Trusting Process, Thinking Small

Image by Justin Hackworth.

Art? You just do it.
– Martin Ritt

In my life, that’s been easier said than done. Waaaay easier.

I’m working through The Artist’s Way with a group of friends. (I wrote about one lesson I’ve been learning over at Design Mom.) It’s my fourth time beginning the book in the last 13 years, and I’ve finally gotten past Week 7 (of 12). It’s a real personal triumph. Last fall, when my friend Mindy Gledhill spoke at Creative Collaborative, she referenced The Artist’s Way and then joked, “I don’t know anyone who’s actually finished it.”

I nodded knowingly.

Several weeks later when I was feeling the pull of the book again, I knew I needed some accountability and I emailed Mindy to see if she might want to join me. She knew a few other friends would be interested, and then a few more friends joined us, and it’s been so much fun to talk about creativity and process, blocks and discoveries under the guiding influence of Julia Cameron’s words of wisdom.

One of my favorite truths from The Artist’s Way, one of my own personal blocks to doing creative work, is the fear of the finished product. I’m so worried about the end result that I have a hard time getting started. Julia Cameron calls it an “addiction to anxiety in lieu of action.” I worry about creative work instead of doing creative work. Although I would freely, wisely advise others to take baby steps, I ignore my own advice.

This is just what I needed to hear:

“We fail to see the many small creative changes that we could make at this very moment. This kind of look-at-the-big picture thinking ignores the fact that a creative life is grounded on many, many small steps and very, very few large leaps.”

So I’m trying to dismiss that big picture, for now, and focus on work that is fun, timidly trusting process over finished product, and asking myself what the next tiny step is. Forsaking later, I’m trying to ask, what can I do now?

P.S. On my birthday last week, Justin posted the nicest thing on his blog. His birthday was last month. My tribute to him is forthcoming.


  1. meg says:

    This is exactly what THIS timid would be artist needed to read today. “Forsaking later, I’m trying to ask, what can I do now?” I mean my goodness, isn’t that just the trick to nearly everything in life?

    So glad to know you.

    • amyhackworth says:

      Oh, Meg, you’re so good at taking action! You’re my shining example. And yes, it may be the trick to nearly everything in life. I’m so glad to know you, too!

  2. Shannon says:

    I needed to read more after your post today on Design Mom! (You wrote in general terms so everyone could relate, but I wondered if you were really talking about perfectionism in writing.)

    I like this quote from Michelangelo: “If people knew how hard I work, they wouldn’t find my achievements so remarkable.” Not to make things worse by comparing us to Michelangelo (!), but I like his reminder that behind all those brilliant end results was someone who showed up every day and did the work.

    • amyhackworth says:

      Shannon, thanks so much for visiting! So nice of you to say you needed to read more after today’s post. Yes, I’m talking about writing, and unfortunately lots of other things in life, too.

      I love that quote from Michelangelo! It’s great…and maybe just a little daunting.

      Thanks again!

  3. Me too! I picked up The Artist’s Way for a second kick at the can two weeks ago… but then Spring Break and holidays happened and I’ve already taken a hiatus! :0 I really, really liked your post over a Design Mom Amy… so many great links and timely inspiration. Thank you.

    • amyhackworth says:

      Thanks, Rosa! Try gathering a friend or two to work through the Artist’s Way with you. That was the key to success for me, after a few unsuccessful solo attempts.

Speak Your Mind