Working and Persistence


How do you work? What happens when you reach an obstacle? Do you give up completely, knuckle down and blast through it, get help, or maybe set it aside and hope for inspiration another day? How persistent are you?

Here is my confession. When a painting reaches a point where improving or developing it looks like just hard work, I just want to give up. Even if it is just the small matter of adding a detail, I am overwhelmed with fatigue. At that point I may decide to eat lunch, look at my phone, or make a call. I also set it aside and start another piece since starting work is my favorite phase. But soon that new piece will reach a stage where only hard work will make a difference. So I am back where I started.

Recently, I was lucky enough to get some feedback from a friend. I was dragging my feet over a non-art-related task I had committed to since it felt too hard. She pointed out that my resistance might be caused by my class background. She shared that working class people have the perspective that when there is a job to do, you just have to do the work, no matter how you feel.

At first I wanted to defend my ability to do hard work, but I knew she was right.  I was raised in a privileged family where I never had to do jobs I didn't want to do.  I could ride on the backs of others. Though being productive was a value in our family, we could still be lazy. I decided to do as my friend suggested and just do the task I had committed to. I have to say that the result has been significant. In the process of trying, I was able to figure out how to make it easier and less time consuming. I even enjoyed it and was very proud of completing the task.

But the bigger benefit was that I started to approach my painting process differently. My knee jerk reaction that makes me avoid hard work is now painfully obvious. So I have been making a conscious decision to stay working longer on paintings.  Instead of setting aside a painting immediately, I try to solve the problem right then. I am a worker, I tell myself. I can do it now. It turns out that I mostly do know how to make the paintings better, I just get lazy. My goal is to build up my persistence muscle so that I can fly by those little obstacles.