15 Tips on How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy)

A satirical, delightful little book by Julia Cameron, How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy), is wonderfully illustrated with simple concepts on what to do if you want to avoid making art (and anything else). I picked 15 tips out of the many to share with you from Cameron’s book, added a little of my own descriptions, and hope it makes you think a little (or a lot)!

15 Tips on How to Avoid Making Art (or Anything Else You Enjoy)

1. Demand 15 hours of free time to create, so you can ignore the 15 minutes you’ve got.

When we think we need a huge window of time to create, that’s all we’ll focus on. We push away the one hour of lunch we get at work, the 20 minutes we have before heading off to an appointment, or the 30 minute train ride to downtown. By waiting for the long block of time available to create, we may very well end up waiting a long time. This just delays the process even further.

2. Sign on with a therapist who considers the creative process mysterious and dangerous. Look for one who uses words like “compensation.” Spend your sessions and your money discussing why you can’t create instead of how you could.

What total BS! Arg! Everyone is different and unique and if anyone says the creative process is a surefire path to a life of poverty, living hand-to-mouth, and wondering how you’re going to afford the next meal, is a LIAR!

We could say that about any job and industry! Nothing is a surefire path to a life of riches or a life of poverty. It is all up the person him/herself to make it happen. Already assuming a certain life will only bring misery or that will only bring happiness is a fool’s way of thinking.

3. Devote every minute to a menial job so you have no time or energy for your art.

Don’t do that to yourself. It’s draining and not productive at all. At the very least, know where you are going to be 6 months or 1 year from now. Start taking steps to get to where you want to be.

We all have finite energy. If you’re already exhausted from working a dead-end job, how the heck are you supposed to muster up any energy to get yourself out of it? You may need to do something drastic. Like quitting altogether. It’s scary, but it can be done. I did it back in 2008. And I’m planning on doing it again. Yes, I’m saying I’m a quitter. But, I’m also a starter. Living my life the way I see fit and the way that makes me happy is the only option I have. Being miserable and hateful is not on my agenda.

4. Tell yourself your job keeps you from making art and then work overtime just to prove it.

Oh, what a lame excuse. No job or position title (yes, that means it doesn’t matter if you’re the SVP of Marketing, or the Executive Director of Sales, or the janitor) should make you think you are so important that the company would literally collapse if you actually left the office on time.

Working overtime out of guilt, company culture, a demanding boss, or a tight deadline may help things along in the short term but in the long run, you’ll be burnt out, run down, and you may very well hate yourself. Why else do you think I left my cushy corporate job in 2008? (Okay, yes, I’m in another corporate job now … but only temporarily.)

Everett Bogue works only 2 hours a day, and sometimes even less than that!

5. Do more housework instead of artwork.

Stop procrastinating and start doing! Enough said.

6. Choose companions whose depression is catching.

I’ve talked about this concept of surrounding yourself with supportive, positive, and encouraging people in your life, rather than the ones who are not. Why is this so important that we continually re-visit it?

It’s because until you’ve rid yourself of that “friend” who is totally sucking the blood out of you and taking advantage of your friendship, or that partner you’ve been with for so many years but you just don’t get the courage to up and leave because you’ve invested so much time into the relationship, you will never realize the full potential of what it means to be happy and free.

I call these people vampires. It’s because they are. They may not have (literal) fangs but they certainly are not a cute, little bunny either. Do yourself a favor and start hanging with those who you can mutually support and provide positive feedback and encouragement with. You’ll be so much happier!

7. Focus on how much is left, not on how much is done.

Looking at the big picture is of course a smart idea. But when we only focus on what still needs to get done rather than seeing how much you’ve accomplished already, you’re only depressing yourself by the fact that you didn’t get to numbers 8, 9, and 10 on your To Do list when you’ve already checked off numbers 1 through 7!

If you’re a perfectionist, it may be hard to enjoy the fact you’ve gotten this far. Stop that! Give yourself a break, and look at how much progress you’ve made. One chapter read in a book? Great! Keep on doing it and soon, you’ll finish the entire book in no time.

8. Under no circumstances make any art just for fun.

Just because whatever you create won’t make you any money doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. I draw and sketch just for fun because I like it and want to. I’m not necessarily selling every drawing to the nearest buyer, nor do I really want to, because that would de-value the intrinsic benefits of what drawing gives me. Involving money into the equation all the time is not the best idea.

Do things just for fun. So what if you can’t sell it? At least you’re creating! And that’s the most important part.

9. Let your studio accumulate enough clutter that work becomes impossible there.

Minimalist living is one that is simple, has only the essentials of what we need to survive, and has plenty of room for that which is of importance to us: relationships with others, love, and magnificent experiences.

If you feel your life has stagnated, you just have way too much crap on your desk or your workspace, clear it all off. Literally! You can start having a minimalist workspace if you just get rid of all that crap. Don’t let it hold you back.

Ultimately, it’s not your clutter that’s to blame for a lack of progress in your life. Look in the mirror. It’s you.

10. Let the fear of freelance health care costs drive you back to corporate life.

Is that the only reason you have your depressing corporate desk job right now? Seriously? Just because you don’t want to pay for health insurance on your own? If you do your research (and it doesn’t take that long), you can find health insurance just as affordable if not less expensive than the one your company provides. I’ve done this and fared just fine for a year.

Don’t not do things because of fear. Do start doing things because you can and should.

11. Tell yourself you have “no time” for a hobby, then watch T.V. to keep from being depressed.

You may already know that I don’t watch TV and haven’t for the past 6 years. It’s a waste of time, money, and energy. It hardly brings you any value and instead, de-values our time that could’ve been spent with loved ones or just hanging out and walking around outside (rather than watching about nature on the screen).

I know, some of you will argue that some TV programs are educational, informational, and quite useful. I am not denying that. But can you honestly say that’s all you ever watch? Factor in the commercials, time spent flipping through channels, paying for Direct TV, the cost of the TV itself, needing a TV stand or some sort of table for it to be on, then having a couch or recliner so you can sit in front of it watching it comfortably, and you can start to see it’s not just watching those educational programs. It encompasses so much more.

Get yourself out of your funk and zombie choke hold TV has on you. Stop re-arranging your schedule just so you can catch the latest episode of House. Start living your life and creating great work by getting rid of your TV.

12. Tell yourself you can’t afford art supplies. Buy five expensive cappuccinos while you discuss this with friends.

How hypocritical can we get? Just examine, closely examine, what you are indeed saying versus what you are actually doing. If you don’t have the money to afford supplies or books or whatever it is you need to create, but then go out continually night after night for dinner and drinks with friends, just to complain how hard it is to save any money, it is no wonder you are stuck exactly where you are.

Until you decide for yourself that what you are doing is worth the extra effort to save money to afford it, don’t think you are doing yourself a favor by going out to “relax” and “ease the tension.” You’re only fooling yourself and delaying any progress.

13. Tell yourself your work isn’t good enough to finish or frame. Explain to everyone that you’re “really” not an artist…

This ties into the power of positive thinking and having a can do attitude. If you continually say “I can’t” and then use your precious energy to explain or justify reasons why you can’t, well, it is no wonder you indeed, can’t!

I believe this is a cop out, lazy excuse. You may not agree, and that’s fine. I’m not here to talk about things we can all agree on. I’m here to challenge our traditional thinking and ways of viewing the world through ideas and concepts that are non-standard and which stands apart from the vast majority of what others may follow. This is how we change, learn, and grow.

14. Ask a lot of people their opinion of your plan.

Sometimes, people are just plain wrong. And you know it. Asking people for everyone’s opinions is not always useful or realistic. It’s also extremely time consuming. Time that could’ve been spent just creating.

While some are delusional, other people are just jealous that you thought of a brilliant idea instead of them. What you may need to do for yourself is to just ignore everyone. I do that all the time. This doesn’t mean I think the person is stupid, it just may mean I don’t necessarily agree or will take their advice. What works for them may not work for me. Adjust accordingly.

15. Rather than make art, read about art.

This is another perfect example of things we do to get ourselves all “prepared” and “ready” to go, when sometimes, we just need to jump right in. Do it while you are still excited, energized, and positively creative. Over-preparation may just lead to frustration, a fizzle on your excitement, and boredom.

Stop reading about how to write a book and just start writing! You can always go back to make changes, edit, and revise.

Stop reading about how to train for a triathlon and just start doing it!  My good friend Joel Runyon of Blog of Impossible Things is amazing at doing the “impossible,” things that people would never dream of doing, let alone doing them consecutively, one right after another. Long story short, Joel does what he wants and what is deemed as impossible in the average person’s eyes.

Now What?

Creating great work is not left to those who are naturally gifted, talented, or born with social/financial/personal/familial advantages. Geoff Colvin’s book Talent Is Overrated sums it all up in the title.

Creating great work can be done with a positive mindset, the determination to be who you are and drown all the haters out, and the discipline to focus and buckle down when the work needs to get done.

Waiting around for the perfect time will only ensure nothing will ever get done. Be realistic about this one.

There is no perfect time. This is the time, right now.

… Check out my guest post today on Lyved.com entitled: 4 Simple Strategies to Get Rid of the Just-In-Cast Blues!

  • Paige of Redefining Wealth

    I've always loved Julie Cameron and have been a fan since she wrote The Artists Way.

    Our household gave up cable years ago. As a result, very little TV is watched. My life is so much better without the TV. I no longer am distracted by shows or advertisers telling me I need to have this or that. I now have much more time for writing, yoga, time with friends, etc.. TV in my opinion is the number 1 creativity killer.

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    Paige – Glad to hear you've rid yourself of TV! So much time has freed up, hasn't it?

    I have Cameron's book The Artist's Way on my next-to-read list!

  • http://joelrunyon.com/two3 Joel Runyon | [BIT]

    Thanks for the shout Nina!

    Great post! Loved #1 – Demand 15 hours of free time to create, so you can ignore the 15 minutes you’ve got.

    I'm completely guilty of it sometimes. The best time to do something is NOW =)

  • http://thisruggedlife.blogspot.com Martin

    Definitely guilty of some of these. Thanks for the post, Nina. Fun way of addressing these things.

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    Thanks for stopping by, Martin! I found it humorous and a lighter take on a lot of deeper issues at hand.

    Once in a while though, you just have to laugh at yourself! We are all guilty of doing 1, 2, or all 15 of these things!

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    You got that right, now IS the time! :-D

  • http://www.ndoherty.com Niall Doherty

    Great post. All those are very true. Another one I'd add is to keep putting off bigger projects by distracting yourself with little projects. I know I'm guilty of this sometimes.

    I'm seriously considering doing The Artist's Way course at the end of the year. I'm hearing it mentioned a lot these days. I'd love to hear your take on it if you've done the course, Nina.

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    We can certainly get caught up in the little things, thinking “let's just get this out of the way before I tackle the big project.” Then it ends up being all we ever do, the little things instead of our major project we've been meaning to get to! I'm guilty of this too.

    I have The Artist's Way next to my bed, after I'm done reading the book I'm on now, I'm starting it asap!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TRGSQW57ATXG66TMTUSKXOXOAM A

    Loved all of them, but this one really zinged me … “Ultimately, it’s not your clutter that’s to blame for a lack of progress in your life. Look in the mirror. It’s you.” Yow! So true :) Saw you on missminimalist's blog and am reading you next. Getting ready to clear it all out! Yeehaw!

  • https://castlesintheair.org Nina | Castles in the Air

    WOOHOO! Awesome!!!

  • tokyin

    - Yes, I enjoyed impromptu and impulsive creative activities/entertainment/performing art!!! I can create/work better when I am in my free-flowing form and spirit. Ideas just keep popping in naturally – without a tight deadline/to-do list!!!

    - BS to all those who says “the creative process is mysterious and dangerous!!!” How in the world can people build all those unique and beautiful buildings that makes up downtown Chicago if people don't have creativity!
    We will still have a farmland or some boring old buildings if people have no creativity!!!

    - Good description on the “vampires”. =)

    Though, sometimes vampires will become leeches…. eeeww… it's even more deadly. It can attach to us and it's so difficult to get rid of them. Worse? Brain parasite – it's so subtle, and sucks blood out of us from within without being noticed!!!

    I saw people being attached by the humanized version of these things – and it simply drain out all of their energy.

    - YES!!! Art = Fun! If we don't enjoy the artwork that we created, then what's the point of creating it in first place?

    - “Tell yourself you can’t afford art supplies.” From what I know, at this point Nina doesn't have this problem at all. Well, as long as she is gwai…

    Awesome choice of the tips from the book, and great insight of your own, yay!!!

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