Mental Kitchen

How to Overcome the Seven Crippling Limitations

Of course everyone knows of the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth) These are countered by the seven heavenly virtues (humility, charity, chastity, gratitude, temperance, patience, and diligence). But a less known group resides on earth as humans.

Yes, we’re talking about the Seven Crippling Limitations. These unnecessary inconveniences prevent us mortals from accomplishing all the artistic endeavors we yearn for. 

Here is the list:

  1. Apathy
  2. Distraction
  3. Procrastination
  4. Indecisiveness
  5. Irritation
  6. Anxiety
  7. Depression

Each of these nasties can shutdown the prospective artists or throw a block in a writer’s path. So how can we surmount the banalities of humanity?

Use a Timer to Defeat Apathy

Sometimes you simply don’t feel like creating. It can be a draining ordeal and you’re just not in the mood. Those annoyingly perky writers will simply tell you to get over it, and just write. Easier said than done. 

One trick is to follow Robert Boice’s advice and set a timer. Give yourself 15 minutes at the very least and get down to work. Everyone can do at least that small chunk of time. Then stop. The mental agreement to halt after it’s done will trick your brain in letting you get started.

Hide Your Phone to Combat Distraction

When you want to indulge your creative side, unplug from the rest of your life. Turn your phone on mute (or even better, shut it off). Keep the television and other distractions down to a minimum (wearing noise canceling headphones can really help here). Ditto for the snacks. You can nosh later, this is creation time. 

There are also numerous distraction free writing apps along with the notorious Write or Die site (that punishes you if you slow down or stop typing).

Keep Forging Links in the Chain to Avoid Procrastination

The folks over at The.Language.Nerds have a great definition for procrastination:

Sometimes a little time off from your creative workload can be liberating. Constructive daydreaming can lead to breakthroughs. But for most of us, tomorrow is where we tend to shunt all of our work to. 

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld created a technique called “Don’t Break the Chain.” At the start of every year, he would buy a new calendar on his office all. Every day he wrote, a big X would go on that day. After a few days, this created a “chain” of creation. Then the guilt of breaking this chain kept him going. Even if it’s a tiny amount, getting something done is rewarding. 

Divide Creation from Polishing to Conquer Indecisiveness

Every form of creativity (be it writing, music, filmmaking, etc) has two distinct phases. To start, you pour out ideas and work out a draft or sketch of what you want. Filmmakers might storyboard and musicians might jam. Either way, the critical eye can wait. 

It’s the judgemental voice in your head that puts the brakes on creation and makes you doubt your direction. When you are creating, you should be free to be wrong. It’s a messy process that values every idea as good. There’s time later to figure out if these decisions work as whole for the piece. 

Revision is the time to fret and curse the muses. But then you at least have material to edit. You’ve already defeated indecisiveness but getting lines or words on the page. 

Empty Your Mind to Fight Irritation

We’ve all been there. Intrusive thoughts derail our calm session and soon we are thinking about anything except what we want to create. This leads back to a quote by Turkish playwright Mehmet Murat Ildan:

When you are caught in the heavy rains of anger, open the umbrella of mind, take refuge under the roof of reason!

Much of this comes with our frame of mind. If we’re constantly staring up at the sky, expecting it to fall, how can we concentrate on anything else? If negative thoughts keep poking at you, take a short break to clear your head. The temptation is to jump on your phone and zone out, but this won’t solve your problems. 

Create a list of things that are bugging you. If possible, list pros and cons or possible solutions. You don’t have to work it all out right now. Mostly you want to empty your mind of these intrusive thoughts so you can be back to writing or drawing. 

Make Yourself an Expert to Overcome Anxiety

The anxiety trap works like this: you worry that your work isn’t good enough. And so you rework and rework until the whole thing is a disaster. Or worse, you halt in your tracks and give up. 

To fend off these worrisome thoughts, you can read up on the art form you’re working in. Learn from the best writers or musicians. Study how they worked. You’ll quickly discover that they, too, had doubts. Overtime, your confidence will grow, allowing you to forge ahead. 

Pace Yourself to Steer Clear of Depression

There are two sorts of depression artists can encounter. The first is a clinical depression that should be tackled as a day to day part of your life. There isn’t an easy fix for this, but plenty of people out there can help you. 

The other kind of depression comes from exhaustion with your work. You binge through too many pages or projects, causing you to overreact to the slightest imperfection. This will lead to depression (a combination of apathy and anxiety). 

The best solution is to pace yourself. Even the greatest writers only produced pages for a few hours a day. When you detect signs of impatience or rushing, that’s the time to take a break (possibly for the day). Don’t try to squeeze the whole project into one session. 

Everyone has an artist in them. Once you learn to circumvent these crippling limitations, you’ll be amazed at what you can create. 

Tim Kane

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