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Challenges and Resistance

March 21, 2009



“Above the Falls” – Digital Collage

I was on the phone with an artist friend this morning, and our conversation began to gravitate toward the idea of challenges and resistance. We both have had situations this week in which we were resisting doing something that might be perceived as difficult in the beginning, but once we begin, it turns out to be not so bad, and in some cases even fun.

Her current daily challenge is creating a series of large scale drawings. She knows that once she has done a number of these drawings “something good will come of it” (her words.) She’s not yet exactly sure what, but she has faith that this is what she needs to do. I heard her say that she is very committed to accomplishing this series. But she admitted she has to really talk to herself in order to just begin. But once she begins, she has great fun with it, and the work flows easily.

I can completely identify with this with my recent series of collages. This is the fourth year that I had promised myself I would participate in the International Collage Exhibition/Exchange, but the first time that I finally came through on my promise. I wanted to do the exchange. I wanted the challenge of coming up with a series of collages, because it would be a temporary shift of focus that I felt would be good for me as an artist. But I had resisted it right up until the last few weeks. The reason? I had no idea how I wanted to approach the project — how to begin. Once I mapped out in my mind how I would begin, I took a deep breath and just made a start. And the process was great fun. I fell in love with collage all over again.

So it’s a question of beginning. Doesn’t this sound familiar? 

The water is a little cold in the swimming pool so I get myself wet a little at a time, realizing all the while that I’m prolonging the agony. I finally just jump into the deep end, and pretty soon I’m splashing and floating and kicking and enjoying being a kid again.


I know I’ll enjoy it when I get there, but it’s just easier to sit here in this computer chair than to get my gym shoes on, grab the car keys, and go to the gym. I realize that just getting my body from here to there is the biggest hurdle. After that, it’s no problem at all. I really love the feeling of accomplishment it gives me to move and sweat a little, and do something that makes me healthier and stronger. 

This morning we concluded that it’s important to begin without an end in mind, not  judge ourselves, and enjoy the process. And I think I could benefit from taking a closer look at some of the other things I’m resisting. I could be missing out on even more fun.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2009 3:47 pm

    how very interesting!
    Doing the degree that I am there is far o much thinking and analysis in the process sometimes!
    i have passed the dissertation by the way so only this major unit to complete and viva then the final show all wrapped up by June!
    Spontaneity and Creativity and just the joy of painting should be enough, as anyone who wants to buy a painting will as a painting stands on its own allowing the viewer to look and see.

    • March 22, 2009 6:39 pm

      Chris, congratulations to you for this great accomplishment. You of all people should have fresh appreciation for what it means to begin at a difficult task and keep on working when the going gets tough. Pleae keep us updated about your show in June.

      Now you can have a little fun with spontaneity and creativity. That will be glorious!

  2. March 22, 2009 7:41 am

    This is so very true. Just getting yourself out there is the hardest step. I know that I think too much. If I just do it without thinking, then I enjoy the process and the results.
    Right now I’m trying to get myself organized in my new home. Yesterday I completely gave into being overwhelmed and took a nap. I am allowing myself that, for one day. I worked HARD for a week moving. Today I’ve already unpacked a lot, yeah!
    I also MUST get into the studio today. That is my reward!

    • March 22, 2009 6:40 pm

      Rebecca, good that you are remembering to take well-deserved breaks and rewarding yourself for your hard work. The benefits are going to be great!

  3. March 22, 2009 3:24 pm

    Such wise words you have said in this post Martha, I thank you for them and also thankful that I came across when I seem to be in a slump.

    • March 22, 2009 6:41 pm

      Mary, it’s so nice to hear that the post resonated for you. It’s a pretty universal problem that we all face from time to time.

  4. March 22, 2009 5:11 pm

    I’ve found that people are very different when it comes to starting new things. For some reason, I really like starting – it’s practicing, maintaining, continuing that I have problems with. Maybe because I’m an Aries…

    A useful metaphor for getting started on something when you are not sure you know how to do it (usually the reason!) is to think of it like an airplane flight. The pilot takes off and knows where they want to end up – they are actually off course the entire way, constantly making tiny course corrections all along. So just get started, knowing that you will make small adjustments in the face of your current position and you’ll probably end up where you want to get!

    • March 22, 2009 6:45 pm

      Bob, great analogy. It perfectly describes how I paint, and I embrace it joyfully. My resistance to things comes when the task appears difficult or mysterious maybe, and it usually proves to be easier than I imagined.

      I can identify with the part about practicing. I see sketching as practicing skills making marks, and yet I resist making time to do it. It’s similar to practicing scales on the piano. I get bored quickly and want to go play outside.

  5. Annette permalink
    March 23, 2009 4:17 am

    Martha, I rarely regret accepting a true challenge but generally regret forever the ones I resist.

  6. March 23, 2009 5:23 am

    Yes, Annette – I can identify with that point. If we live long enough, we learn that things always look more complex and dauting on the surface, so we say “yes I can” and usually find a way to make it work.

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