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Look for the Small Obstacle

September 28, 2010

Over the years I’ve bumped into obstacles that can be completely overwhelming and can stop a project in its tracks. There are the big gigantic roadblocks, and then there are teeny tiny little pebbles in the path that have a way of throwing us. Both are just as effective at stopping progress.

Sometimes they don’t come at me in a logical order. I can go merrily along my way for a while and then discover the one big problem that I just can’t figure out how to overcome. Other times I will embark on a project or goal, and find that there is just one little annoying snag that I keep hitting.

Typically for me, the next thing that happens is interesting: I give up and avoid the whole project altogether. That little snag gives me a reason to put the project aside to be tackled later, maybe when I’m feeling more confident, or more energetic, or have more knowledge, or more time. I have shelves full of dead-end projects.

The big stuff is easy to see, and can be good reason to rethink a whole project early and avoid the pain of failure. Projects or goals that are obviously beyond my abilities or are out of my area of expertise can be skipped altogether. Or they can be outsourced!

Many times I may not even be aware of what’s stopping me from succeeding, until I have a conversation with myself about what’s really holding me back. The little snags can be paralyzing. They can be excuses for not finishing what I’ve started. Not knowing how to do something technical may require me to stop and do some research or take a workshop. Navigating the political ins and outs of the gallery system may require me to reach out and network more. Getting into a coveted show may mean that I need create the best possible images of my artwork.

In my experience, if I keep trying and push myself to face and surmount the small obstacles one by one, things eventually seem to suddenly fall into place. The feeling of accomplishment afterward always builds confidence for the next big thing.

Have you hit any little snags lately, or is it just me? How did you conquer your small obstacle?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2010 5:55 pm

    Good question Martha! Usually what’s stopping me artistically is something else – a cluttered studio, clutter other places, something I have to do on the business end of things, etc… A good studio pickup usually does the trick, but sometimes it’s a larger project that needs tackling – the problem is I may not have the time or $$$ to tackle it. So I need to try to not let that particular thing get in the way! Now that I know this about myself, I should try to figure out when I should just push thru!

    • September 29, 2010 12:15 pm

      Great points, Candy! Now that you mention it, I really do need to do a big studio cleanout again. It’s amazing how one big project or deadline can decimate a studio.

      And yes, I know what you mean about not letting one project hold up all the rest.

      I think being one’s own boss is problematic. I need somebody to stand over me with a stick! 🙂

  2. September 29, 2010 11:33 am

    oh, martha….are we in some parallel universe? i am in the same place w/ my work right now.
    i have hit a few snags since i started encaustic recently. it’s like the creative forces are all in place, i have plenty of inspiration and direction- and yet the technical side isn’t meshing with what i’m trying to say artistically…i’m not even sure that makes sense now that i’ve written it! it’s like having creative block and technical block at the same time! learning a new medium is wonderful, enlightening and also time-consuming and frustrating.
    and as you say, roadblocks can be paralyzing. (i’m there now.) i’m forging ahead, though…i’ll get through it by trial and error, and more research. i know you will, too!

  3. September 29, 2010 12:18 pm

    Stephanie, that can be so frustrating. I do know exactly what you mean. But at the same time it will be so exciting when you make that breakthrough. Learning a new medium may give you some new discoveries about the content itself too. I hope you’ll let us know when we can see some of the new work!

  4. Nancy permalink
    September 29, 2010 12:46 pm

    oh, what to do for a miniature show? something interesting to create, somethng even bettter to look at! ah, the clutter of the studio becomes a meditative practice to ponder these obstacles – inevitably, all is revealed as space clears literally and figuratively

    glad you are back martha, and that your aunt is doing well in her rehab time.

    • September 30, 2010 12:44 pm

      Nancy, I love that philosophy! Thanks for pointing out that just something as simple as clearing space can be a meditative thing.

      Thank you for the good wishes. She is doing well and adjusting to her new and strange surroundings.

  5. September 30, 2010 11:46 am

    I do have one of these small obstacles Martha. I am need of some painting time now that my solo show is down and the first few weeks of my fall routine have started to settle in. There is something I think besides time getting in my way. I have decided to start with some morning sketches and then follow it up with turning to two of the canvases I am working on… and if that doesn’t move me forward, I am going to switch medium and take a fresh sheet of watercolour paper out.

  6. September 30, 2010 12:47 pm

    Terrill, it’s wonderful to have the flexibility to envision a Plan B. There’s a lesson in that as well.

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