If you say you’re going to wake up tomorrow and renovate your whole apartment or memorize every
If you say you’re going to wake up tomorrow and renovate your whole apartment or memorize every South American capital or learn how to play all of “Stairway to Heaven” even though you’ve never picked up a guitar and aren’t even positive that that’s the main instrument being played…it’s not going to happen. That’s called “setting yourself up for failure.” Even if you do memorize all those capitals— the most doable of these tasks— it will only take one instance of the person you have a crush on smiling at you in a new way to make those names spill out of your head. Keep it simple. Here’s one example of how you do it: instead of tackling every movie made before this year that you’ve ever intended to see, you decide to finally watch My Dinner With Andre. When you get to the scene where Andre talks about designing his own flag, you think, “Yes! I will design my own flag too.” Then be sure to stop yourself before you also think, “But wait, it’s too bad that I don’t live in the ‘70s or ‘40s or whenever this movie was made. The past, in general, was so much better. Women wore pants that made them look like they rode horses. Men wore vests that made them look like tax attorneys. People even stood differently, and thus more superiorly, back then.” Put a halt to all that, don’t even let it get going. It might help to picture one of those bottles of water that gets inserted into a standing dispenser with hot and cold spigots. There’s always a bit of water that pours out in the moment between turning the bottle upside down and fitting it into the dispenser. The amount depends on the strength of the person maneuvering the transition. Listen, today you are very strong and only a few drops of water manage to leak out, the water being your self-destructive runaway thoughts in this scenario. When the movie is over, scrounge up a piece of paper. Any piece is fine. It doesn’t have to be in a sketchbook. It doesn’t have to be a sheet from that stationary set that you never use because you think it’s too nice. If it’s from your printer tray, that is great. If it’s your phone bill envelope, even better. Grab a pen and then draw a rectangle. That is your flag. Your kitchen table is now officially a nation. Good job! Everything you add is just sprigs of parsley on an already successfully accomplished project. You can’t screw it up. If you do happen to, say, draw a star and then decide you want it to be a moon and so you cross it out really aggressively, going over and over the image until you tear the paper a little…just remember that in some cultures, a flaw is purposely built into each project so as to prevent a perfection-off with the gods.
Starlee Kine is a contributor to the public radio program This American Life. She does stories about the world's slowest car chase, misunderstood ghosts and presidential library reenactments. She also wrote a torch song with the help of Phil Collins and designed a heartbreak cutting board designed specifally to cut tear-inducing onions on for THE THING Quarterly, to which she is a contributor at large.