Ignore Your Ducks

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Gossiping Ducks by foxypar4

Sometimes I have to slide sideways into things. Or trick myself into starting by making projects smaller than they truly are.

I am cursed with perfectionism, so often the only way forward is to just close my eyes and jump.

Which is how I found myself opening an online shop for my art. Without branding. Without a big launch. Without having all my drawings scanned and ready to go. Without enough mounts or packaging materials. With all my ducks decidedly not in anything even vaguely resembling a row. In fact, I’m not entirely sure where my pond is and it’s quite likely that all my ducks have flown off in a huff.

But I started anyway.

There’s not much in my shop yet (see aforementioned lack of ducks) but I’m adding things as I go along. It’s also possible that my pricing is entirely wrong but I decided that fear of pricing was a lousy reason not to start something.

And I have no idea if this is going to work.

I’ve already sold two envelopes (yay!) but maybe no one else will ever buy anything. You’d think that this would be a source of stress, that I would be filled with the fear of rejection. But weirdly, it doesn’t seem to matter and that’s because I just jumped. Without too much preparation or angst or investment of time, energy, money or emotion.

Sure, it would be fabulous if I make a gazillion pounds selling art online – don’t get me wrong, I absolutely want this to succeed – but I’m also very clear that it’s a test piece, a maquette, an experiment.

See, that’s the great thing about the internet – the cost of entry is low. I don’t have to spend lots of money ‘setting up a business’, I can just say, ‘hey, let’s throw a few quid at an online store for six months and see if it works?’ If it doesn’t, well, no harm, no foul and I’ll have learnt some useful stuff. I’m hugely interested in trying new things online. At the moment it still feels as though there’s a lot of freedom on the web; that maybe I can do things in my own strange, messed up way and still make a go of it. That maybe all those ducks aren’t quite as important as people tell you.

Our local synchronized swimming team by Eric Bégin

Because I think I can do this, but not if I have to get my ducks in order first. My ducks are recalcitrant, they fly away when they’re told to line up, they quack in a rebellious manner, they flaunt their sassy little ducktails like 50’s rockers. And when I wring my hands about business-type things, they make rude and unhelpful Donald Duck noises. My ducks have ATTITUDE.

In the Swim by StarrGazr

Now I’m not saying that you should make a half-arsed job of things. If you’re the sort of person who can easily organise your ducks, that’s absolutely great – you’ve got a huge advantage and you should use it to the full. What I am saying is that for perfectionists, the perceived need to get all our ducks in a row before we start anything can be a very effective stalling technique. It can be an excuse. And sometimes you have to be braver than that.

So I’ve learnt to pointedly ignore my ducks and then quietly organise them into rows when they’re not looking.

How do you deal with your ducks? Let me know in the comments…

I am an artist & purveyor of obsessive projects based in Hebden Bridge, England. My work involves the accretion of large numbers of small objects - pins in fabric, knots in string or hundreds of envelopes - to make sculptures that deal with fragility, loss, repetition, obsession and time.

29 thoughts on “Ignore Your Ducks

  1. This is exactly how I feel and — for the most part — how I deal with it.
    It's rather strange, because I am organized, efficient and confident when it comes to client work — I know there are limitations and do my best considering the circumstances (budget, deadlines, client preferences, etc.) — and it's easier to let go of the desire to keep tweaking because it's not quite perfect yet.

    I have been trying to apply the same philosophy to my own projects. It works, sometimes. And other times I forget…
    It's good to know I am not the only one who struggles with this!



  2. excellent approach. i'd be surprised to find a creative person who wasn't a perfectionist. this makes us our own worst critics. one must learn to turn a blind eye (and ear) to the incessant quacking and just go for it.

    now that you have everything set up, it's must easier to add to. it will also likely become a motivator to create more. good for you for just doing it rather than waiting for the “perfect” amount or “perfect” quality since as we all know – it doesn't exist.


  3. Really glad to see this Kirsty! While getting ducks in a row is good, I've always been an advocate of 'just do something' – especially online. I see no reason not to add, update or improve little bits as you go. Better to have something out there for people to find (and buy) right? Rather than being invisible ever-waiting for the perfect moment or set-up.


  4. We seem to share ducks!
    I think mine have flown south for awhile though, I can't begin to line em up.
    I suppose I should start something while they are AWOL


  5. I am working on this very thing! I am starting to think that I am subconsciously subverting myself and my goal of starting my own business by using the excuse that my ducks aren't in a row. In fact, I wonder sometimes if I even know what all my ducks are. Anyhoo, I really just need to embrace the idea of “starting anyway”. Thanks for the great post!


  6. I know that I subconsciously sabotage myself – I think it's partly because I'm afraid of being overwhelmed if I was more successful. My illness also keeps the brakes on.


  7. I think there's never a perfect moment – we all just have to crack on and do our best. I was listening to a Johnny B Truant and Charlie Gilkey podcast recently where they were talking about how people need to just get their websites up and running and not worry about it too much because hey, you're going to change things in three months anyway! IME, that's totally true. It's like art, it's never finished, you're always changing and adapting it – it's all a process.


  8. Looks like many of us struggle with this, Lisa. I think it's often that combination of wanting to do your best with having too many options and no deadline – fatal!


  9. Hi Natalie, nice to see you over here. I think all creative people want to do well at things, so it's scary to be experimenting in public but I think it's worse to be trapped in a place of fear.


  10. You know what, Kirsty? Reading this made me get off my arse and send emails to people, set up meetings and just plunge ahead and do stuff that I'd been putting off because I thought I *still* wasn't organised enough. You're inspiriational, lady! I hope you sell lots of your art too, cos it is really beautiful.


  11. Thnx for the post!

    I just had an annoying example of this in fact. We'd been waiting on launching our channelling-based blog because of tweaks we wanted to do to the theme. Well, finally enough of them got done to where we felt we could start posting – and now we realize that our 'perfect theme' has a potentially fatal design flaw and we may have to use another instead.

    If we'd just gone ahead and posted, we could have realized this months ago.

    *downy poof of frustration*


  12. This post is truly motivational for me! I've been struggling with my ducks too and I love how you say…start anyway. I think for many it's the thinking that catches us up, keeps us from moving forward in bold new directions. Thank you so much for your thoughts and the much needed dose of motivation…it's put me on the right path for the day!


  13. I am definitely the kind of person who used to plan and detail everything to death. Usually I would end up giving up just because I didn't want to take that first step and fail. I do indeed believe it's sometimes a matter of just getting your ducks out there, as it were, and once that first step is all tucked away you can fuss with rows at your leisure. It's better to try and fail than to fail by just not trying at all. Now? My ducks better watch out cause they're getting their feathered little butts booted out there whether they're lined up or not!


  14. All our poor ducks are getting a bit of a kicking!

    I do still plan – just started a new business planning journal last night in fact – but I've learnt that if something feels totally overwhelming and impossible the best thing for me to do is just to make a start. Rome wasn't built in a day, etc, etc…


  15. Ooh, I love this post Kirsty! I find that jumping in is a great way to quiet my own duck – the Suck Duck, that is (you know, the one that sits on your shoulder and says “You suck”?)

    I too get caught up in trying to make everything perfect. I tend to be extremely meticulous and detail oriented, and although this is great, sometimes I need an antidote! Both in business, and in art. Sometimes a girl’s just got to jump in and get muddy.

    Love your Drawings & Delights, btw!


  16. I keep a quote on my wall (I THINK I got it from Havi Brooks?) that says:
    “Getting your ducks in a row isn’t nearly as powerful as actually doing something with your duck.”
    And then just the other day Seth Godin basically said the same thing and now today I find this post – you think the universe is trying to tell me something? (grin)


    Kirsty Reply:

    @Chris B, Clearly it’s meant to be, Chris :-)


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