Trusting the process when working with a deadline
My inner critic stopped me dead in my tracks. I was preparing a presentation and the deadline was dangerously approaching. For weeks I could not move forward, as a self-directed attacking energy grew inside me. I was stuck and not able to write, to think. Words were inaccessible. Every attempt felt fake or poisonous.
Instead of doing what I was “supposed” to be doing - preparing for the presentation - I began to paint. Painting is my default pathway to create internal space between strong emotions and action, or in this case, non-action. I produced a pile of artwork about 9 inches high, that I just tossed into a large basket. Even though doing this didn’t seem to be a way to get closer to my goal, I didn’t know what else to do and… something in me knew to trust the process. Tossing my paintings became a process of releasing, as I threw one image after the next into a basket. Painting was a path to keep the energy going without worrying about the end-product, sequence or conceptual content.
What resulted differed from the original plan. That process was a way to work with the inner critic rather than fight it, therefore leading to an opening. The inner critic slowly eased its grip because I was painting without expectations. This allowed me to let go of thinking and judgement, and my conceptual mind was free to wander and explore. While I was completely immersed in the process of painting, interest and curiosity was returning and a fresh direction about my presentation revealed itself. I was back on track!
The momentum of the art-making process kept me active and tackling the work, but from a different angle. The paintings were my messengers and the basket held their messages.
Later when I presented the talk, the basket became a metaphor for the ‘keeper of the process’ the holder of - what’s possible - making space for the process, trusting it, letting go of the original plan. Keeping the energy moving and the faith that something will show up and will make sense at some point, frequently opens new pathways.
This non-linear pathway which opened the way to exploration and discovery, also led me to a more interesting direction for my presentation. There is something paradoxical about having to complete an oral presentation in time through producing artwork without a clear direction but rather following impulses and stopping when the impetus was done. This is what led me to the final project and within the deadline!
Even though during the final presentation I chose a few images, along with some writing, to highlight the process which helped me bypass the inner critic, the audience asked if they could view all the artworks which was tossed in the basket. They were curious about the process - a gratifying, affirming response confirming the value of the process!