Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Secrets for accomplishing a big project

My best secret for successfully accomplishing a big project is to not think about the accomplishing. My shamanic paintings take many months to complete, and if I focus on the big, I feel too overwhelmed to get much done on the little. So each day that I paint, I choose a very modest area of effort: "draw to this branch; complete this area of underpainting; apply these two color washes." If more is able to be accomplished, this creates a wonderful feeling of satisfaction in full measure, but if working on a drum beater or beginning a Journey Oracle card reading for a client must come next, then the feeling of satisfaction from painting to my day's goal is still real.

My second secret is to always paint to my day's goal. This is an important aspect of artistic discipline for me. My time in the studio is potentially the most easily eroded part of the day; employment and chores and unexpected diversions all clammer to be seen as more significant. Yet when I honor my work by giving it consistent attention, I find a paint better, as if the brush were the effortless voice of an opera star, and I its conductor.

My third secret is to choose a day for painting that actually has time available in it to be devoted to art. Even twenty minutes--enough time to mix and apply one color wash--counts as success for me. But the frustration of thinking that I will be able to find time for painting, and then watch it be eaten by the vacuum cleaner and going to the bank and a longer dog walk than usual creates instead a vibration of frustration. Better for me to "develop a mind that inclines to abandoning" as Ajan Brahmavamso writes of the basic method of meditation--and let go of the burden of wanting what is not able to happen.

So as you see, my secrets for successfully accomplishing a big project are really quite small: stay in the now, find the time, show up.