More Will Be Better!

I’ve never been a Type “A” person, exactly. I’ve always thought of myself as more of a type “R” or “U” kind of guy. Maybe an “M”, if I‘ve had enough coffee.

So imagine my surprise when it dawned on me recently that I have a tendency towards grandiosity. Can’t be, I thought. Grandiose thinkers are doers! Achievers! High functioning! I’m practically allergic to doing. Thinking? Dreaming? I’m your guy. Executing? Talk to my wife. That’s her department.

I was thinking back over all of the projects I’ve started and dropped. The list is depressingly long: Book ideas, t shirts, paintings, you name it. All simple ideas that grew in scale and complexity until they collapsed under their own weight.*



*I was going to make a metaphor involving a poorly designed bridge collapsing here, but the accompanying drawing was going to probably take me 2 weeks and the purchase of at least 3 books describing bridge design.

The process of not really making something usually goes like this:**

Idea. Excitement. Drawing! Hesitation. Doubt. Rethinking. Stepping back to regroup. Starting again; New approach. More hesitant than before. Doubt, louder than before. Loss of momentum. Frustration. Defeat.  

**I was going to draw a 12 panel illustration showing me in a black unitard performing each stage as an interpretive dance.

This habit of over complicating things has kept me from doing what I love. Eventually, the self-doubt stopped me from taking those first initial stabs at a drawing. It separated me from the basic, simple joy of creating. Remember when you were a kid, and how fun it was to make something? You had an idea, you made it or did it (whatever It was), and that was it. You weren’t published. You didn’t land a book deal. Your followers never grew beyond the people in your house. You just enjoyed making something, you dropped it, and went off to watch TV. It was FUN.

If you’re like me, at some point, Making Something became serious. It became “Creating”. And it started to become a bit of a drag.

I got more focused on the end result, and the imaginary public reaction to whatever it was I was thinking of “creating”. In my head, I was trying to please an imaginary audience, instead of just pleasing myself. Ideas for kids books were started and dropped when I imagined the throngs of kids lining up to not read it. T shirt ideas were dropped as soon as I pictured the boxes of unsold shirts I’d have in storage.



The switch came for me a few years ago. I was sick of starting every year with the resolution that THIS was going to be the year I drew more. The year I walked the walk, and stopped just talking the talk.

(Is it walk the walk or walk the talk??)

So on New Year's Day, 2011, while I was house sitting for friends, I started. And I focused on the action, not the outcome, which I had no control over anyway. I worked at keeping the drawings short and sweet. I needed to finish everything in a couple of hours. If it went longer, I shelved it. I put blinders on and refused to think about what these could BE. The criteria was, if it made me laugh, it was good enough. It wasn’t easy at first. I was rusty and slow. Each drawing took longer than I wanted, and none of them looked as good as I wanted.

But I got better, and eventually, I stumbled on an idea that I liked: Overheard on Facebook. I’d take people’s status updates and do dumb drawings based on them. They were simple, usually fiercely unfunny (except to me), and fun to do. I started posting them, and people liked them! Some of them suggested I make a book out of them. I’d usually reply by sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling  “LALALALALALAICAN’THEARYOU!” I had kept Grandiosity at bay, and I didn’t want  to give him a way to weasel back in and ruin this. I was finally having fun.

Much later, after those drawings had kind of run their course and I moved on to other ideas, I was approached by Microsoft to do animated versions of them for the msn network, which I ended up doing for a while. I couldn’t believe it. The system worked! I’d stayed focused on the act of creating something, and, without any manipulation on my part, I’d ended up getting the first paid illustration gig I’ve ever had.

I’ve had to go back to that process a few times since, or course. Grandiosity won’t be ignored forever. But I have proof now. I work at dropping my imagined expectations, and focusing on the simple act of doing. The joy I get from just drawing a line, and making myself laugh is the point. When I stick  to that, these ideas I have, they have a shot at existence. And who knows what could happen after that?

Geoff Coates2 Comments