The real answer lies in doing it every day. Just show up. Don’t worry about inspiration to strike, don’t worry about your best work eluding you. “Great artists don’t wait for inspiration to strike, they just show up at work every morning.” This quote, or something similar, was mentioned by the narrator on the first episode of Abstract, a television series based upon a few real life designers which delves into their everyday lives, their work, their inspirations and their ennui. The first episode was based on the life and work of Christoph Niemann, an illustrator and graphic designer, who is also the author of several books on his idea of art. It was inspiring. Even I have, these past few days, tried to practice sketching daily. Depicting ideas onto a piece of paper has always been something that fascinated me, and though I’m still quite horrible at it, I like the daily practice session. A sketch a day has been my simple modus operandi and I try to keep the idea alive that “practice makes perfect”. Though I very well understand and appreciate the fact that if one is as bad at something as I am at sketching, “a lot of practice makes slightly better” is an adage which is more apt. But I’m trying. I won’t publish anything as yet, because admitting this publicly is embarrassing enough. I don’t want to embarrass myself further out of the inspiration that has sustained me so far.
But then there is another aspect of this all. I read the book Linchpin by Seth Godin recently, and he talks about a concept called “Shipping”. Shipping means ensuring what you are working towards gets submitted, published, uploaded, posted, or howsoever you want to name the formal act of completing something in the final completed form it was envisioned in when you started working upon it. Planning to ship entails putting some deadline to a work you are doing, because we human beings have a natural tendency called “Resistance”, which gives us well-sounding excuses to not complete something we had started, to not publish something because it’s not good enough, to wait a little more for the right inspiration to strike, for the torrential rain to stop and the sun to be out again, for your neighbour to have his newspaper picked and taken in before you leave for your office and not see it lying on the porch in the front, and God knows what else. You will always find excuses, as it is a natural inclination for us. Thus, we have to force ourselves to ship. We have to create a discipline to ship things on the pre-decided date, and work accordingly. If we don’t do that from the beginning, we will always find some sensible-sounding reasons for not doing it, because that’s what we human beings are naturally wired to do. That’s what Tim Urban calls “the monster” who shows up when we are forced to work towards completing a goal in his TED talk on Procrastination. Thus I am well aware that I don’t want to fall into the trap of delaying something, or giving myself enough time to cook up an excuse. This act of publicly admitting to trying to learn something new is in itself an act of commitment to which I can be held accountable by you all. It is, in a small way, an act of shipping.