How to start [again]

Painting of three straw brooms leaning against a metal woolbale holder. Overlaid by title text and CPs webaddress, and details of pianitng

Starting is easy

Especially when it’s something new or exciting. The spark of the idea gives the project momentum. In the beginning things seem easy – problems are fun challenges instead of roadblocks.

Starting again is much more difficult

An interruption as small as a phone call can stop a train of thought in its tracks. When it’s something enormous, it can derail more than just the project at hand. (Something like most of this year, for example.)

Then, when the call has ended, or the dust has settled, do you find yourself thinking “I’ll just get back to that,” but find yourself instead, like me, struggling to remember what bit I was up to, or having difficulty mustering the enthusiasm to start all over again?

You cannot step into the same river twice

It’s not possible to get back to the exact same place we left off.
We shouldn’t expect that we can, nor blame ourselves when we can’t.

There needs to be a gap between what was happening just now, and what we want to happen next.

It takes time

painting of a straw broom leaning up against a white wall. Strong shadow. By CP

The first studio job for me on Mondays, is to sweep the floor.
If I’ve been away for a while, I clean more – windows, ledges, shelves.
If it’s been longer still, I go extreme. I sort the tools, put cd’s into alphabetical order, re-arrange the books.

I’m not procrastinating, I’m thinking

It might look like I’m fiddle-faddling, (my grandmother’s word) but it’s an important part of the creative process. While I’m sweeping, I’m thinking about the day ahead. When I’m rearranging the sketchbooks, I’m putting those places and projects back into my mind.

Making order gives me something to do while my mind catches up.
It clears the space for things to happen.

It gives time, and a now tidy space, in which creativity can evolve.


Painting by Christine of three brooms, looking from above, as they rest against a woolbale in a shearing shed
CPorter "Brooms" 2019 watercolour 20x20cm sold

Yes, this seems a bit off-track for a column about creativity, but there’s a lot written about the meditative nature of simple, repetitive, physical tasks.

Sweep the paths instead of leaf-blowing them.
Sweep the floors instead of vacuuming.

Do it daily, or before it needs doing, or when you need a break, or first thing.

Let your mind wander.
Notice what you find yourself thinking of.

Or set out to *think* about a problem.
I find that the trickier the worry, the harder I sweep. Oftentimes I end up just concentrating on the action of broom on concrete. The absence from worry, for those few minutes, is as restful as a solution.

Give yourself the time needed to start again.
The worse that can happen is that you get yourself a well-swept path.
The best that can happen is that you start.

painting of three new brooms, in a shearing shed, resting against a woolbale in a metal cage.
Feature Image: “Three new brooms” 2019 watercolour 20x20cm sold. Exhibited as part of the Deepwater series.

First Published

page in a magazine where this article first appeared. Includes author photo and photo of the main painting
St Carthages Home Care quarterly magazine: " Life!" Spring 2020 p 18

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