This past Saturday night, my wife was reading House Beautiful when she said, “Al, one of your paintings is in here!” And there (see below) was a large painting I’d done about twelve years ago, hanging in the living room of a prominent Los Angeles designer’s home.
And I felt disappointment.
It’s not like I haven’t been creative. I’ve been writing novels and plays. I wrote and directed a feature a few years ago that won some awards. I have a pilot script that is currently getting some attention.
But I stopped painting ten years ago!
Wait. I didn’t actually stop. What happened was we moved to a new house and I never took out my easel.
My point is that I teach creativity for a living, and I missed this. When I saw that photo of my painting, I should have been thrilled, but I wasn’t. I was bummed. I didn’t really care that my painting was in a magazine – sure, it was cool, but as I tell my students, “the thrill of creation is the reward.”
When Steven Soderberg won his Oscar for Traffic, he said something like, “I’d trade this for five minutes of pure inspiration.”
For years, I used to look at my garage and say, “One day I’ll clean this out and start painting again, but right now I’m too busy.” Well, thank God, my wife is awesome. She said, “Al, this is a sign.” And the next morning we cleaned out the garage. It took two hours. Well, ten years and two hours to be precise.
Procrastinating is not the same as quitting. It’s worse. At least quitting gives you closure. You can grieve it and move on. Procrastination feels terrible, like you’re constantly walking through a field of mud. Its “I’ll do it tomorrow.” And then, tomorrow turns into a decade…or five. The days tick by and we watch other people’s dreams come true. We call it busyness or obligation. One day, we tell ourselves… when the kids are grown, when my spouse stops drinking, when this pandemic is over.
And the shocker is that we actually have a choice.
What if you cleaned out your garage today?
It’s your turn.