if I’ve got 40 pounds of wool sitting around the house and also rearranged half the living room into a painting studio.
  2. I can use those many hobbies, which are in some ways related since they’re mostly about visual creativity, to outsmart my anxiety. So you’re too scared to paint today? Ok, well, while you’re picking up your guts I’ll go write a blog post. Don’t have anything to say? Right, let’s dye some yarn. And while I wait for the water to boil I’ll just prime a few pieces of paper or frame some canvas, just so it’s ready to go in case you do feel like picking up a brush. That way, I’m still being creative, or getting everything organized and easy for being creative instead of just running away for a nap and then feeling like a complete failure for doing so. The focus is on keeping a certain flow, not which actual activity is helping me do so. If all else fails, I’ll sit down with my coffee and read a book about being creative….

One benefit is, that some tasks are so boring (such as housework) that I have to procastinate my way through those by doodling a bit, slather some random paint on a canvas for a background etc. in between tasks – or actually during if I break up laundry into sorting, washing, hanging, folding. So the method works both ways. I get more things done without rushing or stressing about a todo list, I pretty much choose my current activity in the moment. Being a world champion of list making, this is incredibly liberating! I mean, I have the making of to-do lists as a whole hobby/activity in itself. I still need them to declutter my head, but I don’t actually look at them very much – and I still get as much done if not more. Cool huh?

But all this sounds really complicated. Am I in reality just fighting windmills a lazy nature? I know my body doesn’t seem to want to move about much of its own accord, as in sports, dancing etc. Maybe I should just lay down arms and embrace who I am; but I’m worried that is someone who sits on the sofa with a book, eating cake all day, house falling apart around me…. I have this inner drive – but I’m nearly always tired.


Synchronicity again: I finish the post, then read this:

We are generally torn between two opposite sets of instructions programmed into the brain: the least-effort imperative [entropy] on one side, and the claims of creativity [discovery] on the other.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

If you made it this far, you deserve a reward. 😉 I’m sorry I didn’t find more pictures to distract you.

Beginning of the end

Do I feel a slight hint of spring on the frosty breeze? When the sun is out, I can almost imagine…. So I put the laundry outside on the line! Aaah, yes, I’m definitely ready.

Not quite there yet
Not quite there yet…

I’ve been working on a few things this week that I thought I was going to blog about, but none of them are quite done yet. I did finish my dry leaves printing experiment and I’m not very impressed, so that project post got archived vertically as we say here. As in, I’m not even going to bother scanning the results for you. Cochineal prints lovely on paper though, but it also  pokes a lot of holes, LOL.

Knitting and spinning progress = 0

I’ve been thinking a lot about my painting etc. which normally is a really bad sign, and probably is in this case too, but I seem to be all over the place and that’s not very constructive either. To improve your skills it really works best to pick a theme and make multiple versions. You rarely fix all your mistakes in one go.

One minute I’m into intuitive abstracts, the next I’m trying for the impressionistic turneresque landscapes in my mind which on canvas then looks more like a naive illustration for a childrens’ book. Which I kinda dig too, in fact it could be a very good way to warm up for a picture book which title has been floating in my head for 7-8 years about my horse Charlie. Problem is, I have the format in place, but the actual plot is missing. Would be a great tribute now that he’s gone. I also had wanted to do a series of cartoons around the critters, probably for 10-12 years, but made TWO crummy attempts. Now we have Fergus who is everything I wanted to do exactly, and I’m not jealous, I LOVE Fergus, but I’m not going to copy any of it when he’s obviously so much better than anything I can output at this time. 😉 However, my brain has produced a couple of cartoon sketches this week, nothing original, but I may just work on them anyway – for the practice.

Charlie's favourite trick - as you can see I take my riding dead seriously
Charlie’s favourite trick – as you can see I take my riding dead seriously

So it’s a lovely day out today, and even though I’d really like to work on my mandalas and one of my wip paintings, I should go be outside. I’m sure I’ll feel all the better for it. Dog to be walked, firewood to be stacked, maybe I should actually go riding on the old silly? And all the frozen horsepoop in the paddock is probably going to unfreeze real soon. It’ll be so good for my back and biceps….

And, well, spring on the way also means photo weather, if my old Canon 20D is still willing (shutter has passed the average number of exposures for this model). Not that it’s impossible in winter, I just don’t like being outside in the cold wind and the batteries die to quick. Anyone want to sponsor me a 7D house?! I promise I’ll do at least one excursion every week to a new location. 😀

New tricks

Time for another report from my ongoing quest to beat painter’s/writer’s block. I can’t say that I’ve done very much besides tend to a sick cat, get a skin biopsy on my face and knitting/reading/baking/cleaning to take my mind off it (well, the cat mostly, to be honest). But I did climb into the hayloft and found that I had quite a large pile of stretcher bars stashed up there, so I’ve ordered a roll of canvas. Just the cheap cotton variety for now, to take off the pressure of “ruining expensive supplies”. I obviously must have intended to get back in the game, since I’ve been moving these around for the last 20 years (and some of those moves involved very cramped quarters).

Another challenge is how and where to store my papers. Not just various unused watercolour pads, but the finished or half finished products such as my leaf prints. I want easy access to browse them in case I think of a project where I can use them, rather than stow away and forget. I feel this is important, but maybe it’s my overachiever speaking. My office is woefully small and very full… Spare room has my fiber in it, as much shelf space as I can possibly steal. (“Sweetie, those old OS/2 manuals aren’t really required anymore, are they? Fancy a trip to the dump? And what are these, 386 motherboards?”) Score: I just discovered a lot of VIDEO TAPES on one shelf, it’s not like we even have a player anymore…. And, well, I can’t deny that I sometimes think up plans for one half of the sideboard under the tv. To those of you who think “poor man”, well, his only hobby is his job and can be done in an office half the size of mine. Besides, he’s got a mouth and a throat, I assume he knows how to make noise with them if he feels inclined.

All the leftover, non-coordinated furniture...
All the leftover, non-coordinated furniture…
my shrinking book collection, every time I get something new I have to throw out.
my shrinking book collection, every time I get something new I have to throw out.

As I was tearing up old sheets into rags for use when painting, I came to think of another tool to spark creativity: Boredom. In fact I had to take a break already halfway through the first sheet to come out here and begin this blog post! Much to the delight of the kitten, who thought I was making a new toy for him on the floor….

There simply isn’t anything like boredom, or being unable to get to your art supplies, that creates ideas like a stroke of lightning. Showers, driving, visiting boring relatives, cleaning your office. So if sitting in front of your canvas for 3 hours doodling doesn’t do the trick, try the opposite. 😉 (although that sounds pretty boring too, but it needs to be the doing-something-boring kind to work I think)

I even managed to smear some orange onto one of my starter canvasses (finding in the process more old brushes filled with hair and gunk), before whipping myself into obedience and ripping up more sheets. Although I was tempted to hop back online to shop for brushes and other cool stuff (gotta get the most out of the postage, right?).

This is impossible to work with, enough!
This is impossible to work with, enough!

For those of you who think I’m not very disciplined, well, I can be if the need arises. I just don’t think ripping sheets is going to save the whales, so I’m cutting myself some slack. Besides, after I decided to test how many layers I could rip at once, it all became a bit more fun and was over pretty quick too. After Arthur was done playing with the pile, I even sat down and folded my rags to put into one of the Expedit boxes! 😉 Then I got rid of the gunk and covered my yellow painting in a coat of white. And then writing this I realize those rags probably have cat hairs on them now – doh!

Doing something tedious but productive with your hands like Heidi mentioned for my last post, such as spinning wool, also helps by just touching and working with the materials. You get ideas for new yarns, the colours of the new yarns my remind you of something and ooops, a painting is pushing its way forward. You need to learn to not think of your grocery shopping list while you do this, however. The idea is to empty your mind to make room for new, if writing down your old ideas in a notebook didn’t work.

Slaughtered an old book to use for doodling and discovered that glued pages all tend to come loose once you rip out a couple, may have to find a sewn binding.
Slaughtered an old book to use for mixed media doodling and discovered that glued pages all tend to come loose once you rip out a couple, may have to find one with a sewn binding and cool pix in it to incorporate.

So next trick is hands on: Learn/do something new. If you paint but can’t get into gear, learn to knit, speak French, cook, take a photography class. If your new thing IS painting, it may not work. Anything that gets your juices flowing, make you feel a bit more alive is guaranteed to also set your creative wheels in motion. New stuff has a better chance of achieving that compared to silly old tv shows and Friday nights at the pub. (ok, I admit that I have no idea how inspired you can actually get at the pub, the question is, do you remember your ideas the day after and are they still as good as last night?)

I think I forgot to mention: collect resources. If I did indeed mention it, forgive me for repeating. Every time I see a neat picture, colour, motive, skill, anything that moves me, I consider saving it as a reference. Not to publish or copy, just to look at for inspiration. This works great in this day and age, 20 years ago I had a shelf full of binders, such a waste of space compared to a harddrive.

At the moment I seem to be into collecting skies among other things that happen to appear in front of me. I never really use any of them as an explicit reference, they just get me started. Such as:

© Natasha Kjaer going to do some other wintery thing with this

winterpaint2 –>  winterpaint3

I hadn’t actually looked at the photo in a while, and as you can see I got it totally wrong, but it was nevertheless my starting point. (sorry about the flash – it’s so dark here at the moment) And then I began thinking up other skies at all sorts of odd hours. I’m not sure why, since I actually thought I was going to be painting abstract/intuitive like. But as I’ve been advocating, gotta go with the flow, follow the red thread as we say in DK. Skies it is. Until it isn’t. I’m not going to show you the finished painting just yet, because then I wouldn’t be publishing this post for quite a while. So it’s all WIPs.

Next on the program is refreshing my theory and daring to blend “dirty” colours. Just so I don’t keep hurting eyes out there. 😉

Something that can also be fun is to ask other people for themes. Ask them to make up a random sentence or word (or read a random page in a random book). Illustrate that somehow, not necessarily paint something that looks like a horse, or, if you do get a bunch of random words, combine three. “Blue horse on fire”. – “Usually you just feel him passing, sir, but I have seen him twice, in what would have been the flesh, if he had any.” Your turn! Send me a theme or challenge in the comments below and I promise to post the results of the ones I try out.

And when all else fails, a quote that I snarfed from Tintina’s blog:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe

To those who don’t know what the h… I’m going on about:
> 1. Finally
> 2. Beginner’s mind
> 3. Creating creativity

Beklager, ingen dansk version i dag…