Have you ever set aside an activity you love for a period of time and found that later it was difficult to start back up again? Over the years, I’ve drawn and painted. In 2007, I did lots of watercolors of everyday things in my life. Here’s a hotdog I had for lunch.
Then in 2008, we built a green home. That became my giant art project. We lived next door to the the work site. I was constantly there and put in an average of 60 hours a week. During that time, I decided to temporarily set aside my painting.
I didn’t get back to painting again until recently. I discovered that if I try to return to an activity where I left off, I end up feeling frustrated and resist doing it. Since I hadn’t practiced painting for a long period, I was rusty. I compared my new paintings to my old and felt discouraged. Also, I found that going back and doing something the same way as I did before isn’t as exciting as doing something new.
So, with my art, I took a weekend-long 2 dimensional design class. I’d never taken a design class before. I felt like a beginner. It was so freeing, fun, and adventurous. The work I created was different than what I had ever done. It felt good to let go and just do what I was drawn to do rather than trying to make myself continue with what I had been doing in 2007.
Steve Jobs, co-founder and current CEO of Apple, at one time was fired from Apple. Here’s what he said about that experience in his 2005 commencement address at Stamford. “…getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
If I feel resistance to returning to an activity, taking the approach of being a beginner and choosing what I want to do a fresh, without feeling obligated to what I did before, works really well.
Recently, we spent a month in France and Italy. When I did my travel paintings, I approached them differently. In the 2 dimensional design class, we did abstracts. This inspired me paint what I saw more abstractly. I loved it. It was a fun challenge to paint so simply. I’m excited to continue to experiment with this style.
If I hadn’t had let myself start again fresh as a beginner, I wouldn’t have come up with these paintings that make me so gung ho to do more. It’s given me new vitality.
Now, if I ever resist returning to another activity, I’ll remember to be a beginner again.