Life, Love, and Comics. Part II: Craft and overcoming Resistance.
For Part II of this blog feature, “Life, Love, and Comics”, I want to examine the dire importance of developing a Craft. Much like redefining success in order to develop a deeper philosophy with our creative pursuits, and our very lives, its also important to examine just what “Craft” is. In order to have a successful Craft, we must also understand Grit and Resistance, how identifying aspects of resistance allows us to over come the various obstacles often keeping us from being successful. This is also the part of this whole thing where “love”, in all its many forms, becomes very important. So buckle up, this one’s got a LOT of ground to cover.
“Craft”, or the type that I’ll be discussing, has nothing to do with what you do on a lazy Saturday afternoon or the elective you had in High School. Its not even a hobby. Its definitely not crap imitation cheese. Capital “C” Craft is the relationship you develop with your creative pursuits, one that starts making professional demands of your talents, as well as helps to mentor and support your pursuits. Your Craft is not just what you do as a creative, its the thing you can’t not do. Its also what you commit to working at, something that doesn’t just give you pleasure from doing it, but gives you fulfilment. For me, creating artwork, daydreaming up stories, and making comics is my craft. It can be music, poetry, knitting, tennis, chess, even making coffee. Its something you do with intention, devotion, and to some degree, obsession. Its something that you will suffer for, and willingly.
Its also a lot like being in a relationship. Making time to work at your craft is as important as making time for your partner, your friends, your family. But much like your relationships with loved ones, you’re relationship will suffer if you don’t give it realistic and genuine participation. What usually happens when you blow off your friends or don’t spend quality time with your partner? You usually lose those friends and get dumped. Same with your Craft.
This is where the “love” part starts to come in. Developing a successful craft is a lot like making a relationship work out between you and your partner. Most couples counselling boils down to either or both of two things: you didn’t respect your partner, and you didn’t respect your relationship with your partner. Maybe you cheated on your partner because sleeping with someone else seemed dangerous and exciting. Maybe you don’t really listen when your partner is trying to communicate with you, or you blow them off spontaneously to do something else. Maybe you’re just not getting satisfaction and fulfilment from your partner, or they demand all of your time and attention and try to make you feel bad for having terms and limits of your own. Now, replace “partner” with “craft” in all the above sentences. Its absolutely necessary that you respect the relationship with your craft as much as you respect it with your partner, friends, and family.
Think all of this is phoney self-love, healthy lifestyle BS? Go ahead, continue to treat your talent, your loved ones, and yourself, with disregard and without respect. See where that gets you in life. Knowing what’s important to you and how to manage that in your life is the ultimate thing you can achieve in life itself. Its what success and fulfilment are all about. And that’s why developing this relationship with your craft is so important, because if you don’t respect it, don’t give to it and get the same back from it, then you may never get beyond what you love doing as just a hobby.
Grit & Resistance
Though there’s no tried and true remedy for sitting down and calling forth genius and having it all spill out onto a page, there are some techniques you can develop that can at least get you comfortable sitting at a desk, being patient and determined, and get something out of your creative thoughts. This ingredient is, for lack of a better word, Grit.
“Grit” is the “stick to it” attitude needed to turn your talent into your craft, and transform you from enthusiastic fan to professional. Setting aside time to work on something creative, on your terms, can be very difficult. It happens to us all the time. How often have you had a good idea and some spare time, and as soon as you sit down, or even just think about sitting down to work on it, you instead think to yourself “boy, this kitchen floor is just waaaaay too dirty, and that reminds me, I have some laundry to do and now that I think of it, these walls could use a fresh coat of paint!” And lets say you finally procrasti-clean your entire house, and you finally sit down, and now you start thinking “I just need a little inspiration! Maybe I’ll just smoke some pot, or have a few relaxing drinks, play some video games, read that book someone was talking about, check Facebook or Instagram, do something to get my mind in the zone.” All the while, as the hours and days pass that you could have been working on what you believe you love, you’re too busy doing something else. Why?
You see, if you’re like me, there’s an ever present, always nagging, always tempting spectre of yourself stalking about in your brain, a part of you that always wants instant gratification. This is Resistance. Grit and Resistance go hand in hand, or I should say, head to head, when it comes to making the most of our creative passions and honing a Craft. Its necessary that I mention Stephen Pressfield and his masterful book “The War of Art” when talking about Resistance, mostly because he’s the one who coined the term and the concept. Pressfield discusses how Resistance is our response to “fear”, this innate desire to resist our own inner potential, and more importantly, resist the potential for failure by never trying. Its this spectre of ourselves that keeps us from ever setting one foot down the path of either success or enlightenment.
Resistance is often making decisions for us and then talking ourselves into accepting these decisions by rationalising how much more difficult a task is than you perceive it. Fear and resistance can operate a lot like an abusive partner, parent, or friend who is always putting you down, condescending to you, and convincing you that if not for them, you would have nothing, and you should be grateful for them for taking care of you. Seriously, this is yourself convincing yourself that you suck!
Developing an attitude that can acknowledge and respond to Resistance is integral for developing a Craft, because resistance can be a very dark place. Fear of failure is what keeps us from doing a lot of things, and is often what obscures our thoughts, inhibits our actions, and stunts our personal growth. This is why we need Grit. Grit is the light amongst the darkness. Its what turns the volume down on the nagging spectre. Its also what stands in your corner and has your back. But its also what sets the alarm for 6:00 a.m, shuts down all your social media access, and sets up a work regiment, deadlines, and intentions for your Craft.
One thing that I feel is important to mention amongst all of this is running. Yes, running. Actual running. Why? Because running, for me, is what helped me develop an attitude for Grit. This is because the activity of running is purely an act of discipline. This activity doesn’t just have to be running. It can be yoga, swimming, riding a bike, but I believe it needs to be an activity that takes you out of your comfort zone. Running can seem exhausting, punishing, even boring. A lot like work. When I run, I must contend with a weaker part of myself, a part that constantly nags to stop, rest, or do something with instant gratification. Its within this first 500 meters of my 3k run when the spectre is most demanding and vocal about wanting to stop, much like when I first sit down to draw or write. But once I’m able to hit my stride, my mind is able to relax, and I’m able to get to a very meditative state and focus. For the majority of my run, I’ll contend with myself to give up, but I’ll also do some constructive thinking about a story idea, art concept, whatever. But what the action of running also makes me do is dig deep into a well of resolve. To stick to the task at hand, no matter how difficult. Running has taught me to accept that doing something with intention requires me to sometimes be uncomfortable and strained. I’m not just running for physical health, its also for mental and creative health. Running is, in many ways, the discipline of meditation, patience, and intention.
Now, the reason I mention running as an activity that helps temper the mind for focus is because a Craft is essentially work. No one likes work, especially when work used to be your hobby, the place you could escape from work to. But that’s the choice you have to make about your talent and your hobby, and if you want to make it your Craft. A professional has a Craft. A fan has a hobby. A professional gets up and works at their craft everyday, on time, and walks away from it at a designated time, knowing full well they will do this all again tomorrow. A fan gives up and does something else more entertaining when they get bored. A fan has no allegiance to themselves or their hobby, and only shows up when the conditions are right. A professional does their job rain or shine. A professional respects their craft. A fan doesn’t.
In the next part of this blog, I’ll look at the importance of defining limits for your Craft, because much like a toxic relationship, if you don’t have limits and make time for yourself, you can burn out or be consumed by what you love. And if you no longer love what you’re doing, then…what’s the point?