Isn’t it strange how something we very much want to do often becomes something we keep putting off, something added to a to do list, that quickly becomes a chore or a ‘should’?

Even as someone who is creative every day in some way, I can procrastinate with the best of them, and sometimes even when I want to do a certain creative or artistic project, every time I think of it I decide it’s not the ‘right moment’, or ‘I must just do x,y and z first’.

There are all sorts of reasons why this happens, and mostly they’re about fear, in my experience. And actually I don’t think it’s always necessary or helpful to start delving around in the ‘why’. That can just be another way to procrastinate.

When it comes down to it, it’s actually pretty simple. If you want to do something, you’re going to make it a priority, and you’re going to do it.

And of course if it was as EASY as it is simple, no one would ever procrastinate!

So just for now, let’s sidestep all the stories about why and focus on how to Just Make Some Art. Obviously this list is not exhaustive; it is simply some of the best and most effective ways I’ve found to remove the ‘not right now’ hurdle.

Start a daily project

I have found this to be an excellent way to ‘JFDI’. What worked for me was committing to the project but not to how long I’d be doing it for. To date I’ve been doing it for 77 days and am inspired to continue until I’ve finished the sketchbook I’m using.

Some days I don’t feel like it, but five minutes or less doing some colourful scribbling not only doesn’t kill me, it almost always turns out to be fun, and even generates new ideas and inspiration.

And because of the fact that I’ve made it ‘public’ by sharing it on Instagram and Facebook, and hearing that people look forward to seeing them or feel inspired by them, it adds another layer to the desire to continue.

Knowing I can stop at any time is ironically what’s helping me to keep going. {The inner rebel in me just loves to be contrary, so why not use that to my advantage!}

Find an accountability buddy

Online, offline, in a group, just one friend, set up creative playdates where you play with art supplies, join a course or group online that perhaps has weekly challenges or regular sharing sessions.

The point is, when we take it outside of just ourselves, it becomes instantly easier to DO something rather than just talk about doing it. Someone who is not you can be a cheerleader, a support, an encourager, a catalyst, a brainstormer, a partner in creative crime, and someone to share your wins with, however tiny.

For me, a class is always a great way to ensure I’m creating art on a regular basis. The accountability and structure of daily lessons and a place to share with others doing the same thing is an excellent catalyst and sustainer.

Always have some materials on hand

My friend and fellow artist Pauline Agnew gives a brilliant example of this with her ‘car studio‘. Three items, stashed in your glove compartment, ready for when you need to pull over and draw something gorgeous you’ve seen when you’re out and about. These can be small works in themselves, or warm up/reminder sketches to work up into paintings later.

You could also keep a small sketchbook and pencil case in your bag, or in your desk at work for lunch breaks or moments when you are sparked by inspiration or in need of some quick decompression.

Play it down

From my observations, part of the problem is thinking there’s a problem! It can help me a lot to really play down the importance factor. Now obviously you will never hear me say creativity is not important as a part of life! But I will say that if talking it up as a big deal in your mind is stopping you taking action, then start practising talking it down and see what happens.

When it’s nearing the end of the day and I haven’t done my DailyScape and I am not in any kind of mood to do it, I switch gears and think about how small and quick and ultimately unimportant it is really. I tell myself, ‘just run up to the studio and take two minutes to doodle with your oil pastels,’ or something along those lines. See? No biggie. If you can talk yourself out of something you can certainly talk yourself into it!

{This also applies to the whole artist label thing; if you’re not making art because you feel like you’re not an artist, and your lack of artistic activity is ‘proving’ it, chuck the label. Sometimes you make art, sometimes you don’t, but YOU decide.}

Be kind!

This leads on from my previous point. If you’re verbally beating yourself about the head because you’re not putting paint to paper, that is unlikely to cause you to actually do it. Self kindness is one of those things we’re all learning, and there’s plenty out there to help us do that these days.

As with anything, it begins in our own minds.

Don’t say ‘god, I haven’t made any art for ages, I’m so crap and clearly not an artist, there’s no point even starting, oh and I just remembered I have to do the washing up or I’ll have nothing to eat dinner off’. Say ‘wow, I haven’t made any art for ages and I know I really want to. I’m going to stick the timer on for five minutes and move this pencil around the page.’

Don’t bother yourself with outcomes or meaning, or whether you actually make the full five minutes, just gently sidle up to your supplies and start. Often that five minutes will become ten or much more.

Create a coffee table art kit

Like this one. I do much more art since I created mine, and its ‘ingredients’ evolve and change according to what I’m in the mood for, which helps prevent boredom, another reason for procrastination.

Simply by cutting out the part where I need to go somewhere else to find the supplies and set things up, I have made it that much more likely that when I’m watching a movie or hanging out on the sofa, I’ll pick up a sketchbook and draw something.

Work with what you know about yourself! If you’re like me and don’t want to get up once you’ve finally sat down, have these things already in place!

Make it bitesize

They say the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, and this is excellent advice for art and creativity. You don’t have to be creating a masterpiece every time. Small is your friend here.

Think small sketchbooks, doodling, Zentangles, a box of pre-cut words and images for collage on an index card. Keep it small and simple and reduce the pressure of it needing to be a grand adventure each time you want to make art.

 *******

Ultimately it’s down to a personalised combination of self discipline, making it easier on yourself and a little bit of self trickery. However, if you want to make art but aren’t, all the advice in the world won’t make any difference if you just read it and carry on in the same groove.

So I suggest taking one idea here and implementing it, right now! As Amelia Earhart said, “The most effective way to do it is to do it.” :)

art tips for procrastinators via taraleaver.com

I think about this topic a lot and am always keen to hear about how others get past the inevitable bouts of creative procrastination. What can you add to this list? What helps you? Do you have a clever little psychological trick or a practical tip that works for you? Please do share in the comments!

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