In her well-known book on writing, Anne Lamott recalls how her 10-year-old brother was struggling with a huge school project on birds. Overwhelmed and discouraged, he went to their father for help. His advice? Take it “bird by bird.” Do one thing at a time.
This is useful wisdom for visual artists. Creative people tend to see everything as a whole. You get the big picture quickly, but have difficulty when it’s time to tackle individual tasks. They all seem to blend together.
An artist recently told me how this feels: “everything ricochets off everything else, so it’s impossible to know where to start!” She needed a job, and a new place to live, and a new website, and a better studio, and on it went. With the whole aviary flying around in her head, she couldn’t see any one bird’s distinct color and plumage.
When you’re facing many challenges that are related and seem equally important, you need to get them out of your mental aviary and onto a piece of paper, either described in a list or drawn as a mind map. The key is to isolate related items from each other so you can think about them one at a time. The process of creating your list or map can have a remarkably calming effect.
Then, concentrating on one issue at a time, identify the first three action steps that would help you begin to move forward. As you do this, the jumble starts to arrange itself. You knew these items were related, but now you discover a natural sequence of actions that will sort them out in a useful way.
Try this method when you’re stuck, and let me know how it works!
Mary Edwards, Ph.D
Career & Life Coach for Artists
“Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People”
As an artist coach, I bring a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to my practice.