Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Power of Momentum

The word momentum is a powerful little word. I never fully realized how powerful until recently. I knew it was something you needed when, say, running up a hill or trying to get to the top of a mountain pass or encouraging a group of people to unite for a cause.

It wasn't until I started to apply it in less literal ways that I realized its power. If you're familiar with Dave Ramsey's teaching, momentum is one of the hallmarks of his plan for paying off debt. He teaches Financial Peace University students to group their debts, smallest to the largest, and then pay off the smallest one first. It might seem counterintuitive. It's easy to assume that the best way is to tackle the largest debt first. But it soon becomes clear that the power of momentum is well worth taking smaller steps, completing those tasks, and spending a little more in interest payments.

It's true for many little things in life -- cleaning house, working in the garden, or tackling any goal. Sometimes completing just one little thing, then one more little thing, will give you the momentum to finish the entire task in record time.

It finally occurred to me how true it is for art. I have known for 20 years that I worked better with a pile of complete paintings at my side, but never understood why. It obviously bolstered confidence and calmed those nagging doubts. But I think it's more than that -- the act of completing something changes the way we think.

The inverse is also true. The first painting in a group -- whether it be a collection of greeting cards or the first of 12 paintings in a calendar -- is always the most challenging. One has the advantage of the excitement of beginning a new project, but it also feels like being a trapeze without a net or taking that first step up a long hill. I think, as artists, we have to recognize the little things that encourage momentum and to make sure we use them to our advantage.

I would be curious to know how other artists tackle extended projects. What gives you the momentum you need to complete a project?

copyright 2011 Shelly Reeves Smith


Larissa said...

Oh, goodness, what a great post and when you find the secret to keeping your momentum on projects, bottle it up and I'll buy a case!

You have some really great insights to the whole project momentum issue. Mostly what keeps me going on projects is a looming deadline. I'm sorry to say I work better under pressure. It's only when I seem to have plenty of time to start and finish a project that I have no momentum. ha!

Shelly said...

That is so true, Larissa. I also need a deadline to get my brain in gear. Funny how it suddenly springs into action when it knows the stopwatch is ticking!