We sit at our desks and tell ourselves what we’ll do.
We convince ourselves how we’ll find our groove again, how we’ll come back in a blaze of glory as if no time has lapsed between our most and least creatively productive moments.
And then we stumble.
It isn’t as natural as we hoped.
It isn’t as easy as we thought it’d be.
First We Second Guess
We second guess ourselves. We lose our minds. We get distracted.
We wonder what else is on Netflix, what else we can read, whether or not Varys is of the Blackfyre line, if Underwood will survive his presidency without his First Lady.
With our minds lingering in these fictitious worlds, we begin to write fictions of our own.
We tell ourselves that we’ll be better to stay away from our craft, that if we’re so distracted and if it’s so hard to start, then maybe it isn’t for us. We hunt out these excuses.
Then, if we’re able to overcome it all, we make a mark.
We make a mark and we scream and cry and ravage ourselves for producing such ungodly work. Then we think we’ve lost. We think this game isn’t for us and that we can’t win it.
We Think We’re Here For Us
We forget that we’re craftsmen. We forget that we’re meant to move slow, and to think in terms of months and years, not hours and days.
In forgetting all this we consider simply giving up.
Then we wonder if anyone would notice. If anyone would care.
In doing so we put the weight of the decision on everyone but ourselves. “If no one would notice or care that I stop working on my craft, then why should I even bother trying?”
This is the slyest of tactics the rat in our stomachs can use because he knows we care about others.
This childish riddle is designed not to be answered but to be effective. It does nothing but harm us to even consider it.
No, people probably won’t notice if we stop working. They might, maybe, possibly could wonder where we went, and at best they might be dismayed for a small time. But that’s rare. Mostly they won’t notice.
What’s more likely is they’ll find something else to enjoy and forget us without much effort.
But it’s a foolish answer to a foolish question.
We aren’t honing each of crafts in the hope that people would notice when we’re gone. We’re honing our crafts so they’ll notice when we’re here.
We Need To Remember Our Why
That’s our why. Yet we spend most of our time upon our return worrying about the how. We think if we can just remember the right combination of keys and finger movements that we’ll somehow gain our standing again.
Every time I’ve returned from a break, no matter its length, it’s been focusing on the why that has helped the most.
Even if they’re both enjoyable aspects of the act, I’m not writing because I like to give ideas shape and enjoy smashing words together, I’m writing because I want to help you.
So what about you? What’s your why? Why are you returning? Why do you do what you do?
Such a shift of focus from worrying about the productive to the effective takes the pressure off. It forces us to wish for an outcome, to worry about doing, rather than being, good.
Then Start With The Basics
Does that mean we should ignore our skills? That we shouldn’t worry about them and just hope they’ll come back once we’ve spent enough time?
Yeah, kind of.
But we can shorten the amount of time needed.
The bulk of our craftsman’s knowledge is still there, it’s just hidden from us. We just have to shine the right light. The right spark. The right jolt.
We need to start where we began. What are the earliest steps in a project, the kind that we’ve done the most often, the kind that we were taught in class? The kind we arrogantly skip because we’re pros?
Start with sketches, start with outlines, start with lists of words and questions and screenshots. Start with the simplest steps.
Before long, the sparking of those simple memories and routines will shed light on the more complex, and we’ll begin to feel as though we’ve finally started to find solid ground.
When we return from a break we expect to find our talents whole, and are dismayed when we merely glimpse their ghosts.
We turn defensive and fight at them, hoping to give them shape and solidity again. We don’t realise that we can do exactly that, but not through aimless thrashing.
We do so by starting with a stumble, continuing with a fall, with a bruising to ego and heart and soul.
It’ll only hurt for a moment, but it will hurt.
As our wounds heal our skills and talents will return. All that’s needed is time and gentle tending, gentle searching.
Doing so is more fun than struggle, but we trick ourselves into thinking it’s bordering on impossible because we’d rather be elsewhere, because elsewhere is easier.
But you’re a craftsman.
And craftsmen start.
We have to start even if we’re hurt. We have to know why, and we have to move simply.