Not Getting Things Done

Raise your hand if you’ve done something like this.

You have an idea — a story, a melody, a character, a color — that takes up residence in your imagination and starts redecorating the place. You love this idea; it is, perhaps, your greatest idea. Now you just need to find a way to introduce the idea to the world, so you take a seat at your desk and…

Start making lists. This idea is so good, you absolutely must execute it properly — perfectly, even. You write down all the areas of your craft you are weak in and start finding books and websites to teach you to improve those skills. Days go by. Weeks. Months. For every hour you spend working on The Idea, you spend ten hours in study, learning about different techniques.

One day, you decide to take a look at your progress… only to realize that you haven’t made as much progress as you thought.

That’s where I am with my current The Idea. I started writing a comic, and somehow fell into an infinite rabbit hole of drawing tutorials, theoretical analysis of the craft of comics, and dozens of hours spent drawing shitty hands in the hope of one day drawing less-shitty hands. Learning has been awesome, and I can’t say that I regret anything I’ve read about the process of creating comics in the last several months, but I’ve focused so much on Making The Idea Perfect that I’ve neglected The Idea itself.

I’m sure my anxiety plays into this. In the era before medication, I would get so bogged down in “learning” that I would eventually despair of ever having the skills I wanted and give up. It was the standard fear of rejection, multiplied by a billion. At least with medication, I’m better able to see the anxiety in play and take steps to minimize its impact on my work.

Mental illness aside, I’ve had perfectionist tendencies for as long as I can remember. I often find myself struggling to call something “Done”, instead finding fault after fault and lamenting how much I’ll hate it in two years if I don’t get everything just right. It’s not accompanied by the panicky feeling of anxiety, just irritation at myself for not being better.

(Aside: I could probably write a series of posts on how the “gifted kid” label has affected my self-perception and ability to share my stuff with people.)

So! I’m saying this publicly in the hope that it will stick: I am rebalancing my priorities when it comes to making stuff. I am going to start spending more time working on The Idea, even if it sucks for a time and requires massive rewrites, and less time studying up on abstract concepts related to the idea. Learning is good, and has done a lot for my confidence, but no amount of learning is going to cause my stories to get written. That requires picking up my pen and getting to work.

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