Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Next Right Thing

When my husband and I were just a guy and a girl who kind of liked each other but weren't dating, we went running together a lot. These were our "dates." I remember one time when I was just about dying for the timer on his watch to go off, signaling the end of our run.
"How much longer do we have to go?" I wheezed.
"Ten minutes," Josh answered, looking at his watch.
Ten minutes! I couldn't go ten more minutes! Overwhelmed by the thought of such an insurmountable amount of time, I stopped. Sure I probably could have gone a little longer, but not ten whole minutes longer, so why bother? Thirty seconds later his alarm went off.
He had been attempting to motivate me to keep going by implying that we hadn't been running nearly as long as it had seemed. However, that's just not how my mind works. I'm not one of those that can look toward the summit as motivation to get up the mountain. I have to focus on this step, then the next, then the next, each in its own turn.

I've discovered this applies not just in running, but in other aspects of my life. Kitchen's a mess? Just do the dishes in the sink. Then just put away the clean dishes, clear off just this area of the counter, etc.  I find it especially applicable to art where every creation is, in some way shape or form, unchartered territory. This painting is too huge and I have a deadline? Don't focus on the deadline. Just paint in this moment, just work on this square inch. I have a show coming up and I'll never get enough work finished? Just focus on this step. Go to the art supply store, sit at your easel, paint, clean your brushes, block off your painting time for tomorrow, and so forth. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way and several other books on creativity calls this doing, "the next right thing." Last week when I wanted to cry constantly for the loss of my pet, "the next right thing" kept me moving through that initial pain to bittersweet acceptance and peace. From exercise, to art, to life and loss, taking one more right step will see you through. What is the next right thing that will take you one step further up your mountain?
My current "mountain." I feel like I'll never get this pine cone right!

Anyone have any overwhelming projects looming on the horizon? How do you handle them? Any tricks to share? I'd love to hear from you!

To see my last painting of a pine cone (which I also moaned over until the last coat, when I ended up loving it), click here.

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