Relinquish all fetishes

  • Pro SVS OG

    I am re-reading a great book on writing: „Wonderbook“ by Jeff VanderMeer (highly recommended if you write as well as illustrate, even though it´s not specific to children books) and for the first time I visited the associated website. I found this nugget on a section called „Tips on discipline“:


    Here’s an incomplete list of things I’ve given up over the years so I wouldn’t have excuses not to write:

    Special notebooks.
    Favorite pens.
    Particular times of day (or night).
    Comfortable desks and chairs.
    A dedicated office space.
    Specific mental exercises.
    Nostalgic typewriters.
    Impressive laptops.“

    It resonated with me because I`ve been through this process for art -making a couple of years back, and I wanted to share this as it may help other people to recognize a common and hidden obstacle to creating art.

    This is a non-comprehensive list of the „fetishes“ I have given up:

    • special sketchbooks;
    • any sketchbook, actually (I often draw on scraps of paper or corners of other documents);
    • beautiful paper;
    • special pencils;
    • art mediums of any specific make and type (I do some of my best sketches with a ballpoint pen);
    • specific time slots (15 minutes plain cooking time while preparing dinner = 15 minutes more on the project I am currently working on!);
    • specific places (drawing while out on a snowy field waiting for your kids skying lesson to be over is tricky but not impossible);
    • computers and tablets (yes, I love my Cintiq and it will always be my favorite thing....but I am not making the mistake of seeing it as necessary);
    • complicated time-management tricks (apologies to all lovers of the „pomodoro“ technique);
    • special music, silence, noise or any other surround element;
    • need of being alone (we live in an open space - there’s no way I can only work when nobody is around).

    There may be other fetishes I still have and I am not aware of....would love to know if you think you have some, and what they are!

  • completely flies in the face of all that mind stuff about 'finding a special place....' and so on. Have to admit, burning a bit of dragons blood and putting on loud dance music is my crutch. But I don't need it, but I do need to wind my brain up. so its either that or lots of coffee!
    thanks for this. great stuff

  • SVS OG

    I both agree and disagree with the premise of relinquishing fetishes: I think a person needs to constantly evaluate whether they are helping or hurting them because it changes constantly. I don't know as much about the artistic life but I know a lot about writing because I'm a minister who has had to crank out a 20 minute sermon every week for 34 years which I write out in full. (I've written over 1500 sermons! Yikes!) I've learned to write sermons in parking lots waiting to pick up kids, coffee shops (while kids are at the mall), ski lodges (while kids were skiing)... etc. I've also found, however, that when I am in a slump (which occurs at regular intervals) re-establishing a routine where I sit at my desk with a notebook or laptop just dedicated to writing can sometimes get me in the writing mode when nothing else will. On the other other hand, when I've been following my routine religiously for a while and hit a slump, sometimes I have to do something completely different like write by candlelight! Honestly, the only thing that keeps me writing through all of my slumps is that every Sunday I have to get up in front of people and preach whether I've written anything or not, and the thought of staring at the congregation with blank paper in front of me is frightening enough to keep me writing!

    I guess that means that my list of fetishes given up comes down to one: the need for perfection. Some weeks it's garbage, some weeks it's great, but every week I have to produce something and that's inevitably what keeps me writing.

  • SVS OG

    Good insight here! I think there's a balance between routine and flexibility. We'll always have favorite tools or places to be creative. But if you catch yourself in the mindset of "I can't" BECAUSE of one thing or another, it might be time to re-evaluate. There's no magic feather.

    Sidenote: I'm actually the opposite with special sketchbooks - I'm afraid to draw in them! "My drawings will be in a book forever, what if I screw up?" So I took Jake Parker's advice and just have a ream of printer paper - 500 sheets for $10 or something. I can freely scribble now and not be concerned if it's good or not. And I just use a mechanical pencil for most of my drawing.

  • @demotlj hey your a minister too then? Cool... I find writing sermons one of the hardest things. But mainly because I have to play nice 😉 When I am with kids and my fresh expression of [church of england] church, i can just go for it and have fun. Oddly, much better reaction too! That said, i am also a writer. I think i just struggle to keep things focussed. Given half a chance I prefer painting it!

  • SVS OG

    @andy-gray I've actually sometimes sketched biblical passages as part of my personal sermon preparation. Having to decide the focal point of a scene and people's expressions sometimes makes me think about the passage differently and see it from a new angle, literally.

  • SVS OG

    A agree with @carriecopa -- its not that these things are inherently bad, its only when you use it as a reason to procrastinate or do bad work that it becomes a problem. If something helps you get into the mindset, lets others know you're working and don't want to be bothered, or just makes you feel happy and creative, I don't think you have to get rid of it. Balance is key. 🙂

  • There's a lot of truth on what you've stated. When those types of thoughts come in between you actually getting work done, they become a hindrance. Afterall if you really wanted to do it, you'd get it done. I found when I say those things, particularly " I need to find a good "workspace", im nitpicking what I have access to in hope to prolong doing something I SHOULD be doing.

    The irony is, when your stuck doing things you wish you had the freedom to say no to-- you see those simple luxuries as the best option and most effective. Its only when you have regular access to those "simple" luxuries that you feel the need to get something bigger, better, more efficient.

    SOmetimes were our own worst enemy. I need to get my priorities straight! xD

    another one I struggled with was:

    • having to post my work at a certain time, so if my image wasnt ready by then i just wont post at all or finish what i started until the next day. =_=

    geez, the things we convince ourselves about....

  • @smceccarelli ha, ha your list is
    great! I think i just found a solution to cooking. For two weeks now iam using a cook book by jamie oliver "5 ingredients" and it improved my life so much! Cooking is not time consuming any more and meals are great:)

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