A few years ago I read a book on the four classical temperament types that gave me a new and liberating understanding of my tendency to be easily discouraged and dissuaded from persevering in long or difficult creative projects. I realized that I often would not completely follow through with a good idea because I would misinterpret the discouraged feelings which always followed my initial exhilaration as an actual sign that the path I was taking was somehow not right for me, and I would feel weirdly guilty until I quit. If I had an obligation to someone else to follow through, I would, but if I did not, the project would be left behind with relief followed by wistful regret. When I learned that this tendency was simply a weakness of the phlegmatic side of my melancholic and phlegmatic temperament combination, I was empowered to stick with things better than I had before.
And yesterday, I am pleased to realize, I had a new insight about how unrecognized discouragement decreases my productivity. I was carving a new crucifix design in wax smaller than the ones I have made so far. I was thinking about anatomy and design and the technical requirements for making a sturdy wax model. I had my computer by me with lots of crucifix images pulled up, but I just wanted to check my personal Facebook, so I did and took a few minutes to answer a comment. Then I found just the right music to listen to. Then I shared it on Facebook. Then I changed to a podcast with a couple of successful artists talking about their process. The wax was looking worse and worse, so I put the music back on. Then I checked to see if my friend had responded to the comment I had put up in response to her comment. Then I told myself to stop wasting time and went back to the music. Then my six year old daughter came down and crowded in the chair with me and messed with my stuff and accidentally hurt herself with a hot wax tool, Then, to my relief, she was invited to my friend's house to visit some cute ducks, and my absurd, wasteful cycle of distraction started all over again. I wasted a couple precious hours I had worked hard to free up, and probably went backwards in my project.
I am a little embarrassed to share this, but it seems likely that I'm not the only one who does this sort of thing, And I did gain a useful insight: yesterday's ridiculous distractibility had to do with discouragement. My task seemed daunting, but I've learned enough now to know that I really want and need to finish it, so I didn't run away from it in a big and final way. I just dawdled.
Now that I recognize what is happening, I want to train myself to stay focused longer when I am doing something that feels hard. I'm going to try setting a timer for forty-five minutes, during which time I do not look at anything on the computer but the images I already set up to use. I'll let you know how it goes!
Here's something pretty just because. The artist is Becca Stadtlander