Wednesday, May 2, 2012

10 Things I Remember...About Procrastinating

Gregory Manchess

Ever hear of the three P’s? Perfection. Procrastination. Paralysis.
I used to start a piece needing it to be the best thing ever: perfection. It had to solve every problem of my portfolio development, it had to stimulate, it had to thrill, it had to make clients call me, it had to make women weep.

It was too much to accomplish. So, I hesitated: procrastination. The more I hesitated, the bigger the problem became, until it was so great I couldn’t start since it would surely fail on any level: paralysis. Idea abandoned.

It was simply fear.

Below are a few things I’ve used over the years to forge ahead. Once in a while, after having put in tons of effort on other paintings, a new one pops out almost having painted itself, as the saying goes. These points will work for you. I promise, but you have to apply them. Don’t wait for inspiration. It’s fickle and unreliable.

And no, there aren’t exactly ten points here. Sometimes, we just don’t need that much to begin.

1. Force a deadline.
I give myself a deadline. Could be a week, a day, an hour. For example: ‘I must put something on the page by 3 pm or I will get “those feelings” back.’ Feelings of inadequacy. A pit in my gut that suggests that time is passing and I’ve nothing to show for it. Life is full of distractions. That’s why I clear a path, make room, and show up on time for my own deadline. I begin whether I want to or not.

2. Seek stimulation.
Lots of times I look at others’ work. Studying the paint, the color, the shapes, the ideas of other painters stimulates something deep inside. I want to feel the same strokes, I want to understand the same feelings for myself. I can barely contain wanting to experience that quest.

3. Make it urgent.
I’ve always been in a hurry. I’m not sure why, other than I have a very heartfelt impression of life being very short. Always have. I hate wasting time on worry or hesitation. (even though I trip over both) I know that every effort I make now is rewarded down the line by saving me future effort.

4. Use fear.
There’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, I should be afraid. If I feel fearful, I know I’m on to something. I am about to discover what makes me tick. I want it to be authentic and real, and I fear that I might be an imposter. Everyone does. So forget that junk. We’re all afraid of discovery. At first.

5. Fail first.
Sometimes, I have to fail first. I don’t want to fail because it’s irritating and painful, and absolutely no fun. But I know that failure leads to interesting combinations, better solutions, success. We’ve spent thousands of years evolving, learning, testing. There is no other way. Yes, sometimes things come quickly, but only after tons of effort. Make that effort. Rinse and repeat.

6. Share the struggle.
I listen to and watch other painters talk about their struggles, their form, their techniques, research, and discoveries. The patterns are similar and the principles are always the same. I glean enthusiasm and inspiration from watching other artists penetrate the same travails that I encounter. And I steal their magic powers to push on through.

7. Just begin.
There is ONLY this. Prepared or not, begin. When I write, I don’t get writer’s block. I know from painting what is needed. I must start drawing, immediately. The writer must start putting words on paper. Doesn’t matter how bad, a writer will break that hesitation by throwing words on paper. Same for me. I put thumbnails down. The sooner the better. It breaks every spell. I can start to understand the problem, build the mood, the expression. Nothing is solved or expressed until I throw down a perimeter and draw within it. Nothing.


  1. Greg, this is pure brilliance and just what the doctor ordered. I've always wondered why..even when the deadline is just around the corner, I find a way to procrastinate my way to I know why it happens!
    Thanks so much for this amazing post. It's going up by the easel ;)

    p.s.: that piece is gorgeous *___*

  2. Thank you for this... I never knew how much I needed to read this until I just did. Beginning a painting is truly the most difficult step for me, despite the fact I know I just need to buckle down and do it. Thanks once more. :D

  3. Thank you so much for doing these posts Greg. I sit down to work every time you post, truly motivating. Looking forward to your future pearls of wisdom.

  4. That painting is so good I do not even have the words :)

  5. These 10 Things posts are always on point and very helpful. Please continue to post them, and thank you.

  6. Putting yourself under eustress is the key to stand out in the crowd, i'm experience it myself! doing smarter and harder work keeps me on top of my game, and motivated to go forward! Plus there's a time and a place for everything wether it's going out with your friends, work or even date!

    Thanks for posting this lists, they are indeed awesome and helpfull!

  7. Thanks. Million! Wonderful post a personal revival for me!

  8. Excellent words to live and create by. Thanks.

  9. A perfect post as I start off my first day of full-time freelance. Thanks Greg!

  10. Great Stuff! Reminds me alot of a book by Steven Pressfield, "The War of Art". Have you read it? If not I think you will really enjoy it. Thank you so much for your inspiration!

  11. Ever heard the pottery teacher parable? A pottery teacher splits his class in half. One half gets an "A" if they create 50 pounds of pottery of any quality. The other half of the class only has to create a single piece but will be graded on its quality. By the end of the term, the most beautiful pieces came from the "quantity" group.

  12. Great advice - thank you Greg. This is a situation I find myself in far too often.

  13. Hey Scott...whoa: First Day of Freelance! CONGRATULATIONS! I remember my first few days. They all seem the same now from this perspective: panic, followed by confidence, followed by panic. But it fired me up to get out there and cart the portfolio around. (when that was a pertinent.)

    Just remember to think practically. The cool stuff will come in time, but for now, income is priority. So work to the field, y'know? Paint what's needed, what's being bought. Get on your feet, get established. Think long-term.

    Your inner-artist will love you for it.

    1. Thanks Greg! I'm sure i'll have plenty to discuss about on our long drive out to Spectrum.
      See you soon!

  14. This post and your last one contain more useful information than my entire 4 years of college! I should've just given you my 60 grand Greg.

  15. excelent points, like you say in point 6 'sharing the struggle' does help!

  16. You are in ministry, good sir.

  17. Amen to everything you`ve just said. As I was reading this I couldn`t help but smack myself on the forehead, since I know most of these stuff, but I started struggling when doing freelance and couldn`t figure out where the problem/s was/were. It`s so good to hear all of this from another person because it helped me go back to the principals I used to follow strictly but somehow lost them along the way...

    Thanks a lot for putting me back on track!
    All the best


  18. Thanks for this. I am guilty of all 3, for the same reasons and am continuing to struggle to overcome them. This article will be very helpful.

  19. Glad to hear it you all! That's the attitude you want to have: how to get around the hesitation.

    We've been spoon-fed the idea, that paintings just 'happen' to artists, for a hundred years. I am SO tired of the typical fine art trappings that put us all under the yoke of intellectual snobbery.

    Go after your ideas. A little like when the road gets rough, slow down and rethink your approach. It will smooth out again later.

    Trust the process....

  20. oh....I should mention that I put up that Tut piece today because I recently painted it. I had some bits of reference laying around for awhile: 30 years.

    I had the stupid idea thirty years ago and couldn't bring myself to paint it. I finally threw it down last month.

    Felt good.

  21. Mighty glad you painted it Greg, it's awesome. Thanks again for the advice, so true and so necessary for me to hear.

  22. Thirty years of percolating resulted in magnificence. Anyway, along with the Ira Glass quote from a few months ago, best advice ever!

  23. I need to tattoo this blog entry onto my forehead in mirror writing. Thank you, Greg!

  24. Beautiful post Greg thank you! Certainly something I needed to read first thing in the morning too! It's so important to hear that ALL artists go through this, even Greg Manchess. ;)

    Time to get to work!

  25. Greg you might not be reading the comments any more but I remember the 3 P's from a talk you gave at Uarts back in 97. Never forgot them. They were inspirational then and inspirational now. and oh so true. I am glad you made this post to share with everyone who can't see you talk in person. Just draw, best advice ever.
    Matt Dicke

  26. Great thoughts, Greg, as usual. Always an inspiration, man.

    By the way, this reminds me of another question I've been meaning to ask you for awhile: What did you learn about life, and painting, back when you were studying the contemplative aspect of martial arts in the East? Do you find that any of the meditative practices have helped you over the years?

  27. Thank you so much. Time for me to get back to work.

  28. Greg,

    My husband has had an art crush on you for years (my mom called to get a signed copy of Magellan and a poster for him two Christmases ago), and I have succumbed as well. I've always loved your work and now can enjoy this, your deep breath before the artistic plunge. Thank you for articulating my current dilemma and reminding all of us we aren't alone.

  29. Brilliant, Thank you.

  30. Thanks for sharing..true and inspiring!!!^____-

  31. Thanks Greg - thoughtfully lined out - a good checklist to keep the magician within, outwardly creating....
    If life is like a journey on a river, procrastination keeps us standing on the bank watching it flow by - which will take you no where.


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