Lately I’ve been in kind of a “maker frenzy”; for some reason, I’ll see something online like “Build your own screen printing press out of scraps” and the next thing you know I’m raiding my girlfriend’s basement for lumber and buying springs…and that leads down a rabbit hole of finding squeegees and ink and transparencies on CraigsList and eventually to selling bandanas and notebooks and t-shirts that I printed.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there. When I was printing the covers of the moleskine notebooks, I was thinking “Hmm, I wonder how hard it would be to make my own notebooks…” Which leads to learning stab-binding and then poof, I’m making an orange glittery cover for my friends’ daughter because she saw mine and wanted her own.
And then the thought came…”Y’know, this is cool and all, but wouldn’t it be cooler to screen print my own logo on a stab-bound book I made out of paper that I also made…”
Which is a long way to explain why last night I was in my girlfriend’s basement again, making a deckle. (Side note: one of the fun things about making is all the new words you learn. “Majuscule”, “deckle”, and “dottle” are all words! Scrabble will never be the same).
How do you find time for it all?
That’s the question, right? This is where, as a good upstanding Personal Development Blogger, I’m supposed to tell you that you need to give up your favorite TV show, or get up an hour earlier, or somehow adopt some fancy scheduling system guaranteed to put 43 more minutes into your day!
Another person very dear to me pointed out what my “secret” is, in a text message (profanity warning: she is delightfully verbose, including swear words):
Can I tell you something I like about you?
I’ve been meaning to do screen printing for over a decade. Probably 15 years. I love it!! Want to do it!! So cool!!
You? You’re all like “hey!” This is cool. Let’s do it.”
And you’re printing.
That’s fucking awesome.
No excuses. Just done.
Now, I don’t want to pretend this is really a secret; that’s why I put it in quotes above. But there is a kind of philosophy behind it – one that Nike put into an ad campaign, but which I like to reframe by improving a classic Star Wars adage.
“Try Not!Yoda, from The Empire Strikes Back
Do. Or do not.
There is no try.”
And this is where I look back at the kid and even young adult that I was, who loved this saying, and want to shake some sense into him:
Of course there is “try!” You don’t have to be assured of success in any endeavor before you benefit from it. Life is nothing but trying, and failing, and trying again. If you’re lucky, one of those “tries” succeeds – but the ratio of attempts-to-successes will always be skewed to the former.
No, what Yoda meant to say was that you can’t really hesitate. You can’t let the uncertainty of the outcome keep you from trying, nor can you let the failures of the past discourage you from trying something different.
Most of all, to me, this was a battle cry against procrastination, against the idea that “someday, I’m gonna try this thing.” That’s where there is motivation. You’re either doing the thing – and yes, preparing and researching and learning counts – or you’re still keeping it in the future, and therefore not doing it.
Ready, Fire, Aim
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Currently I’m drowning in projects, and there are some that are going to need to be moved from the “do” to the “do not” pile. And both of those piles are fine.
But what I wish Yoda had said was this: “Do. Or do not. There ain’t no ‘gonna.” It’s not “I’m gonna try this.” It’s “Yep, I’m trying this.” which really is the same as “I’m doing this!” right up until the point where it’s “I’ve done this.” Remember, time is what keeps everything from happening at once, and sometimes the reason we’re not “trying” is simply because the time has not yet come.
But often the thing that holds you back is the fear of the “try”. Whether that’s for fear of comparison to others, or to some idealized version of yourself, or simply the unknown…we hold back. We “do not.” And we try to make ourselves feel better by saying “I’m gonna do this…later.”
That’s where the characteristic in me seems to come to the fore: Sure, why not? Let’s do it! And I’m scrounging and adapting and usually finding myself in over my head. My first attempt at screen printing, which I decided should be a silly little pin-up because I was sure it would be pretty bad? Turned out perfectly. My second try? Not perfect at all. Not horrible – but that’s the one where I learned all the lessons, and I’m still learning.
Why? Because I’m trying. I simply start my hands and body and brain moving in a direction, and I continue until something makes me stop.
It’s not a secret technique. It’s not even that hard; any idiot can say “Ok, let’s just do it.” And it does mean shutting down that abstract part of your brain that wants to put things into the future. “I’m gonna do it…later.“
Nope. You either do it, or you don’t. There ain’t no “gonna”.