There is an unopened box of water colors on my desk. I can reach my hand out and touch it.
I have convinced myself that I love painting; I watch YouTube videos on water color tutorials. But when I stretch my hand out to touch the box of paints, a sort of fear seizes up my arm and I withdraw.
I have a nifty little wrought iron bookstand on my desk. It is stuffed with books I want to read, notebooks I want to write on. It is not that I do not read, it is not that I do not write. I just don’t do it with abandon.
Almost everything that you do or don’t do is a habit. Habits make addictions. You can have good addictions that serve you well and bad ones that destroy you.
Dr. Jud Brewer treats bad addictions through a combination of mindfulness and building the right habits. Willpowering your way though something does not work, he says. We know this, but we often only try to willpower our way through things we want to do. We are aware of our behaviors, but somehow feel powerless to stop it. This awareness pushes us into a spiral of shame and despair. Fear starts seizing up our hands and hearts.
I keep building and losing my habits.
I have started (again) following Alphonso Dunn’s drawing lessons on YouTube. He’s a fantastic artist and a skilled teacher. More about him in another post. Today’s lesson was about lines – horizontal, vertical, perpendicular, parallel straight, parallel flowing, axis. I like how he gets into the depth of something as basic as a line.
The trouble with this approach is that I am stuck drawing lines. Where is the pleasure in that? I also need please the reward centers of my brain by actually drawing something. So I am also copying botanical line drawings from a book of the same name. Trees and flowers and leaves are soothing to look at and to draw. They make me happy.
When I open my old half-filled sketchbooks, joy floods my heart. Even the crappy drawings are my own. I feel a fondness towards them and am all aglow. Everyone loves themselves, even those who hate themselves.
The actual act of creating something – whether it is drawing or writing – rarely feels pleasurable to me. I feel the struggle; I don’t get into flow. This obviously feels like a matter of fluency – I am yet to achieve the fluency required to perform the act without active thought. It follows then that it’s just a matter of putting in a certain number of hours practicing, and it’s the practice that feels hard.
It is for the practice that you hack the habit loop.
I have made way too many tall promises to myself – even public commitments, and failed. So I will refrain this time.
My work requires me to be cognizant of the habit loop and mindfulness, and develop expertise in it. These are areas that interest me as well.
I am my own guinea pig. I love it.