“Deadlines are helpful,” I say to myself as persuasively as possible, sneaking a covert glance at the time displayed on my computer monitor. At the moment, the deadline I’m working toward is to have the promotional excerpt from Dinosaur printed and in my hands by mid-August.
Since I started working on Dinosaur, I’ve blocked out the whole book very roughly, and created a 40-page section from the material at the beginning for the promotional excerpt. Making this excerpt has involved writing the script, drawing character studies, storyboarding, editing, and illustrating. Once each page has been drawn (I work on illustration board using pen and brush with India ink), I scan and import it into Photoshop. Then I clean up spots and smudges, add the text, and make any necessary corrections. It’s time-consuming, though it’s nothing compared to how long it will take to complete the whole book.
When it comes to deadlines, I’m prone to slipping into a Eurotunnel way of thinking, my mind telling me that I can’t leave this track until I get to the station. Feeling tired and a little unwell, eating lunch, and writing this blog entry are all “distractions” that outrage my internal scheduler. I don’t want to pathologize myself... and I’m aware that challenging myself to keep my thinking flexible is as important a challenge for me as meeting my deadlines. By that, I mean noticing when I’m blindly following the rules I set for myself, and evaluating whether that's helpful or not.
It doesn’t help that there are some emotionally-powerful distractions today. The Iacobucci report into how Toronto police officers deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis is being released this afternoon. (The report was commissioned by the Toronto Police Services following the shooting death of Sammy Yatim by police almost a year ago today.) I’ve had my own less-than-positive dealings with police and emergency psychiatric services, and so I’m trying to make room for that as well as for the voice that’s saying, “Get back to work!”
Another distraction is that the theatre upstairs has been rented to a circus, and they are choreographing their new elephant dance up there. No, not really, but it sounds like it. Actually, it’s a children’s theatre rehearsal, which reminds me that without my treatment success in dealing with intrusive thoughts about kids, I would not have been able to tolerate those sounds. I would have fled homeward and sought comfort in my rituals and thoughts of self-destruction. Now I just put on my headphones and turn up the volume, and that's more to help me focus on my work than it is to avoid the sounds.
Another kind of tunnel I get sucked into is the Perfection tunnel. Using Photoshop, there really doesn’t have to be a limit on how many “improvements” I make to my original artwork. I really do have to zoom out (that’s the ‘Command –‘ shortcut on my Mac keyboard) so that I don’t get sucked into all the detail. Like so many things in life, artwork is more successful when you can make room for mistakes and imperfections.