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How do I increase the commitment (and thus pressure)?

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Beginnings require commitment, which often feels like the first obstacle to get going. This is a conundrum: one is required to start, in order to.. start. So what can be done to make beginnings easier? Consider experimenting with the following strategies, to see which work best for you:

  • Minimize stressors: Understand what causes you stress: fears (of failure, of facing your inabilities, of feeling incompetent), the wrong working environment or materials (a moldy or dusty storage space, lack of heating, a studio that’s too noisy; cheap colors that fade), etc. There’s a range of conditions you might need to be met, in order to begin anything. These conditions might be unclear to you, so it pays off to investigate them: if you feel uncomfortable because people are watching you; if you are supposed to work silently, yet inherently need to use noisy tools; if your environment has to stay clean, yet your process creates a mess; if you need more time than you have available, etc. Minimizing stressors can precede commitment, and represent the groundwork to getting going.
    Note that humans aren’t terribly good in understanding their actual needs; removing all stressors can lead to a state of boredom and rot that ultimately only benefits creative decay. We all know established artists with the nicest studios and work visibility, who don’t really have a strong game going anymore; analyzing stressors can never be straight-forward, but will benefit from a deep psychological self-awareness.

  • Previsualize: Previsualization lets you think about the intended work, with the intention of finding upcoming challenges; it’s a form of anticipation. This turns stressful obstacles (encountered during production) into expectations: you previsualize because you want to find obstacles. You can use all sorts of methods to previsualize: 3d software, pencil sketches, a mind map or bullet list, etc; the closer the previsualization medium relates to the final medium, the more exact your predictions will usually be. Understand that you can’t anticipate all challenges emerging from a creative endeavor; you don’t have to: the idea here is to ease your way into a work, not to solve it beforehand.

  • Gradually increase the authority of your tools/materials/environment/collaborators: Everything can have authority over us – not necessarily because of its own volition, but also because of our own, internalized attributions: a successful artist working next door; expensive paper we got as a present; the urge to record on cassette tape (instead of doing it digitally): the more authority we ascribe to a thing (or person), the more pressure we might feel. This can stall our experiments and progress.
    To improve this, use tools, materials, environment and collaborators that have as little authority over you as possible. Increase your awareness of your authority ascriptions, and find alternatives that let you experiment more freely: use free or cheap doodle material to sketch your idea (use your living room to sketch a performance, instead of a proper stage; use cheap paper instead of a canvas; loan out a camera instead of buying one). Go sit on a park bench or at a café, if your studio and its many options drag you down. Collaborate with non-judgemental people.
    Once you feel comfortable enough with what you want to do, mindfully (re)introduce the things to which you attribute higher authority. Use this heightened state to test your idea further, and repeat this process until you’re sure to know exactly what you want to accomplish. Once you use the final, most authoritative items, there will be way fewer choices to make, and thus less chances to mess up your work.

  • Learn to take initiative: Learn to anticipate that beginnings can cause stress. Once you get past the initial stress threshold and are embedded within the actually activity (editing, performing, writing, etc), your mind, in focused pursuit of an activity, often calms down: you are in the zone. There’s a flow. This can already be experienced upon reading a book: opening it might take considerable self-persuasion – yet once you’re immersed in it, time flies. Your attention is captured. This is true even though you might be aware of this dynamic; the more often you transcend your inhibition to begin something, the more likely you’ll experience the rewards of being in the zone. This knowledge can help you anticipate and circumvent compensatory actions meant to generate short-term satisfaction: eating sweets, checking mails, diving into social media. Pursuing a more worthwhile activity serves your long-term satisfaction – if only you’d begin to take initiative.

  • Understand resting periods: Understand that for those activities whose beginnings cause stress, their impact can be cushioned by scheduling rest periods. This creates focused work phases intended to progress: beginnings can be easier if they only demand thirty minutes of attention. Stay attentive to your ability to concentrate, and schedule your rest periods accordingly; if you notice getting tired, it makes sense to rest: your frustrations might otherwise rise exponentially.