These last 4 weeks I committed to a daily creative practice – which I’m pleased to say I’ve honoured pretty well. Along the way I learned how important it is to have a place for my art supplies. When I have to hunt for them, it annoys the muse and she doesn’t hang around very long, impatient minx that she is.
So in order to support that daily practice pledge I needed to get the foundation in place.
First, I narrowed down what I wanted to do. I had supplies for encaustic, oil painting, plaster casting, pottery, knitting, quilting, scrapbooking, watercolours, etc, etc. ad nauseum. While I love mucking about with any creative activity, I finally admitted to myself I simply did not have enough time to do it all. Like my physical space, the time space is also limited.
I decided my 30 day focus would be writing, sketching and art journaling, knitting and quilting. Still a lot of ground to cover but at least I don’t feel overwhelmed by too much choice. In fact, as I set up my creative spots in the house, I got rid of the extraneous supplies. It created physical AND mental space. And by limiting my choices, it’s easier to sit down and actually work on something .
An unexpected benefit to limited options is that it enhanced the creative flow. I used to joke that I didn’t need more time, I needed more deadlines. Now I realise how true that really is. With limits, I have to think more creatively.
I look a lot closer at what I already have before I run out to get the latest gizmo or gadget. . I break my projects down into smaller actions and set goals that can be accomplished in the time I have. Coming up with new ideas and solutions adds to the creative fun!
Physically, rather than one big, all encompassing studio space I set up separate, designated spaces. Again, this has helped me tremendously with actually getting to work!
I like to have my tools out where I can see them to inspire me (and so I don’t forget I have them.) There were big mirrored closet doors in this former bedroom so I stuck suction cup hooks to the glass on one side and hung supplies out in the open. On the other side I added white board contact paper. This is a win-win, because all that mirror creeped me out a little.
What supplies didn’t get hung up went into labelled drawers, sorted by types such as glues,stamps, paints, etc.
Behind those mirrored doors is my knitting stash in bins and drawers and a few more art supplies.
Across the hall, I took over half of our seldom used guest room for my quilting. It’s a long narrow room so my wonderful husband repainted some old shelving units. After I backed them with a cheerful blue striped wallpaper, we turned them sideways to act as a room divider and storage.
What I’ve learned from all this editing, tossing and organizing is that you can find space to honour your creative urge anywhere. If you’re feeling stuck because you don’t know where to start, start by sharpening your focus. Maybe you have too many choices and it’s time to edit your options so you can apply your imagination to space and time.
I recently saw a video about creating art calendars for journaling. Not long, expressive journal entries but rather a place to capture a single moment from a day that you want to remember. That really appeals to me because it’s those small moments that are so precious. One thing I regret now that my kids are all grown up is that I didn’t take time to capture more of those moments because they’re lost from memory now. Even the ones you think you’ll never forget.
However, it’s never to late to start so I’m excited about this new project.
This month I decided it was high time to develop a more consistent creativity habit. I started out with the ambitious idea to create an art journal and work in it every day. Then I realised making it TOO big is always a recipe for failure for me. So I scaled down my vision for now.
I wanted it to be do-able as well as something I looked forward to. Now I’m spending time every day partaking in acts of random creativity. Often that involves me, my sketchbook and a pencil curled up on the sofa while I enable my husband’s TV addiction.
Doodling feels less serious and I can always manage ten minutes for a doodle. However, I’ve found that once I get started, I just keep going. And I’ve been faithful in my new practice for over two weeks. A good learning on my part. The key for me apparently is keeping it simple so that resistance can’t kick in.
Recently, I spent an evening sketching random bits of castles – or at least the way my imagination pictured a castle. (I blame a Harry Potter movie binge for this.)
Starting with simple squares, I added bits and played with perspective here and there, just to see what would happen. Then, when I had some ‘raw material’ I liked I pieced my personal castle together.
What I ended up with tickled my imagination. So much so that I did a 6×8 watercolour the next day. Now I’m thinking about making it bigger and going ‘looser’ with the watercolours.
Fun, simple and creative explorations that might be the start of something more. Plus it made me think: “How often do I stop short of doing something because my plan feels too big and overwhelming?”
I didn’t need a fancy plan or a buildng permit to build my cloud castle. And I’m pretty sure some fairies moved in…
What’s in your sketchbook?
Recently I went for a walk beside Lake Ontario along a beach made up entirely of water-smoothed stones. I picked up a few, thinking I’d like to try painting on them. When I got home later that day I put them on the counter. To my surprise, a pattern emerged. The random bits fit together, like pieces in a puzzle.
It was one of those AHA moments. I realised my life had been feeling like that earlier this year. A lot like those stones jumbled up in my pocket, Nothing seemed to fit any longer. Roadblocks. Unexpected endings. No clear path.
Then, over the course of a few days, it started piecing itself back together. A pattern is emerging and it’s surprising me because it doesn’t look like anything I expected.
Here’s what those rocks told me. Keep going. Don’t force order onto things when you’re still in the gathering phase. And let go of the outcome because it probably won’t look anything like I thought it would. That’s part of the process. Trust and relax.
And the gaps? To paraphrase Leonard Cohen:
” Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Some days feel so far from where I meant to be at this time in my life. I dream of creative exploration but spend too much time navigating the ‘real world’. I took a wrong turn somewhere. A Personal GPS would be handy right now.
As a child growing up in a home where mental illness existed I learned early on that anything that took attention from my parent made me “bad”. To answer a creative calling was the most suspect thing of all. “Useless. Selfish indulgence.” Something to fit in after the ‘real’ work was done. Which, of course seldom happened.
Claiming my creative voice was first and foremost a declaration of independance.
Regardless of who we are and any early conditioning we experienced, we have to be very brave to make art. By its nature, art is a different way to see things and different always challenges someone, somewhere.
Personal and unique are essential qualities of any creative process and its product. But art exposes the heart of the artist.
And that’s scary. To see the venom some people can spew I only have to explore social media. It takes an extremely courageous heart to step into the line of fire totally exposed.
I do lots of creative things. Painting, knitting, quilting, collage; but it’s in writing that I find the edges of my fear. Art needs to skate that edge.
I have two novels partially completed exploring topics that frightened me away from the work. I put the work away fearful of what “they” would say. My heart felt too tender for blunt blows.
Am I brave enough to go looking for that missed turn?
Suddenly, possible regret for the road not traveled is more frightening than anything “they” might say.
The lake is frozen so deep the ice fishing huts huddle near the center of the lake, looking for open water. They tell me the fishing is good this year but the idea of sitting out there leaves me cold. (Pun intended.)
The dog makes quick work of his ‘walk’. It seems like the door barely closes, when it reopens and my husband and the pup hurry back inside.
We’ve given up making weekend plans because the weather conspires against us. Just when it looks like there’s a window of opportunity to visit the kids, the forecast changes and snow descends again. So we stay put and relax by the fire without guilt. There has been a lot of movie watching this season.
This is also the year for knitting. And if the weather keeps up like this much longer I may finally do something I swore I’d never do – an afghan. The idea of something to snuggle under even as it flows off my needles is appealing at the moment.
I prefer short term commitments, like socks and hats. Even a sweater challenges my attention span. I have two completed. Rather, almost completed. They are languishing in a basket, waiting for me to sew them up. Truth is, I’ve lost interest in them and have moved on to other loves.
It’s the process I love more than the finished piece. Colour moving through my fingers. The challenge of lace or intricate cables. Even the possibility in a pattern is part of this. Where others have stashes of yarn (and I have one as well) I have a stash of patterns. More than I could knit up in a lifetime.
Although, with the way this winter is playing with us, there might be enough time.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles to fit creative time into my life but I wonder if those of us who have our own business find it doubly hard? There’s always something more to do and never enough time to get it all done. And somewhere inside there’s a meter running. Our hours get measured out by the dollar rather than the joy.
That’s certainly been the case for me this winter. I am busier than ever in my business which leaves me less time for the simple pleasure of making something with my hands. I miss the quiet time spent piecing together a quilt. I need the mindfulness that comes when I paint.
Thank goodness I manage to get some knitting in. It quiets my ‘busy brain’ and provides a much-needed break. Even a few rows is progress and serves to remind me that everything is a process that happens one step, one stitch, one stroke at a time.
But I’m hungry for more.
Which is why I took a few minutes to blog about it this morning. Kind of a reminder to myself that there is more to my life than dollar signs.
Don’t get me wrong. As a small business coach, I find it extremely rewarding to help people take control of their own success. It’s creative work as well. ( The ultimate for me is working with other creatives who want their passion AND a profit.)
So, if I were coaching me, here are 3 tips I’d give myself:
1) Step away from the computer.
Shut down email and internet. Turn off the smart phone. Close the tablet. The business side of your business will always be there. Unless you’re in emergency services, nothing you do involves blood and mayhem. It can wait.
2) Be prepared.
Have a project set up and ready to work on so when you have 10 minutes, you don’t spend it getting out the supplies you need.
3) Just 15 minutes.
Shift your thinking about time. You don’t need hours and hours of free time. You’d be surprised at the progress you can make in just 15 minute intervals. If you can write 500 words in 15 minutes, you could get the rough draft of a novel done in a year.
What works for you? How do you find time to balance your creative call and other responsibilities?