Last week I chatted about “the maybe trap.” Each of us knows why we shouldn’t hang out in maybe. Maybe is a state that puts us right the verge of meaninglessness. Maybe plays to our weaknesses, our anxieties, and our doubts. Maybe annoys us, frustrates us, and disappoints us.
But still we get trapped there because of our everyday resistance to mustering our inner resources, pulling ourselves by the collar or the bootstraps in the direction of some hard creative work, sticking with that work even in the face of inevitable messes, and then doing something with that finally finished work other than putting it in a drawer or the attic. That is a lot to say yes to, especially if our goal is to say yes regularly, day in and day out, and not just on good days or in good weather.
One of the problems is that since we get to yes so infrequently, we aren’t accustomed to its sound. What does yes sound like? Like the following, from Louise Nevelson: “I get up at six in the morning. I wear cotton clothes so that I can sleep in them or I can work in them—I don’t want to waste time. Sometimes I work two or three days without sleeping and without paying attention to food.” Is this a little obsessive and manic? No doubt. Is this a bit out of the ordinary? Absolutely. Is this more the exception than the rule? You bet. And is this the very definition of yes? I think so.
Listen to yourself this week. When you say something that sounds suspiciously like maybe, stop yourself. If, for example, you hear yourself say, “I’m pretty tired today so maybe I’ll paint tomorrow,” exclaim, “Die, maybe!” Champion yes instead. Say, “I will paint today!” If you hear yourself say, “I wonder if there’s enough light left to paint, so maybe I’ll paint tomorrow,” exclaim, “Die, maybe!” Say, “Let me use this last light!” Every yes of this sort is a passionate call to action: kill maybe and get on with your work.
Kill maybe. Say no to your work when you want to take your daughter to the museum or when you want to bring your mother a rose. Say yes to the work often, every day or as frequently as you can. Never say maybe—turn every maybe into an appropriate no or a vibrant yes. Of these three words, yes, no, and maybe, two are brilliant and one is the kiss of death.
Please take a look at my brand new book Making Your Creative Mark, filled with practical advice for artists!