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Give up your dizzying potential

There are few things I love more than buying art and writing materials: vibrant inks, chunky cartridge paper, pencils, shiny new journals...

In fact, sometimes buying art stuff is ALMOST more fun than actually doing the art itself. All that heart-bursting potential. It's so incredibly full of hope.

And when someone gives you arty stuff it’s even better: like they’re saying ‘You’re an artist! I believe in you!’

I still go mushy over the scene in The Office (admittedly, not known so much for its mushy moments) where a character who has quashed her dreams of becoming an illustrator is given art supplies in the Secret Santa by someone who ‘gets it’. In a series better known for its comedy and excruciatingly accurate character observations, suddenly there’s this moment of breath-stopping human connection, thick with emotion.

It’s all about the promise. For me it’s art materials, for you it might be something completely different. Whatever it is, the buzz comes from valuing yourself as the user of that thing...potentially.

But actually getting around to doing the work can be a little harder (says she, bashfully remembering her stash of beautiful, yet unused, fabrics). It doesn’t always turn out how you imagined. When you get out that clean page, it can be petrifying in all its perfect unspoilt whiteness. What if you mess it up? Wouldn’t it be better just to leave it blank, pure, unspoiled by your imperfections?

You have to sacrifice that exhilarating, dizzying feeling of potential, where the artwork lives in your imagination and actually make it happen. And it might not go to plan.

Potential is intoxicating. It’s so much fun hanging out in that place of plans where everything feels achievable (or at least, like it will be day).

Much harder to cut off your oxygen supply, jump in and actually do the work: the hard-graft, gritty, sometimes painstakingly slow work - getting those first few words down on the blank page, the first brush stroke on a pure white unspoilt canvas. Far easier to dream about how great it’s going to be (which, let’s face it, is one of procrastination’s favourite feasts).

It’s messy...and scary. You face the fear that maybe you’re no good at this after all. But that’s not true. One botched attempt – if it does happen – does not define you. Don’t let it.

And when you sacrifice that feeling of potential to dive in, you are not actually letting go forever. The joy of inspiration that sparked you into action might occasionally get buried in perceived failures, but it is still there.

Later, it will return as the head-rush of fulfilment, of work well done. It’s a little different: tougher and deeper than the first feeling.

It’s about taking your God-given potential and applying your God-given perseverance.


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