I've been working hard this year, setting up my studio back up and finding my pace. I can tell that I'm finding my way because my YES cycle is finally reaching an optimal RPM.
It's simple, really–part of my ingrained and apparently immutable notion of a good person is helping whenever and wherever I can,... say yes to everything, right? And when my dander is up and a big transition is afoot I get compulsive, taking on every possible task I can. Not sure why–maybe it's fear, driving me to fill my time so any distraction dulls any real risk Or it's how I pick up skills in a scattershot way... I have gotten better at getting through it but I still get sucked briefly into the centripetal crush every time.
In education, you learn the four stages of learning: novice / competent / experienced / mastery. For some reason, I have a compulsion to retreat to novice-level tasks when I am about to push through to mastery. IT'S MADDENING. BUT SO COMPELLING. AND IT'S HELPING OTHERS, RIGHT? I CAN'T STOP TYPE SHOUTING!!!
I have tried everything to stop it, but the best I have done is shorten this to an intense couple of months. I try to pan for the gold, look for any patterns I can in the Gordian Knot I create for myself. What am I agreeing to and for whom? What about the task seems tedious? Why am I able to do things for some people and drag others out? What finally drives me to change the situation? When it involves client work, it gets painful–if I overcommit, I can miss deadlines or make mistakes. My vision of being a good person starts to erode being a good designer. Then I have to evolve or start losing face.
Last week, I could tell the moment I leveled up: I remembered I must say yes only to things that push me up to where I want to go. Every time, it comes to me in a sudden clap of realization, a heavenly face palm. When I take on tasks that in no way challenge me, things I have no further need to investigate, I become almost instantly mired.... it's the extracting myself that I need, the limbo out of what has become my all too familiar quagmire. I have to relearn to prioritize my vision each time over my need for approval or comfort.
There are benefits to the YES: I have been able to find people with whom I would made mud pies, no matter what. I have found tasks I seem innately born to do, always learning. I have found the edges of my flat earth, those places I need not ever tread. It's worth it, but I do wish I could just have one clean, jutting trajectory for a stage of my creative life. Alas.
I'm not ditching everyday tasks. Far from it! If I get asked to sweep the floors, I will only say yes if it's at the Pompidou prepping for my retrospective. Or to clean the floor of my studio because I want to make work for a few hours. Or I want to clear the floor under my daughter's work table because we had a blast making collages. I am still a good person if I say no to things that are not appropriate for me. I am still a good person if I choose well for myself. And then it happens–the YES starts to spin at the right speed and I achieve harmony all over again. I am ready to do the work to further my mission. I'm saying yes to the chances that scare and push me beyond my known world.