February 3rd is Setsubun, the day when we get to throw beans.
To explain: when I was growing up in Japan, mamemaki was performed as part of the Spring Festival. On this day the doors of the house were flung open, and we were given handfuls of roasted soy beans to toss while shouting, “Devils (read: Bad Luck) out, Good Luck in!” Then, Fortune having presumably entered the house, doors were shut, and we were finally allowed to munch on yummy roasted beans.
I thought about this long-ago custom today and decided to throw some mental beans at the plague of irritants that want to keep me from fulfilling New Year resolutions. To write more, to produce better art… these noble aspirations will be attainable once I’ve routed the imps that stand in the way.
First, I’m hurling beans at that lugubrious and laggardly Imp of Lethargy. This lumpish creature too often settles in my brain and hangs a damper onto everything I should be doing. It complains constantly that it’s too tired to pick up a brush or a needle, and it insists that it’s not in the mood to write anything. But there is an antidote. When Lethargy strikes, I bombard it with the beans of stimuli. A visit to a quilt show, the museum of art, a library, concert, literary event—anything that will get my creative juices flowing is anathema to Lethargy, so out it goes.
My next target is the Imp of Hesitation. Hesitation gets on well with its cousin Lethargy, for where one leaves off the other begins. Hesitation has good ideas but balks at the thought of following through. It likes to think of completed projects but isn’t sure just how to start them. Will this work? Perhaps I shouldn’t even try? Where exactly should I begin? Whine, whine, whine—and best of all—I’ll do it tomorrow. Of course, tomorrow never comes—until I grit my teeth, roll up figurative shirtsleeves, sit down, and start to work. So—away with Hesitation!
Third bean is aimed squarely at Fear of Competition. This Imp is an insidious creature and needs to be beaned thoroughly so that it doesn’t return under the guise of Well Meaning Advice. The FC Imp will whisper things like: “Really! Look at all the books about this subject… do you honestly think yours has a chance?” or, “The work on that art quilt is stunning, isn’t it? And the technique is flawless. How can yours ever match that?”
The best way to banish the FC Imp is to concentrate on how best to do the work efficiently and quit worrying about whether that work will sell or whether it can compete with others in its field. This is not an easy task by a long shot, but unless I throw this imp out of my working life, I open the door to Lethargy, Hesitation, and—worst of all—the Imp of Hopelessness which would make me shut away the computer, hide the fabric, and feel grouchy all day. So, at huge fistful of beans to bid FC be gone.
That last Imp, lurking in the corner, is the Imp of Excuses. Unlike hesitation, this Imp is all too eager to impress me with its favorite line: but I just don’t have time! Most of us have met up with this cagey customer, and our busy lives can easily be hobbled by plausible excuses. The thing to do is to retaliate with a fistful of good, solid common sense and the reminder that anything that we really want to do always gets done! If I don’t have all morning to write, I will set aside an hour each evening—or when I first get up—or in the afternoon right after lunch. If an hour is too much to hope for, half and hour or even fifteen minutes will do for starters. Each day without fail will I set aside this time, and from experience I know that that half hour grows exponentially once the project (and interest in it) gathers steam.
The Imps are banished, but has Fortune come in to replace them? Unfortunately, this requires work. First off, there has to be inspiration—or at least, an idea. Then the idea has to be followed through. This demands concentration and a conviction that the new idea is a good one, that it can become a great one, that it will be a unique work and something of which—never mind what the world has to say— I will be proud.
And with the Imps banished—at least for now—I can finally eat those roasted soy beans!
Rattle the leafless branches,
But see the new shoots!