Rilla Alexander: Without the doing, dreaming is useless

Sticking with ideas from beginning to end is always difficult; more so in any sort of creative field where it almost always requires self-motivation. When it comes to writing, I have terrible discipline. I’m easily distracted by anything that doesn’t require sitting down and actually working on the ideas my brain throws out. But the thing is, the ideas don’t leave me alone. So it isn’t an entirely comfortable existence, this grapple between imaginary goals and spectacular laziness.

Which is why I was thrilled to see I wasn’t alone in this! In this excellent video, designer and illustrator Rilla Alexander addresses the pervading issue of the creative struggle. She provides examples from her own life and at the end of the video, she reads from her picture book. Her character Sozi daydreams, procrastinates, sets deadlines, gets tempted by new ideas, buckles down and works hard – and finally – she realizes Her Idea.

Image courtesy Flying Eye Books

Image courtesy Flying Eye Books

I found myself agreeing to everything she said. Inspired by her similar list of problems, I’m going to try and stick to a steady diet of work, starting with a minimum commitment of an hour a day. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? (“Ha!” snorts the derisive voice from my future)

Among other things she discusses the life-cycle of an idea right from the initial “I love it! I’m so excited to create!” stage to the middle stage of procrastination and the happy/unhappy ending (depending on whether you choose to finish the work or not).

She also has great advice for struggling artists:

  • Deadlines give you realistic expectations. Instead of being preoccupied by how wonderful your idea is, concentrate on getting it done and actually make it happen
  • Break down the idea into small tasks rather than focusing on the whole goal
  • Avoid getting distracted by new ideas by writing them all down in an idea book so you can focus on the task at hand
  • There’s always going to be another idea that looks better but that’s only because you’re not working on it. If you were, you would also discover its flaws and failures
  • Don’t abandon this idea, don’t cripple it with self doubt – just keep working