Resisting Change

Almost Harvest

Socrates said it
"The unexamined life is not worth living."
Most people resist drawing so much so that they never put pencil to paper. Even when some people make a commitment to work on drawing, all sorts of resistance comes up. It's difficult to settle down and drawing requires that we settle down and stop the struggle against doing so.

We encounter resistance when we approach all sorts of creative activities, from drawing to starting a business. That's why it's so easy to give up before we start a thing we know we really want to do. It's too hard. What's really difficult is overcoming our resistance.

Change and creative activity demand that we shift gears. I watch resistance to change and creative activity within myself all the time. I usually call it procrastination. I watch resistance in my drawing students. What I know and they have to learn is that once you start to draw, as difficult as the exercise may seem, you step into creative flow and that, in and of itself, is a healing process.

Being present, engaged in creative activity is a cross between walking a tightrope and taking a long deep breath of relief. It's often the engagement, putting pen or pencil to paper, that is the most difficult part until you make it a habit through practice. Resistance never goes away but it can become easier to overcome.

A subliminal reason we resist drawing is that, in the process of looking out and seeing something for the first time, we simultaneously start to look within. Looking within is not always an easy activity. We exit our comfort zone of habit, even though it may take us to a place that is infinitely more satisfying and comfortable.

We're in the season of change right now. Change brings challenge and sometimes hard lessons. But you know what that other old Greek, Heraclitus said,
"The only constant is change."
Everyone has different levels of resistance to different challenges. Often, we're drawn to what we resist the most. It can feel like death to exit our comfort zones but we must let go of habitual patterns to overcome resistance and open ourselves to new possibilities. In order to change, we really have to learn about ourselves.

This is how we grow. That's what life is all about.

I so love the quatrain from the end of the film version of The Fantasicks that I'm transcribing it for you here. It's relevant.
"There is a curious paradox that no one can explain.
Who understands the secret of the reaping of the grain?
Who understands why Spring is born out of Winter's laboring pain,
or why we all must die a bit before we grow again?"
—Tom Jones

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The Balancing Act

Darkness and light

This week marks the Autumnal Equinox. On September 22, the day and night will be of equal length. It's a good time to contemplate balancing the darkness and light within.

As the long days of light give way to longer nights of darkness, summer fades and autumn sweeps everything clean before putting us to bed for the winter.

Autumn brings change and it's beautiful but change brings uncertainty. Uncertainty is scary. These days, uncertainty seems to be the norm. In the news, in recent conversations with friends, from one day to the next, it feels like many of us are surfing major waves of change. Fear goes hand in hand with uncertainty and often directs that fancy footwork required to keep from wiping out. Although wiping out is not necessarily a bad thing, it's trust (the flip side of fear) that really helps keep us steady.

Fear is the darkness and trust is the light. It's good to strike a balance by acknowledging the fear and consciously choosing to trust that the outcome is going to be all right.

In creative pursuits, uncertainty is key. We may think we know what we're creating in advance, but the truth is that (unless we're copying) it's often only after a project is complete that we can see what it was all about. We have to trust the process without allowing fear to keep us from starting in the first place.

Uncertainty is the name of a really good book by Jonathan Fields. It's on the recommended reading list for my online drawing and watercolor course.

from Uncertainty:
Why Uncertainty Matters

"Every quest to create something bold starts with a question, a hunch, or an idea. There are far more unknowns than knowns, and that's the way it needs to be. The only way to know all the answers, all the brushstrokes, words, codes, models, forms, shapes , and data points in advance is to seek to create something that has already been created before. Which means you're no longer creating: you're replicating, turning out work that is derivitative, and that's not what we're here for.

"We are in this game to bring to life art, business, ideas, products, services, companies, and experiences that are signals, not noise—objects and endeavors that in some way add to the experience of business, culture, humanity, and life. That requires us to live with uncertainty and its trusted sidekicks: risk of loss and exposure to judgment. These qualities are signposts, at least in the early stages of any endeavor, that what you're doing is worth the effort. That it matters to you and, one hopes, to others."
—Jonathan Fields
Click here to find out about Jonathan Fields's Good Life Project.


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What are YOU afraid of?


This past week, I've been focusing on Seth Godin's work. I've been following him for years but spent a few days in total immersion. In today's issue, I'm sharing an exercise with which he concluded an interview.

The question was "What's one action that listeners can take right now to help move them forward towards their goal of changing the world?" Here is Seth's answer:
"Write down what you're afraid of.

"Be vulnerable about it. Confront your shame and to be aware of the fact that if you're not finding it difficult to write down, it's probably not what you're afraid of.

"That act leads to you taking responsibility for the next set of choices as opposed to blaming the outside world that is stacked against you because of what you look like, who your parents are, where you were born, how you speak, how old you are, who you know, who you don't know and what cards you were dealt.

"That's all a given, right? But if we take that and put it right next to what are you afraid of, then I think you can chart a course that isn't filled with excuses and deniability. Well of course it didn't work because I have this whole list, which I used to carry around on a piece of paper in the back of my head before I finally got rid of it. This whole list of why it wasn't fair. You say all right that's all a given but given that, I chose to make this, what do you think? And the act of doing that is really, really difficult. No other creature on earth knows how to do it. Most humans are afraid to do it and if you can figure out what part of that process you are afraid of, I think you are going to discover your life changes." —Seth Godin
Even if you don't want to change the world, this is a powerful exercise that I highly recommend. Even if you think you don't want to change the world, you do. Every day in small or large ways, you change the world. (Remember George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life?)

Irrational Fear

Most people have an irrational fear of drawing. Objectively, it makes no sense. We're talking about making marks on a piece of paper. However, I can only feel compassionate about this because sometimes I share the fear.

In my current workshop teaching space, there's a stuffed Striped Bass on the wall that I use for an exercise. Each time I sit down to draw it with a brush I announce, "I'm afraid." For a number of reasons, it's a challenge, especially with a gang looking over my shoulder. But I draw/paint it anyway. Most of the time it turns out pretty well.

In the case of drawing, we're mostly concerned with fear of failure and fear of being judged.

My experience with teaching and practicing is that when you overcome the fear of drawing, you can overcome fear of many other things in life including fear of failure and of being judged. Overcoming fear does not mean that the fear goes away, it only means that we feel the fear and take action anyway. It's a practice. It's one of the top ten reasons I teach drawing and watercolor.

You don't have to want to be an artist. You only have to have a desire to see what happens when you pick up a pencil to draw, when you play with water and color. It's a way of developing courage.

Do it now

September is the natural get back to group learning time of year.

If you've been waiting, deliberating, thinking that you'll have plenty of time to decide on whether to join my 12 Lesson Fall Online Course in Drawing and Watercolor, now is the time.

Click Here to check out my Fall Online Drawing + Watercolor Course starting on September 12.

As soon as you register, you'll receive your Drawing Primer and be able to start your first lesson right away.

Reminder: This is the last time I am offering in current, one-on-one format.


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