SELF-SABOTAGE: THE CONSCIOUS BOOKSMITH PODCAST
I love this podcast and was so honored to have been a guest. Check it out.
“Your life can be a series of creative acts that beget other creative acts.”
Robert Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance
Self-Sabotage: The Conscious Booksmith Podcast
I hope you enjoyed last week’s guest post written by Christine Mason Miller. This week I have another special treat for you. I recently had the very distinct honor and pleasure of being a guest on Christine’s podcast: The Conscious Booksmith Podcast.
The main topic of discussion was self-sabotage; however, we discussed a whole host of issues relating to creativity.
It was a terrific discussion, if I do say so myself. You can listen to it here. If you would rather read the transcript, it is included below.
I hope you will take a half hour to listen to this fun and lively podcast and let me know your thoughts.
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The Conscious Booksmith Podcast
Christine Mason Miller: It’s said that every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. While I get this in spirit, what I found even more to the point and helpful when I feel my self-sabotage gremlins approaching is to remember that every accomplishment starts with the decision to take the first step. Once I’ve taken step one, I have the courage to take step two and once I’ve take step two, I’ve built up enough confidence to take steps three, four and five and so on and so on. For me it’s all about step one and the time it takes me to get from an idea to that first step depends on whether or not I’m able to prevent any self-sabotage tentacles from creeping into my creative process. This takes discipline and focus and sometimes it means I act as if. Is my inner critic telling me I’m not a real writer? Act as if I am and start writing. Is there a voice asking who will even be interested in what I have to write? Act as if I already have an audience of readers eager to hear my stories.
I have had plenty of experience with self-sabotage both as a writer and an artist and have found the self-sabotage gremlins don’t really care whether I’m writing or painting or teaching or constructing a paper mache’ sculpture of an eggplant. All they care about is stifling the creative process, and they get around. There isn’t a single creative person I know who hasn’t had to figure out how to keep these scoundrels at bay. It is part of the process of bringing a creative vision to life whether that is a book or a painting or a book of paintings.
My guest today is David Limrite, a fine artist, teacher, coach and mentor. He has taught drawing and painting for 30 years and as a coach and mentor, his goal is to motivate visual artists toward inspired action. I met David at a friend’s art opening just a few months ago and within about five seconds I could tell he was the real deal. And before the end of the event, we’d already decided we wanted to collaborate on something. So here we are, our first official collaboration for The Conscious Booksmith podcast. To talk about self-sabotage and what it means to give our all to our creative projects.
Welcome to The Conscious Booksmith, a weekly podcast about real life and true stories. All inspired by the experience of writing my memoir one page at a time.
Hello David, thank you so much for talking with me today.
David Limrite: You are welcome and hello to you.
Christine Mason Miller: Thank you.
David Limrite: Yeah absolutely, I’m looking forward to it.
Christine Mason Miller: I know we decided immediately that we wanted to do something together at Lisa’s show where we first meet. So I’m glad we didn’t waste much time making that happen.
David Limrite: Yeah that happened fast, didn’t it?
David Limrite: Good for us. And here we are.
Christine Mason Miller: You maintain a great blog on your website with all kinds of guidance and advice for other artists and creatives and it was actually hard to choose which topic to focus on today because you’ve touched upon so many things, but I’m really glad we decided to talk about self-sabotage today because it’s something we’ve all been through. You recently wrote about an experience you had that involved having a new idea but needing to kind of force your way through those self-sabotage voices before you could actually start to execute your idea. How do you turn down the volume on the gremlins when they come up for you like that?
David Limrite: Well, great question. You know for me, sabotage or self-sabotage, is fear-based. So one of the things I learned for me, and I’ve written about it and talked to my students about it, is that action quiets fear. And when it rears its ugly little head, if I can just get involved in the process and start making stuff, all that other stuff drifts away. And I always tell people it’s not what you create, it’s that you create. That you are doing it, that you are working, that you are creating, that you are writing, that you are engaging in the activity, and that you are focusing on the process and not necessarily the product. I think, when I start focusing on the product, like I’ve got to get this done, it’s for this, it’s for that, whatever it is, then that’s when things start to creep in.
Christine Mason Miller: Right.
David Limrite: And stuff always comes up. I mean, the world doesn’t sit down and let us create. The world goes on and so things come up, whether that’s internal like negative or unproductive thoughts, or whether it’s distractions, exterior. So, I’ve learned that you have to create in the middle of things. You have to learn to be able to just tune that stuff out and get down to business. And there’s never a perfect condition or a time to write or create. I mean, there never is. Anyway, that’s some of my thoughts on it and what I’ve learned from myself.
Christine Mason Miller: You’ve touched upon so many really important points. One thing that I talked about in the introduction to this podcast was about taking the first step, and for me, that’s the most pivotal moment. Just taking that first step. Once I take the first step then I guess part of my brain figures, like well, you’re here, you might as well keep going.
David Limrite: Right.
Christine Mason Miller: And it’s really about showing up, and like you said, I’ve got this all laundry to do or I’ve got this other thing going on later but right now I have 15 minutes so I’m going to sit down and I’m going to show up for my creative work.
David Limrite: Right. I always tell people, if you have a choice between resistance and commitment, choose commitment. I mean, opt for commitment, because with commitment, you know what I mean, commit to doing your work. Commit to sitting down, like you say, and writing. And there’s not going to be a guarantee. I know artists who think, well, if I sit down and start working, then everything is going to go smoothly and I’m going to create brilliant things. There’s not going to be a guarantee, and for sure there’s going to be uncertainty and there’s going to be fear of the unknown, but at least you’ll be creating, at least you’ll be working, at least you’ll be writing.
Christine Mason Miller: Right. I was talking to a woman, she wants to write not a memoir but a book that would include some personal stories and was expressing some fear around that. This is what a lot of artists and writers are fearful of - how other people are going to respond for whatever reason.
David Limrite: Sure.
Christine Mason Miller: And in whatever way, I was explaining to her that there were certain parts of my memoir, well ,as I was working on the memoir, pieces that I was working on and writing and getting them to be a solid piece of writing, knowing they weren’t going to go on the book, but, for whatever reason, I wanted to follow those threads, and explained to her; and the good news is that in that process I was still honing my craft. I was working on my writing even though I knew it was not going be shared with the public. I was honing my craft.
David Limrite: Yes. We are always honing our craft, I mean, till the day we die I think. I call it being a lifelong learner.
Christine Mason Miller: Right.
David Limrite: That’s one of the things I love about being a creator, whether its writing or painting or whatever it is, is that we get to be lifelong learners. We don’t just learn it and then, okay, the next 30 years we just do it. So I think that’s a good thing to remind ourselves of and I also think that, one more thing on commitment, for me, when I commit to something whether that’s an idea, a technique, a thought, whatever it is, it tells me that, if I’m opting for commitment, it tells me that what I’m creating or setting out to create is important and is meaningful to me, and if I can get to that stage, then it makes the process more easy, more fun. If I can say this is important, of all the things I could choose to do, I’m choosing to do this, so therefore, it must be important to me and therefore it must be meaningful to me.
Christine Mason Miller: Right. And even if it doesn’t, like maybe if you have a vision for a painting and even if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you envisioned, maybe there’s something else that sparks an idea for a different kind of painting that you would not have stumbled upon had you not followed this other thread. It might turn out to be meaningful for you in a way you weren’t expecting. I’m sure you’ve had that experience.
David Limrite: Yes and I’m sure you have too. I think it happens to all creators, and I used to be freaked out by that but I’ve learned to accept that and actually enjoy it and say, "Okay, look where I get to go now. Look where I get to go today".
Christine Mason Miller: Right.
Christine Mason Miller: I was just going to say in that same blog entry where you were talking about having to get through that period of self-sabotage. One thing you said is you encourage artists and creatives to pursue an idea with all of your heart, energy, passion and brain power. And I love that. I was wondering how you do this? How do you set yourself up to be able to tap into the flow of all of these different channels?
David Limrite: We’ve already touched on it and you brought it up. For me, the first thing is showing up. I take it a step further for myself because a lot of people show up and then they don’t do anything. I know artists, visual artists, who show up in their studio and end up cleaning their studio and not making art. So it’s showing up but then it’s also about beginning. And then it’s also about, for me, it’s also about staying put long enough for something to happen. I know a lot of artists and writers who show up and begin and give it 15 or 20 minutes and then they’re off doing something else and they didn’t really give it a chance to work or manifest itself. So I always say show up, begin and stay put long enough for something to happen. So that would be the first step for me, and then what that does is, and I’m a big momentum guy, but what that does is build momentum. I think momentum is everything. And I think once you get going you get a taste for it and get involved in it and your passionate about it. Then you start to build some momentum and you want to work on the project, and then, when that happens, you start creating better. So, I think momentum produces results and I just think if you’re a creator whether that’s a writer or a painter, I think that you’ve got to be working on your craft on a daily or weekly basis. I think you’ve got to work at it. You can’t just do a little bit here and a little bit there because that won’t build momentum. And when you don’t, I feel like I’m rambling on, but when you don’t create for a while, I think it actually gets easier to not do it at all.
Christine Mason Miller: Absolutely.
David Limrite: So to me, momentum. That’s another thing that I think helps give all your heart and energy and passion and brain power to your work, and then once you’re involve, I think you have to be willing to be, well I call it deliciously imperfect. I think you have to be willing to be imperfect. And as I’ve said before, focus on the journey and the process. I have another phrase that I use with my artists, my students. I tell them to guess and correct because a lot of them will wait till they have the perfect color mixed or the perfect shape or the perfect figure drawn before they think they can go on to the next step, and I tell them guess and correct, make your first best attempt and then correct it from there. I think creativity is a lot about correcting your initial attempts. You know as a writer you make your first draft and then you rewrite and you rewrite and you rewrite and you rewrite. So I don’t know if that rings a bell for you but...
Christine Mason Miller: It absolutely does and I love the way you articulated that. Did you read the book “Art and Fear”?
David Limrite: Yes, fabulous book.
Christine Mason Miller: I love the way they talked about how whatever it is, painting, sculpture, whatever it is, we have this vision in our mind and we try to create it and there’s always a disconnect between what we envisioned and what we create. And I think you’re absolutely right, it’s putting something on the canvas, on the page, and beginning, and then you’re adjusting from there. I remember anytime I’m working on a painting or a mixed media piece or something, I really love these experiences of I’ll be working on something and wrap up for the day and then go have dinner and go to bed and then wake up the next morning and I want to run into my studio to look at my piece again to see, "do I still like it?"
David Limrite: Yes yes. Did something happen overnight?
Christine Mason Miller: Right.
Christine Mason Miller: Good. I still like where I am going with it or I actually don't think that's working so well.
David Limrite: And I think that’s where momentum can come in. If you’re working whether it’s writing or painting and you’re excited to begin the next day or to go look at what you’ve done the next day or reread what you’ve done the day before, that’s momentum building.
Christine Mason Miller: Right.
David Limrite: That’s excitement and that’s going to keep you going. And you know, I have two other things about this too, I think that, back to the idea of putting all your heart, energy, passion and brain power into it, is being obsessed with your ideas whether good or bad.
Christine Mason Miller: Right
David Limrite: Be obsessed and that allows me to pour my heart and energy into my work. And the other thing is, I just thought of, that I forgot, is be curious. Be curious about what you’re going to write, what you’re going to paint, what a book can look or can read like, what a painting can look like. I always tell my students "How curious are you going to be today". Be curious. We can be obsessed about what we are doing and be curious about what could happen. Then, wow, I think we’re off and running.
Christine Mason Miller: That’s such an important piece, to be curious. I have this image in my mind of what a painting might look like. I have this idea in my head of the story I could write but it’ll be interesting to see what else comes up. Just embrace that rather than to say it has to be this. I think then we just immediately block the whole creative flow.
David Limrite: Yes. Blockages are a whole other thing.
Yeah, whole other topic.
Christine Mason Miller: And when it comes to your creative ideas, when do you know whether or not you want to keep going with something? Because sometimes ideas just don’t work so how so do you determine if it’s truly time to let go of something or if it’s resistance just trying to shut you down?
David Limrite: Yeah how does that go? How does that work? You know I think that there are, I mean obviously there are no guarantees in creativity. There is no guarantee that an idea is going to work. And you need to take risks in order to see, and risks can be risky. I think a lot of people think that they can take risks and it can be nice and easy, but risks are risky, that’s why they are called risks. And process can be messy, both mentally and physically, and creating is just hard work in general. You know it and I know it and everybody that writes and paints and sings and, we know that. I think for me the trick is, if I can make it happen, because sometimes I can’t, is to collaborate with the thing that I’m creating.
Christine Mason Miller: Yes yes.
David Limrite: And let it work with me because I feel, if I’m having to force it, I’m usually trying to force it in a direction it doesn’t want to go. And so if it seems to be fighting me back too much, I don’t mind if there’s a little bit of a kickback - a little bit of a fightback is fun, but if it starts to become a drag and it starts really fighting me back, that’s when I let it go. It helps if I can just take a breath, relax with it and not be in such a hurry to make it work, because sometimes you wanna make it work before its ready to work. So let it go. But if you’re focused, if you’re obsessed, if you’re curious, if you’re learning - we’ve talked about all these already - then keep going. I find that if I’m working on something and I’m learning in the process, then that’s an indicator to me that I should keep going on it. But if I’m distracted, if I’m procrastinating, if I’m making excuses, if I feel tired while I'm working on it or if I’m bored or I’m not learning anything then that’s the time to give it up.]
Christine Mason Miller: Right.
David Limrite: I don’t know. That’s my answer. You probably get a million different answers to that question but that would be where I’d probably go, but like I wrote in the blog about self-sabotage, I think the thing that I learned from that experience was to give every idea a chance to live and be something. I think you’ll know. I think we know deep down if we get in to it, that it doesn’t feel right, for whatever reason, it’s not going anywhere, then move on. It’s time. It’s time to give it up.
Christine Mason Miller: Right, and I think we do know. But that’s another practice. That’s another part of the discipline of creative work is practicing that deep listening. I talk about this so much in my online course, really sinking in and dropping in and listening because we know , we know in our gut if we’re just procrastinating, resisting all that, and I love what you say about developing a relationship with what you’re creating. That’s been my experience with everything I have done. There is always a moment when, whatever it is I am creating, appears and its with me and then I’m not in-charge. I’m literally not in charge. I am in service to the creation and it is a relationship and that’s where that deep listening comes in and it is this beautiful back and forth between you and what you’re creating. That's why I love that you touched upon all those things.
David Limrite: Thank you. I love that you call it deep listening. I think that’s fantastic. Do you have any more specifics about how you know when it’s time to let go of an idea or project, or is it just what you’re saying about deep down we know, or do you have something more specific?
Christine Mason Miller: I don’t know that I have anything more specific. I know when I had rented an art studio a few summers ago, and I mean this wasn’t only true when I had the art studio, but for some reasons those memories are especially vibrant. If I would work on multiple pieces at a time, which I did intentionally, because I always reached a point where I’d be trying to work through something, and it wasn’t working, so I'd be fine, "put it to the side". I could immediately go work on something else and then that would give me a little break before I go back to this other piece. And the same is true with my writing. I’m able to drop in and know when I need to stay in my seat, versus when I’ve hit a wall and I’m trying too hard so I’m going to step away and I’m going to go take a walk, or I’m just not going to write for the rest of the day, but tomorrow I’m coming back.
David Limrite: I love that. That’sgreat. And you know, you remind me of something else. For me, when I’m in my painting studio and working, I like to work on more than one piece at a time. I often will have three or four pieces going at the same time, and I can do that. I don’t know if that’s possible in writing. With my limited bit of writing experience, I don’t think I could do that but when I’m painting I can do it, and what I find is that the pieces start talking to each other.
Christine Mason Miller: Right.
David Limrite: Right? And a dialogue starts to happen. So, I love your concept of deep listening. That’s where that comes in I think. And often times, if I do get stuck on one piece, I will find the answer to that in another piece.
Christine Mason Miller: Yes, absolutely.
David Limrite: Yeah. So, okay.
Christine Mason Miller: I’m trying to think if I’m able to, like if I was working on a chapter and felt stuck, then I go work on another chapter.
David Limrite: Right.
Christine Mason Miller: I honestly can’t remember.
David Limrite: Yeah, or even if you are working on something else. I mean, if you’re working on your book. Can you take a break from your book and go write a blog? Or can you - or is that asking too much?
Christine Mason Miller: I think it would depend on the reason that I was feeling stuck. There were some parts of the book that just exhausted me because they were emotionally difficult to write about and then probably there were other times when I needed a break because I wasn’t able to figure out how to do what I was trying to do, but then the next day, I have a little breakthrough or whatever. I can’t even think of a specific moment like that. Its all a blur.
David Limrite: You’re still in the aftermath of the book, I can imagine.
Christine Mason Miller: Right.
David Limrite: You poured your heart and soul out on your book. I’m almost done reading it. It's been fantastic. I’m really enjoying it.
Christine Mason Miller: Thank you. Thank you so much.
David Limrite: You’re welcome.
Christine Mason Miller: And I have already talked a lot in this podcast about the idea of writing as healing and I wonder if, through your blog and all the stories that you share there of your creative process, whether you’ve had any experiences of feeling like you’ve been able to get past a block or get through resistance or let go of an old story through your writing. How has this writing that you do complemented your work as a fine artist?
David Limrite: Well okay. I can tell you that I’ve been doing the blog for a couple years but I still consider myself a fairly new/beginning writer. I never even thought that I was a good writer but I think that I’m getting better. And the two are working hand in hand and they also work hand in hand with my teaching too. I find that helps but writing reminds me when I’m doing it, it reminds me of why I do what I do. Why I am an artist, why I am a teacher, why I am a coach, why I’m a mentor. Writing reminds me why I create. I don’t know if I can get more specific than that. I just know that when I’m writing it does do that. And it certainly feeds my soul and stokes some kind of a fire. Like painting, it keeps my heart pumping. I don’t have much resistance to things anymore. I used to go through really horrible blockages. I mean really bad. It could be six months. I would finish a project or whatever it was and it would take me six months to get back in to something else. What I tapped into was that one day, "Hey Dave," one day I realized, I love what I do. I love the activity. I love the process whether its painting or writing. So I want to engage in the activity. I want to be doing it. That simple little thing right there has sort of kept me protected from resistance. And here’s the other thing that’s helped me and I do it both with writing and with painting. While I’m working, while I’m painting, that’s when I get my ideas for other paintings. It’s not when I’m sitting around waiting for an idea. And the same thing with writing, when I’m writing my blog I’m getting ideas for other blogs. I have journals that I keep both in my painting studio and where I write and I have found that it’s worth it for me to stop and take the time and jot down the ideas as they come to me. So, I have a million ideas. I have more ideas than I have years left to live, and that’s nice to sort of have that in the bank. If I do get a little bit stuck I can just go back to my journals and say, "Oh my gosh, hey, I forgot about that. That was a pretty good idea, I’m going to pursue that.”
Christine Mason Miller: It is this wonderful flow that you have created where you create art work and then you’re writing about it and then you’re sharing about this with your students and then that all comes back to you and then you’re learning from them and the writing inspires the painting and inspires the teaching and so on and so on. I just see this beautiful flow of creative energy around you.
David Limrite: Lovely.
Christine Mason Miller: It is lovely.
David Limrite: I’m glad you can see it. Thank you so much. And that just reminds me of something else. When I decide it’s time to write, I write, or I don’t. When I decide to paint, I paint, or I don’t. For me it’s either a yes or a no. There is no maybe, because if I tell myself maybe I’ll write today, maybe I’ll paint today, guess what happens? I don’t. And so I’ve tried to avoid maybe, and if I decide to paint or write then great, I’m off and running. If I decide not to paint or write that day, then I don’t feel guilty about it. Then I’ve made my decision that I’m not going to do it today, and I’m not going to beat up myself about it, and I’m going to go about my day and do other things. That has helped me, too.
Christine Mason Miller: You have so many bumper stickers in you. All these like perfect little nuggets that I want on my wall.
David Limrite: I should go into the bumper sticker business, I’m missing the boat here.
Christine Mason Miller: But you know what I mean, these perfect little nuggets that are so spot on and so simple and so true. You’ve got it down my friend.
David Limrite: Thank you. I appreciate that. You know, if I get stuck, the worst thing I can do is not write or paint. That’s what I always tell people. If you’re stuck, if you’re in a blockage with your painting, create abstract backgrounds for a day. If you’re writing start jotting down ideas. I think the worst thing you can do if you are stuck is to allow yourself to be stuck. For me it’s all about the process and I know it is for you too. Just loving the process is the antidote for everything that can ail a creative person.
Christine Mason Miller: Right. Yes, it's true. It has to be about the process. If it becomes exclusively about having this perfect final finished thing, then I think you’re kind of missing the point.
David Limrite: There is an artist, I don’t know if you know him, Jim Dine. He was popular in the 50’s and 60’s. He did a series of robes and a series of hearts and tool drawings. Anyway, he was sort of on the fringes of the Pop Art Movement. He used to say, “when a piece was finish the party was over and the piece had to take care of itself.” Because for him, it was all about process It was all about the doing. Once the piece was done, the party was over. That’s always sort of been a little bit of a guiding thing for me.
Christine Mason Miller: I love it.
David Limrite: Yeah me too.
Christine Mason Miller: Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your studio and coming to talk with me today. This was a great conversation as I knew it would be and I look forward to talking to you again hopefully.
David Limrite: We’ll do it. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to do this. I really really appreciate it.
Christine Mason Miller: My pleasure and there will be a link to David’s website in the description of this podcast so you should definitely go and check him out. Thank you, David.
David Limrite: Thanks Christine. Bye
Christine Mason Miller: Bye.
Today’s episode of The Conscious Booksmith podcast is inspired by Becky Eldridge. A spiritual director, retreat leader and Conscious Booksmith alumni whose first book has just been released. It’s called Busy Lives and Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find The Missing Piece In Your Life, and I know this book is going to change lives. I was fortunate to be an early reader of Becky’s book and I love her practical, soulful, down-to-earth approach to bringing time for prayer into our daily lives. A link to her website and information about the book is in the description of today’s podcast. I’ll be back next week with episode 7 of the Conscious Booksmith podcast. Until then, keep writing, keep creating, keep living out loud.
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HOW TO DECIDE...?
Here's the guide you need to help you answer the age-old question: When is a piece finished?