This month The Focusing Series offers Sustaining YourCreative Practice: Create the Conditions for Creative Ah-has by instructor, Julie Boyer. She brings to the workshop her expertise as a professional organizer and an artist with a MFA. I haven't seen her lesson, but I know it will be fantastic.
Having operated my business for over a decade, I can appreciate how much structure one requires to keep all balls in the air. Anyone can tell you that those operating their own enterprise are generally far busier than those who work for others. Unlike a 9 to 5 position, your work hours never really stop. There is always something more that can be done. And because I don't have employees, I have much to do beyond creating artwork.
In both my blog and my professional development workshops I define one’s commitment to their art career as time/money/energy. You need all three and here is how each is invested:
Time + Energy
· creating new product and/or offering services
· promoting yourself through marketing & booking gigs
· handling administrative duties such as accounting, customer service, researching and purchasing supplies, etc.
· buying art supplies, office supplies, marketing materials, etc.
· paying exhibition fees
· paying for marketing (advertising, packaging, visual presentation supplies, etc.)
· professional services
Your level of commitment to your art career should match the amount of time/money/energy you invest.
With all that needs to be handled it is easy to allow creativity to fall to the wayside.
I can't stress enough how vital it is for artists to create a consistent schedule for creativity. Incorporating studio time into your weekly schedule as often as possible reinforces your talent, making it easier to make high-quality work. It helps you amass a sizable inventory, optimizing your chances for sales...and income.
We all have obligations beyond our art, so don't beat yourself up if life too often gets in the way. But it can be argued that more time is wasted than we appreciate. To figure out where studio time can be found, do the following exercise:
Exercise I: How Do You Spend Your Time?
For two weeks keep track of everything you do in a twenty-four hour period. Be as specific as possible and don’t fudge the results.
At the end of the two weeks assign each activity to a category (work, family, friends, health, sleep...). List the categories in order from those taking up the most of your time to those taking the least.
Analyze the data. Is there time that could be put to better use? Perhaps, for example, instead of 45 hours of television a week, you could designate 30 of those hours to art.
If creativity can't be a part of every day, create a weekly schedule where at least a few “art career” tasks are designated to each day. And keep yourself accountable with smartphone apps, software, whatever tools work best for you and your “To-Do” lists.
If you want to be creative, think creatively. Having-however you want to phrase it-mindfulness, self-awareness or intention is the first step toward living the life you want to live. When I don't have time to go to my studio, or when I am feeling creatively blocked, I find the following technique very helpful.
Exercise II: Do Something Creative Every Day
Give yourself the challenge of doing something creative every day. You can easily accomplish this while going through your normal routine. For example, during your lunch break commit to filling a page in your journal with sketches or writing. While watching television, surf the internet for ideas, new opportunities for exhibiting your work or research what's happening in the art world (and see what your competition is up to). Create inspiration boards. Plan to take a certain amount of photographs with your phone or camera by the end of a day. As you walk from errand to errand looking for subject matter, you will begin to see the world around you in a whole new way.
Even when I don't look like I'm working, I'm working. While stretched out on my couch I note inspirational costumes and set designs in various shows and films. When waiting for an appointment I flip through fashion magazines, making lists and taking photographs on my smartphone of trending patterns, hues, and fabrics.
You'll find integrating creativity into every day trains your mind to imagine. You teach yourself to value creativity.
Carve out a Studio Space
Not everyone has the luxury of affording a studio, but that doesn't mean you can't designate a space for creativity. One of my most productive periods was when I used a walk-in kitchen pantry as a studio.
Your studio should be a space where you can get into the creative zone; free from clutter and distractions. Ideally the space should be marked for the purpose of being a studio and nothing else, though I realize this is not always possible. Make it clear to those around you that your studio time and space must be respected and that you are not to be disturbed. If you have small children, arrange for them to be cared for while you create.
I was recently told a beautiful story by a friend from Chile. When she first came to America and was applying for a Green Card she asked her priest if she might clean the church where she, her aunt and mother attended mass. The priest told her they already had a cleaning crew. But she told me every day during the service she noticed how the sculpture of her beloved Virgin Mary was covered in cobwebs. The priest recognized how earnest she was and agreed to have my friend; her mother and aunt clean the church. She said the first thing she did was lovingly wipe the webs from Mary's face. She told me cleaning that church was one of the most loving, sacred experiences of her life. She got to nurture the space, get to know it in a way she never would have had she not cleaned every inch.
We all need sacred spaces. Your studio is no exception. The act of using your soul, heart, mind and hands to mold a new creation out of raw materials is a sacred act. Treat it accordingly. Set aside time to declutter, organize, and for goodness sake, clean! I can't work in mess. I get distracted and I find the dust can get into my paint while it is drying. If you respect your creativity, if you value your output-Clean!
Be Honest with Yourself
As a full-time artist I know it is my responsibility to keep a studio schedule on top of all my duties as the owner of a company. My clients deserve a steady stream of new inventory to select from. Not surprisingly when there is a lapse in my studio schedule interest in my brand begins to wane.
If you are finding other obligations keep getting in the way of your creativity, it may be time to acknowledge your art is more of a hobby than a career. There is absolutely no shame in this. I know many artists who intend to become full-time once things alter in the future. For example, parents who have children still living at home plan creative pursuits once their children are grown. In the meantime maintaining even a nominal schedule will hone your skills and keep the creative juices flowing.