Maintaining Creative Output

I was afraid I would lose momentum when I arrived to Montreal.
These days, I feel anxious at anything that takes minutes away from sitting down with my sketchbook or my watercolours.

I get grumpy.

Losing momentum translates to:
Cancelling social engagements. I make excuses, I postpone, I rather not…
Next, I start “killing time”, if I have 30 minutes between being ready and having to leave for work, I will grab the phone and fiddle with it.

My to-do list grows and never decreases. It gets filled with ideas that don’t materialize.

How, in the face of daily life, can you maintain creative output?

From 5 to 8 hours of creating to zero

Resisting daily life, resisting what one has to do: going to work, doing the laundry, cleaning the kitchen, grocery shoping (gasp!) only creates a painful craving for alone time. This craving can also cause creative block once you do find those precious moments to sit with your art.

Right now I’m not happy. A zillion tabs are open in the browser. Library books are waiting on my desk, my fine brush hasn’t touched water in three weeks.

This is the dangerous zone, when you lose the habit that was effortlessly built.

If you want it back, it won’t be easy.

Magic Schedule

Last year I experimented with extreme schedules. Each week I broke the day into 30 minute chunks and I assigned a task to each chunk. I used a timer.
It was hard, but I have never been so productive. It looked like something like this:

30 min Work Out

30 min WO

30 min Shower and dress

30 min commute to job

30 min process online orders

30 min work on newsletter

10 min work email

30 min create graphics for website and other materials.

30 min newsletter

10 min personal internet time

30 min upload new products onto site

30 min newsletter.

Basically, at the end of the day I had managed to work 1:30 minutes on the newsletter. If I had blocked that time in one large chunk to work on it, I would have gone down the black hole of the internet within 15 minutes. This way of working helps me to not get bored, to focus for short periods of time and to keep a record of everything I did on a day. The timer is important.

My plan for creative time

I am going to assign 2 hours, four days a week to draw and paint. Not counting weekends.

I expect weekends to be more laid back. Although Web Development takes up a lot of that time.

Is it doable?

I’ll find out.

How I plan to structure this creative time:

  • 20 minutes for warming up, this is doodling, playing with colour, trying out materials.
  • 40 minutes of practicing something, it can be shading, proportions, line, washes, colour mixing, etc.
  • 1 hour to make something, even if I don’t finish it that day, something that eventually could be a finished piece.

This sounds to good to be true. What are the challenges?

During this time there are a couple of things to consider:

  1. I can’t waste time setting up. If I’m going to do this I need to arrive at the desk and not waste 15 minutes thinking what I’m going to do. This is a major challenge for me because I’m by nature, not a planner. People who create regularly might be lucky to have a studio or even a small space where they can leave everything lying around and just let inspiration hit. I don’t have that.
  2. What to make.
    I understand why people make series of things. It’s a long term project without the boredom. Every piece belongs, yet it’s different.
  3. Focusing on the process and not the results.
    Easier said than done. Every artist has got to wage a war with this. The only creatures capable of this are children. But, being aware when impatience gets a grip might help.

If this works out I will be working a minimum of 32 hours a month on my art.
Not bad!

Additional time will be welcome but this frees up the stress and the grumpiness that comes with having to sacrifice creative time in the name of daily life.

How do you make time for what you care about or for yourself?

Give me a shout on Twitter!