You know there are things that you do on a daily basis that you tell yourself are ‘productive’, and this may be true, but, as a follow up to the discussion on allowable time wasters, I wanted to interject a quick word about time wasters that may be harder to spot. Now just as with a golf handicap, some people’s time wasters might be more allowable than others. Your time waster might not be mine and vice versa. It all depends upon what you are actually trying to accomplish at any given time.
Crutches can be explained as such: Normally productive activities, which, when overly employed or when used in the wrong context, can simply be a way for you to avoid working on what you should actually be producing. Crutches allow you to lie to yourself about the relative importance of the activity itself because in some instances it is 100% necessary to your creative career.
Sneaky little buggers, these are all things that you as an artists should be doing, but in moderation, and not to the detriment of the actual product or goal that you hold as senior on your to-do list of things to accomplish. It skates on a fine line.
The below are not things you should eliminate from your life by any means. They are all very important to the success and happiness of an artist. Discovering and avoiding your crutches is a very intuitive thing, and only you may really know what is helpful or productive to you at any given time. To discover what your crutches are, decide first what your ultimate long term goals are. Then decide on the best short term goals that are tied to that goal. Now, every time you are working at one of your crutches, ask yourself, does this activity right now help me toward accomplishing that goal. If the answer is no, take note that this might be one of your crutches. Realign yourself to your goal by cutting back on that activity to only what is useful toward your current goal.
The below list is certainly not the only list by any means. Feel free to add any others in the comments section below to share with us additional activities that you feel might be crutches to one’s progress as an artist.
1. Research. This, I know, is a major handicap for some writers, as I am sure it can be for other artists – actors, musicians comics. Research is definitely necessary in the creation of art, especially if you are portraying something with a history or a set lineage or structure, such as a particular style of 1940’s jazz, for instance. But using research to avoid other work that might be more productive, such as actually writing or practicing or recording, when you know you are using it as an avoidance tool, this is a danger zone. Listen to the voice in the back of your head as it tells you to get off the internet and GET TO WORK. Artists make money with an exchangeable product: a show, a CD, a book. The more time you spend working on that the sooner you will reach your goals.
2. Networking. Very important overall. We know how important networking is. Who you know and staying out there, staying relevant, on the tip of their tongues and the forefront of their minds. All this is important to your success as an artist. But if this is all you do, if Facebooking and going to parties is the long and short of it, watch it. This might be one of your crutches. You must build your social media network and your relationships, but you also must build a body of work! Keep this in mind the next time you log onto Facebook.
3. Paperwork. Some people can get bogged down in the importance of paperwork. I know filmmakers can be guilty of this. Spreadsheets and reports and contracts and layouts, etc. etc. etc. It could go on forever. You may or may not have this problem. In fact, some people have the opposite problem of no organization whatsoever. But if you are someone who is addicted to order and organization, watch for this crutch. You can find yourself prepared for anything and creating nothing.
4. Side Projects. These are the fun things that you want to do that are outside of your normal goals. They may be your own little projects, like the little hats you crochet during the holidays when you should be writing your book, or the short film you are helping your buddy shoot on the weekends. These are great projects and they help to fill the well of creativity, which every artist needs to keep full, but be weary of how much time you are taking away from your number one project to work on these things and be sure that you are not doing it with the guilty knot in your stomach because you know you should be writing or working on your next song.
5. Planning. This seems to be a favorite crutch of all artists. BEWARE of this one! Now, legitimate planning is good and while every artist needs to take some time on a regular basis to daydream — some of the most motivating, inspiring and productive times are spent with fellow artists shooting ideas back and forth — but if this is all you do, you need to rethink things. The creative world is full of talkers, don’t forget to also be a doer.
As you have likely already learned, course correction will always be a factor in your creative life. Use the tool of observing and avoiding crutches to keep yourself on track and you will find yourself at the finish line quicker than you know.
1. Discover what your long term goals are and write them out.
2. Narrow down a few short term goals that help you toward your long term goals. Write those down beneath the long term goals.
3. Now, with renewed focus toward your current objectives, observe yourself in your daily activities. Spot some of your creative crutches. List those out below your goals in big red ink. Tape this document up somewhere where you will see it on a daily and even hourly basis. Keep your goals and crutches in mind.
4. Post all of this on the Facebook event page wall for all to see, you brave soul you!
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