Workable #15: Committing to the Practice - Start Small

The greatest barrier to committing to your practice as an artist is trying to do too much too soon. Instead, start small.

Workable #15: Committing to the Practice - Start Small

In my previous post, I detailed the elements of my practice. To build trust in the practice AND to produce some kind of output, you've got to commit to it.

The greatest mistake that most people make is too-much-too-soon. They dive into their practice with unrealistic goals and expectations. To commit to the practice, two simple principles can lead you in the right direction:

  1. Start small.
  2. Create process goals.

This week, we'll look at the idea of starting small.


Start Small. Build a Habit.

Developing a practice isn't really about outcomes and results. It's about habits. Can you create a practice you can come to over and over again?

In a recent episode of Unlocking Us, Brené Brown interviews Atomic Habits author James Clear. Clear offers us a window into the creation of habits that can be very helpful for the artist trying to commit to their practice.

Brené with James Clear on Atomic Habits, Part 2 of 2
In part two of my conversation with James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, we take a look at our environments and how we can tweak them to support the habits we want to have.

During the episode, Clear tells the story of a man who was trying to remain fit. He created a rule for himself that he'd go to the gym every day, but that his visit to the gym would be very short: only 5 or 10 minutes.

Why would he do this?

Creating a very tiny commitment goal has a powerful effect. First, it is so manageable, so easy to accomplish. The barriers to going to the gym for 5 or 10 minutes are very small. Second, and this is really the crux of the matter, accomplishing this goal reinforces an important identity: I'm the sort of person who shows up.

This is what you want as an artist. You want to be the sort of person who shows up. Like the old-school postal service motto: neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail, nor the whining of children, nor the need to make something for dinner...nothing gets in the way of your practice.

Therefore, like the guy going to the gym, start small.

What is a commitment you can make that can be accomplished with very little effort?

For me, that initial commitment was a single page: either 250 words or a single page in my journal. That's it. That created a hurdle I can accomplish. Now, I'm the sort of person who shows up.

Start small. Become the sort of person who shows up.


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