I was an artist for years but I did not really own up to it. I said that I was an artist but inside I did not believe it to a big part of me. I was also a mother, wife, teacher and more. All of them were even. As time went by, I wondered why my ‘artist’ self was not growing. Much later, I realized that I treated every part of my ‘selves’ evenly. I only allotted a certain amount of time to my ‘art’ self. As I let the ‘art self’ get more space in my life, my artist in me grew and got better. My artist persona took more of my time and my art grew.
Decide to be an artist. This is what you do:
1. Make a list of all the ‘selves’. This can be mother, father, care giver, mediator, daughter, son, etc…
2. Beside each self, write the percent of your life that it is…ie. 10% daughter, 8% student, 18 % artist, etc… Everything should add up to 100%.
Which of these parts could be smaller? Can you downsize some of these parts? Can you plan meals ahead of time? Can you shop once a week instead of three? Can you get a robot vacuum that works when you are not there instead of vacuuming yourself? These are just ideas to trigger you into finding time for your art.
Another example is the time you use travelling to your job and back. Are you driving? Get a recorder to record your ideas as you drive. Use your phone. I get great ideas as I drive but if I don’t get them down, they disappear.
If you take the bus, can you sketch or doodle your ideas? This is time well used. Can you doodle as you wait for children to finish their lessons? Can you doodle as you wait for your spouse? Or wait at the doctor’s office?
3. Add your extra time to your ‘artist’ self. This is time that you can be an artist. You can use the time to draw, sculpt, work out ideas and more.
4. The carving out of time for your art is part of being an artist. You need to allow yourself the time. You need to give yourself permission to be an artist and act like an artist. Say to yourself ‘I am an artist’ and then, just act like one. Do your drawing, sculpting or whatever you do. Do it now! Make time to do it now!
There are a lot of efficiency ideas out there. One book you can consult is ‘Eat that frog’ by Brian Tracy. What I gleaned from him is that you should do the job that you dread the most first. When that hard job is over, everything else is easy. Another person you could listen to on Youtube is @David Snyder. He discusses how you can change yourself to make things happen. You can also read this article on @Artwork Archive: https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/9-things-you-should-give-up-to-be-a-successful-artist. This article will suggest what you should give up to become an artist. You can also check out my class on Udemy.com: Basic information to get started in art -tip and techniques.
Looking on the positive side, it boils down to adding time to your art practice. Spend time with your artwork. Believe in yourself. You are an artist.
Intuition is also the friend of creativity if you let it. There are many ways to stimulate your creativity according to the book ‘Wired to create’ by @Scott B. Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (2015). Known to us as a ‘gut feeling’, intuition is that unconscious nudge that pushes us into action or that nagging feeling that we should keep going without really knowing why.
Kaufman and Gregoire say that intuition is a form of thinking and it arises from the link between conscious and subconscious. We need both. This interaction between the two helps us think, reason and create. You have the conscious mind that is more effortful and controlled and the subconscious that may be faster and more sophisticated. Both are needed for the creative process. As we move between the two, we get flashes of insight. Studies have shown that different regions of the brain are triggered at different times in the creative process.
According to studies, Kaufman and Gregoire suggest that there are steps to creating that insight. A good mood helps as it broadens your attention. Focus on happier thoughts. It is important to note that like most theories, there are exceptions and some people get their best ideas in a bad mood. If you had to choose, which would you pick? I would go for the happy mood myself.
Build up your knowledge base of a particular subject you are interested in or stimulate your brain with a new subject and you will be on your way to priming your brain for action. However, there is one problem. In the book Outliers by@ Malcolm Gladwell
said that 10,000 hours are needed to master a skill. Sometimes, more than that. Check out this article:
After you have enough knowledge of your subject, there comes delaying action and playing around with ideas (which I mentioned in an earlier blog) and this is a necessary step. You should take the time to just let the moment happen. So, in my world, that means allowing some time to just play with the ideas. Let the ideas come and go. Make a small painting or two using your ideas. Discard the bad ones and keep the better ones.
The authors also say that you should also allow yourself new or unusual experiences. Explore you interests that you don’t usually have time for. If you like diving out of airplanes, go now. Explore interests that you haven’t spent time on yet like collecting fossils, for example. If you have always wondered how Persian carpets are made, look it up. These activities should follow your interests. The important part is giving yourself time to do them.The desire to learn and discover are more important than any other factors. This drive for exploration is what provides the raw materials for the ‘insight’.
The insight happens during what is called Flow. A flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone. At this stage, a person performs an activity, is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.
Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975, the concept of flow has been adopted by many creativity experts. Kaufman and Gregoire say that what disrupts the familiar is what leads to new ideas. A balance between the intellectual, imaginative, aesthetic and emotional realm is important for creative work. Habit and convention are creativity killers. But, to create change that will trigger ideas, you don’t have to move to another country, just try something new. Try new skill, a trip to art galleries, a new food, a new kind of movie, a documentary on something that you have never heard of before and so on.
Mindfulness and flow go hand in hand. Remember that mindfulness is focussing on what you are doing in the moment. The roots of Mindfulness come from Buddhism. Like flow, mindfulness became popular in the 1970’s. Artists like Leonard Cohen adopted Buddhist beliefs and started practicing the basic principles. Steve Jobs, co-founder, chief executive and chairman of Apple Computers, is another person who adopted Buddhist beliefs and mindfulness in particular.
In more recent times, mindfulness has been used to increase functioning abilities in executives in order to increase concentration and flexibility in every day life. Mindfulness is also linked to greater memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The goal is to be present when those good thoughts arrive and remember them.
So what can you do? Kaufman and Gregoire present some interesting ideas that some of their research revealed. One person in their study wrote down one item every day that caught her attention or was ‘interesting’. This was material that made her more present in her life and made her notice what was around her. She was a seeker of interesting and a collector of interesting things.
What can we do as artists to imitate this idea?
-Draw one item a day.
-First thing in the morning, look outside. Draw the feeling.
-Take 5 minutes in your day and stop. Close your eyes. Smell.
-When you eat a new food, eat it slowly. Draw it.
-Sit for one minute and look around you. What do you see? What catches your eye?
Going back to the beginning, intuition, flow and mindfulness are all interlinked. Observation is the one skill that is closely linked to creativity. According to Kaufman and Gregoire, the one skill that creatives need to disobey is acting with awareness, because it restricts mind wandering, one of the key components of creativity. So as artists if we work on our projects, we work them one at a time. I have a hard time doing this. Mixed media work needs time to dry so I tend to work on 3-5 projects at a time but there is one point in the painting where I focus on just the single work. This is near the end of the project. I let my ideas flow just for that one work. Your challenge is to try this and see if it works for you. Find the right routine that will lead to better and better work.
Passion is not enough, sensitivity is not enough and intuition is not enough
For creativity to happen, more has to happen. You need passion, intuition, and solitude, according to the book ‘Wired to create’ by @Scott B. Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (2015). Kaufman and Gregoire say that most creative people can recall a time in their life where they saw, heard, sensed or tasted something that made them decide that ‘this’ is what they wanted to do in their life. They discovered their ‘passion’. In that person’s self, the individual and the activity intertwined to become one. The authors believe that this is what propels people towards their destinies.
However, the next step must happen. The individual must take steps towards that ‘passion’ and find the element in it that best suits them. A person needs to choose, develop the skills and be willing to put in the time needed to develop the skills. At the same time, the person needs to find a way to integrate that passion in their lifestyle.
Within the passion, there are moments of inspiration. First the person is inspired by something (a role model, an idea or an experience) then we start to see the possibilities of this change or idea. Kaufman and Gregoire say that the person is ‘awakened’ to the possibilities. The next step is important. Taking action or working towards that idea comes next. In there we must add a step; preparation or the development of skills. This means learning the skill needed to transform the idea or develop the passion.
If, in the development of the skills, you realize that you don’t have the muscle strength to become a wood carver, is there a way that you can take the same idea and use different materials. You need to try to develop the skills to find out. Moving in that direction does not guarantee success with the project. The ability to modify your idea and use different materials for example, is part of the creative process.
Kaufman and Gregoire say that inspired people are more likely to do more work hard because they are more driven. The idea or inspiration and the work ethic need to work together. The authors agree that not only does the person need to love the dream, they must love the process of becoming the person who can sculpt or paint. Perseverance in achieving that goal is essential. The person needs to be able to hold onto that goal for a long time in order to achieve or realize it.
Hope, according to Kaufman and Gregoire, is a driving factor. A hopeful state of mind pushes the person through tough moments or stages. People approach their goals not only with hope but with strategies that lead to success.
Solitude. No, you do not have to be a hermit. Kaufman and Gregoire say that a ‘room of one’s own’ is a basic need for most creative people. Some people make their own ‘room’ by getting up early or staying up after everyone else is in bed. Creatives need alone time but they are not necessarily lonely. The solitude gives the mind space to reflect, find meaning and connect all those different ideas floating around in their heads.
One book that describes this very well is Quiet by @Susan Cain (https://www.quietrev.com). Cain describes best the creative’s need for time away from the masses. A capacity for solitude is a sign of emotional maturity and it is a skill that can be learned.
Creatives tend to work alone and this is needed time for reflection. The mind needs time to settle down in order to ‘reflect’ on the day or the project. Internal reflection can also be done when the body is doing mundane tasks like washing dishes, laundry or other activities that are more or less automatic.
Sensitivity. Kaufman and Gregoire advocate that sensitivity is a gift. According to research, sensitive creatives have higher levels of awareness, see their world with heightened awareness and are more autonomous. For example, they might see ‘brighter’ colors or detailed textures.
Heightened sensitivity can be a challenge and an asset. Kaufman and Gregoire note that it requires spending more time alone. Creatives need to block out this sensitivity sometimes and at other times focus on it. To the sensitive mind, there is more to observe, take in, feel and process. Sensitive people pick up on small items or changes in their environment that others miss. Creatives also process things more deeply. For example, they are more affected by caffeine, medication and pain than others. The result for some is also a roller coaster of emotions and they need to channel that energy into something that is meaningful for their lives.
Do you want to know if you are a sensitive person? Ask yourself:
You absolutely abhor violence and cruelty of any kind. …
You‘re frequently emotionally exhausted from absorbing other people’s feelings. …
Time pressure really rattles you. …
You withdraw often. …
You‘re jumpy. …
You think deeply. …
Sudden, loud noises startle you. For more information you can go to:
Sensitive people detect changes in their environment faster, see detail more, are more sensitive to people’s expressions. Kaufman and Gregoire say that experiences of extreme adversity show us our own strength. As creatives, we are more sensitive to our environment. We feel more deeply. Adversity affects us more. However, that also gives us more material to work with. Being more aware, we are in a position to go beyond just what we see, touch, feel and experience.
Buddhists believe that anything that challenges you makes you pull yourself together. Growth after adversity. Kaufman and Gregoire quote research that says that 70% of trauma survivors report some positive psychological growth and it makes us more creative. Creative work can be a way of exploring and giving expression to that meaning according to Kaufman and Gregoire. Creativity doesn’t require adversity. It is just that adversity makes us more aware and being aware of our environment is part of creativity.
We reconsider things we took for granted, for example. We are forced to evaluate our life differently or ask questions we would not have asked before. We go beyond our limitations into another realm of thinking. In Finland this is called Sisu; the ability to face extraordinary circumstances, courage, resoluteness and an action mindset.
Creativity can also be a coping mechanism during a traumatic time or after a traumatic time. Kaufman and Gregoire say that when we engage in creative activities we tend to become involved or absorbed into the action. And entering a flow state that gives us a sense of control, enjoyment and accomplishment. Kaufman and Gregoire also say that creativity is also a sign that growth has occurred and is an expression of healing.
Adversity need not be a traumatic death. It can be reading a challenging book and finishing it. If this book challenges your basic beliefs, it is considered a challenge. Facing this challenge can lead to change. Kaufman and Gregoire tell us that the best way to get a creative boost is to take a risk and be prepared to fail.
As an artist can you challenge yourself to do something new like:
-Go to some new galleries
-Go visit some artist studios
-Go plein air painting
-Use some new materials or colors
-Go dumster diving for new materials at the Reuse Centre
-Watch some videos by master artists
In the next blog I will talk about intuition…See you then.
Creativity is a way of life or a life style or interacting with the world according to the book ‘Wired to create’ by @Scott B. Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (2015). The authors say that creatives have a tendency to be open minded, imaginative, intellectually curious, energetic, outgoing, persistent and self-motivated regarding their activity. This gives them a greater sense of well-being and personal growth.
People who set aside time in their lives for their creative side have more of what is called ‘creative potential’. Just the act of creating increases the person’s creative abilities. They derive enjoyment from the act of creating therefore they tend to get MORE creative ideas. Having time to take risks in their creative endeavor, personal reflection, daydreaming and inner exploration help people their unique purpose and identity. Kaufman and Gregoire have identified ten habits of ‘creatives’. These habits foster the creativity lifestyle that they love.
Imaginative play is the first trait that creatives all possess.
Play is essential is creativity. Play is considered a way to make sense of the environment in that children, in particular, rehearse their life, conquer fears or what they wish for. According to Kaufman and Gregoire play allows skills like planning, problem solving, organization of diverse content, language development, divergent thinking, curiosity, tolerance and general social skills. All play supports learning.
This is the time when, as an artist, you try new techniques, figure out what works and what doesn’t, choose what works for you and continue in your art practice.
Kaufman and Gregoire say that playing and seriousness need to be combined for the best results. Play gives us resilience, the ability to work through hard projects at work and thus increases your performance. Increased performance and play makes us happy. Who wouldn’t be happy if they managed to solve problems at work then go home to play or even have play time at work. Kaufman and Gregoire add that adult life does not allow for enough time to play. We live structured lives without time to daydream, imagine and play.
As an artist, how can you integrate more play into your practice?
Can you give yourself one day a week or a month to just play with media, ideas or other artists?
Can you pick up a brand new medium and try it out without reading the instructions or taking a class on how to use this material?
Can you bring yourself to the Reuse Centre to find something to make art with that you have never used before?
Can you put big pieces of paper on the floor and paint for fun?
Make a list of things that you could do. Every once in a while, pick one of these ideas and play.
Here are some links about creativity you might also want to see:
Creativity in everyday life — Artist and Studio CEO
When you start in artist business, you have no one to guide you and decide what you will do every day. Some artists end up unable to get themselves going. What you need to do is to think like a boss. Be your own CEO.
First thing in the morning, put on your ‘boss’ hat and decide what your workers (you -the artist; you -the social media expert; you -the marketing agent and you -the framer) will do. Make a list and give each of your workers a job to do for the day or the week.
Often what I do is take out my journal on Monday morning and sort out what needs to be done that week. Some artists insist that this should be done on Sunday night so that you get a head start on your week but personally, Sunday is a day off for me. There are times you need to rest so that you get those good ideas when you do get working and Sunday is my day.
Being a boss means making a plan for your business. There are all kinds of advice columns that you can search out. There are even free guides on the internet but my personal favorite is to just take out my journal, open it up to two blank pages and write down absolutely everything that I think I would like to do that year (or six months, if you prefer). I write down everything that comes to my mind. I also write down what I no longer want to do. This takes a while. I write until my brain can’t any more, go make art, write some more, make art and write some more. If need be, I give myself two days. Then, I put the journal away for a week.
The next week, I open up my journal and sort out what I wrote down. Sometimes, I am surprized what I did jot down. I take all the information and make lists. There is an art production list, a social media list, a list for applying to shows, a list for marketing, a list for activities that I want to eliminate or downsize and a list for whatever topic came up.
Some years there are new topics. Last year, I decided that I wanted to create an installation. I had a separate list for that one. Then, I break down each list into what I will do first, second and last. Prioritising is important. You cannot do it all at once. For the first month, I take all the number ones and they become my list of the month. Even that is overwhelming sometimes so I break down all the #1s into smaller steps that I can take.
All the items that are first on your list are the most important to you so don’t set a time limit on them. Chances are that you will be doing these activities a little bit all year long. Just because you start them on month #1 doesn’t mean you have to finish them before month #2. I find that the important items tend to be longer commitments. For example, one of mine was to blog more regularly. This is an activity that I have to do all year long.
I also find that the last items on my list rarely get done. They are the ‘nice’ ideas or ‘should do’ ideas that you really don’t want to do or you are not ready to do. For example, two years ago, my goal to create an installation was at the bottom of my list. I didn’t work on it but I thought about it a lot. I wanted a good idea, not just a ‘get it done even if it is not good idea’, so it stayed on the back burner. By the next year, I was ready. The same thing will happen to you.
Be your own CEO and get yourself organized. Start now. You can start planning now and don’t wait for the ‘right’ moment.
Creativity in everyday life — 3 Things that you didn’t know about abstract art
Creating abstract work is more difficult than you think. Abstract work is emotional, intellectual and conceptual. These are elements that touch our basic, primal emotions. Here are some basic points about abstract work to think about:
1. Abstract art can be about emotions. With abstract art, you are trying to create an impact. You want people to notice your work and react to it. This means touching their feelings. In contemporary work, the goal is not always to make a pleasing painting; it is about creating a reaction. This reaction can be positive or negative. If someone reacts and says ‘That makes me feel frustrated’ or ‘That makes me feel happy’ or ‘That makes me feel like…’, you have achieved your goal. You want people to react and comment. You want them to feel the emotion that you put into that painting.
You can create that painting by expressing your inner feelings or you can totally plan that feeling. When you make certain kinds of marks on a canvas like bold black calligraphic strokes, that provokes a kind of feeling that is different from marks made with soft pastel colours. Think about what you want to express. Do you want a relaxing feeling or an edgy one?
2. Abstract art can be about color and how colours react when near each other. There are artists that have spent their lives working on this theme. If you look at the work of Jack Bush and …., you will see that their work is about color. When one sits next to another color, a certain vibration is created. Try it. Put yellow next to purple then put yellow next to orange. You get a whole different feeling with each of these.
The impressionists were the first to experiment with color. Monet, placed dabs of color next to each other on his painting and expected the eye to do the blending. If you look at his water and garden series, you will see how he did this. Rather than put down a green, he would put down a yellow and a blue next to each other. The eye would read it as a green. Since his works a large and meant to be seen from far, this works really well.
3. Abstract art can be about the materials. Some artists like texture. Some artists like the way paint drips, blends and semi-covers other paint. The whole experience is about what the materials will do. Elements of composition are important too but what happens when thick paint goes over thin or vice versa is what is really interesting to some artists.
One artist to look at is Willem de Kooning. He was a Dutch abstract expressionist artist. He was born in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. He moved to the United States in 1926, and became an American citizen in 1962. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willem_de_Kooning He loved the paint and the way he could layer different colours, cause it to drip and layer some more.
Essentialism for artists based on the book by Greg McKeown. Third in a series
Focus on what is important now and create a routine to enable it — this is a third take-away that I have gotten from Greg McKeown’s book on Essentialism. One way to focus on the important is to decide first tand foremost what you want.
Do you want to finish your current project?
Do you want to join a board?
Do you want to volunteer some time a the local shelter?
Do you want to spend more time with your family?
Do you want to have more time to learn to play the flute?
Do you want to travel?
Do you want to spend more time with your aging parents?
Make the longest list you can of all the things you want to do. Fill multiple pages if you want to. There is no limit.
Pick the top three items ONLY. Under each category write down three things you need to do to achieve this goal.
Make a second list of five items to do after you finished the first three.
All the other items go in storage for later.
Prioritizing is a main proponent of Essentialism. You have now prioritized. You have three items to work on.
One of the things I like about McKeown’s book is that he says you need courage to follow your goals. This is true. First you need the courage to pick then the courage to follow your love of art. If you do not follow your own loves, others will fill your time and you will never get to your art. Making athe decision is the hardest. Your family will get needy and your friends will suddenly really need you.
You will need to be firm. You need to say that you will do art from x time to y time. Nothing will deter you. Then, after that time, they will have your time. Complaints will arise and whining will happen but it will stop. And, you will get your art time.
Routine is the key to achieving any amount of work according to this book. You create a routine, you will get work done every time. Even if the routine is only a half an hour a day, you are half an hour closer to your goal. Make a point of showing up to your work space and work will get done.
When you have a routine, your brain kicks in that it is time to work on YOUR work. And, it does. Creativity and great ideas come with a routine. Do not answer emails, facebook or even phone calls.
When I first started working in my studio space, there was no telephone line, no internet, no access by visitors to the doors to our studio. The studio space was uniquely ours. We went there and we were guaranteed to not be disturbed. I loved it. I did not have many hours in a day but I could work solely on what I wanted during that time.
Over several years, my studio space expanded to include many artists. We now have cell phones and internet. The space, to me, is still a haven for quiet. I shut my cell phone off, I deny my opportunities to surf the net and I close my door to visitors still. I have more hours in theory but I find that the greater socialization that is happening because the group has grown leaves me with the same small amount of hours.
I work as much as I can with singular purpose. I value my time by myself where I am uninterrupted. With the practice that I have with focussing on a task because I don’t have a large amount of time, I can get a lot done.
I agree with McKeown. Focusing is important and it is possible to achieve results by showing up. Overall, I have to recommend this book: Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
Deciding if you are an artist is a difficult choice. Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you like creating new items (paintings, sculpture, designs, printmaking, etc…)?
Do you create without any prompting? Without taking a class or someone else asking you to do this activity?
Do you sometimes daydream ideas while waiting for a friend, at the doctor’s office, while sitting there with your best friend or boyfriend who is watching hockey or some show you can’t quite relate to?
Do you move around the vegetables you are chopping for supper so that the colours look good together?
Do friends or family check with you when deciding how to put together some patterns or colours in their outfit or home?
Do you get told you dress in a unique style? or some other comment that is similar?
Do you love going to galleries or fabric stores just because you like the colours or patterns?
If you answer yes to a lot of these questions, you have the potential to be an artist. The focus word is potential. Not everyone wants to become an artist but if you do, there are still a few steps to take to get there. Talent helps but there are still ways to become an artist with only a bit of talent.
My firm belief is that if you want to do something, it counts more than talent. The desire to put in the hours is essential. There is an author and psychologist that says it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. The 10,000 hour rule — first proposed by a Swedish psychologist and later made famous in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers — states that exceptional expertise requires at least 10,000 hours of practice. Are you willing to put in those kind of hours?
Gladwell says that deliberate practice is essential to learning any skill. When psychologists talk about deliberate practice, they mean practicing in a way that pushes your skill set as much as possible. Like all popular theories, there are people that jump to find ways of disputing the theories. Check out this article :
Regardless of the criticism, practice makes perfect. There is a need to perfect your skills before you can actually say that you are an expert at a x skill. Are you willing to put in the hours?
People tend to think that artists are born and not made. This is a falsehood that continues to endure. Sure, you may have a tendency to pick up artistic skills easily on the surface but I have found that those surface skills are just that ‘surface’. It is almost like beginners luck. You have a natural skill just like some sportsy types have. Do you want to continue learning that skill? To deeply understand what you are doing, practice and development of skills is needed.
Do you really like the whole process and are you willing to put in the hours? Do you love creating? Do you love the ‘magic’ of creating something out of nothing? What is it you love the most? Are you willing to put in the hours needed? If you say yes to this, you have the makings of an artist.
Life as an artist is not easy. Keep that in mind before you say yes. Personally, I said yes before realizing that a career as an artist was harder than a career as a doctor. As a doctor, you have the benefits of being paid well and a certain amount of status. An artistic career does not guarantee this.
People will not realize the skill you need to be an artist. You need to be independent and say you love it regardless. Do I regret an artistic career? No but I wish someone had told me what I was facing. I might have prepared myself better. I still love art after years of working in it. There is a joy there that I have found rarely elsewhere. In fact, raising my children is the only other place I found this ‘joy’.
There are a few factors to keep in mind. Keep in mind that not everyone that plays piano will become Władziu Valentino Liberace or not everyone that plays a sport will become a million dollar player/earner. You may or may not become a famous/well known artist/internationally known artist in the process but you may become the local ‘go-to artist’. Is that good enough for you? You will be able to make a living but you will not be able to own your own plane on an artist income. Can you accept this?
The best advice that I can give is that you should find your ‘niche’. Find a spot you excel at and become an expert. Become the ‘go-to person’ in your area. No matter, if you love art, you will drawn to it and keep going back to it whenever you can. You will be drawn to artistic endeavours over and over again until you get the hint and make it your career. This is a prediction….
Sometimes, people resist commitment. Are you resisting? Even in minor ways like waiting to the last minute or making your goals smaller and smaller. Reasons vary. Did you make your goals too ambitious? If lack of time is a factor, break down the project into segments.
Sometimes, the odds of achieving the goals seem overwhelming. There is a way to trick yourself into actually doing something for yourself and your goals. Here is what you do:
1. Make a list of what you want to change or creative element that you want to add to your life.
2. Break down each goal into small parts. The parts should be small enough that you can do each step in 5–10 minutes.
3. Pick only one goal (of the list you made). Rewrite the goal and the list of steps on a separate sheet of paper. Use bullet points.
4. What is the first step in the goal? Can you do this today?
Here is an example of one of my own goals from long ago.
Goal: To make myself a space in the house where I could paint in watercolours. Just to put the moment in context, we had just moved to a new city and the house was full of boxes that needed to be unpacked. I had two small children (a needy 3 year old and a six year old that was bored because there were no friends to be had).
I worked on the house every day but I really wanted my own space in this new house. I also wanted time to paint again. I had just started again before we moved. Moving had put everything on hold. I had a doctor to find for the kids. A school to find for my eldest. A play group for my youngest. The box with their clothes got lost in the move so clothes to buy. No food in the fridge and dirty floors from the movers bringing the boxes because it had rained the day we arrived. It just doesn’t rain, it pours….
I arranged the children’s rooms first so they would have a place to sleep and play. I arranged the living room furniture and kitchen furniture. Where could I set up a space for me? For the first time, we had a family room and a living room. This was a bigger house than we had before. We only had enough furniture for the family room. This left the living room empty and free.
My eldest kept doing gymnastics in the big space that looked like a gym so I decided that we didn’t need living room furniture yet. I set up a small table in the far corner of the living room and separated it with a standing screen that hid (more or less) the table from view. At least the children did not pay attention to it since they could not see the table with interesting things on it.
My first step was to set up the table for my painting. Period. That’s all. I unpacked boxes again. The next day I found my box of supplies. I did not open it –just placed it next to the table. I unpacked boxes again and looked up doctors. After about 15 calls, I found one that would take patients. The next day, I found my references (this is in the days of printed photo references) and placed them in the spot. I unpacked again.
I am sure that you get the picture now. Now the rest is up to you….. Ready, set, go!
Taking time off is as important as working. That is what all the literature research says. I did not believe this in my early days. I kept working when I had two minutes here and five minutes there. I ended up getting work done this way, but I could not find the main goal in my minutes. I could make work; in this case, paintings. They were good and they sold but I felt like I was missing something. I could never find time to make the one year or five year plan. I wanted to have a main purpose to this creating that I loved to do. The purpose or main goal to my work did not exist. I did not have the time for it.
One day, the kids were at the pool with friends, my husband was away and there I was, sitting with nothing to do. The laundry was done. Supper was in the crock pot. There was no precedent for this in my life and I did not know what to do with myself. I could have rushed to my painting table but for some reason, I did not. I sat there. I started thinking about my artwork and what I loved about it. What I did not love about it. What did I want to do with it? I had a gallery that liked it. I was selling. My friends loved it. My husband put up with it. I had a lot of good elements going. But and this was a big BUT, I was not happy. Creating the product gave me joy but I wanted more. I wanted a longterm purpose.
So, sitting there, I picked up a piece of paper and a pencil. I wrote down what I thought would be the best longterm goals. I came up with creating awareness about art and creating the best product that nobody could resist. Then I stopped. This sounded like something I was doing for others. What did art do for me? Why did I like it?
I loved creating something out of a blank piece of paper, a pencil and a bit of paint. It was a bit like magic. I found it hard to believe that this magic came out of me. The creating also made me feel good. I did want that. What could I keep doing that would make me happy and provide something more to society. What did I want to provide? I was stumped here. I sat there and thought.
My list grew but I kept rejecting everything almost as I wrote it down. I did learn that brainstorming meant writing down absolutely everything that came to my head so I kept writing down. I was still writing down items when my kids came home. I had to stop. I knew that I was not done so I grabbed another piece of paper and tucked it in with my ideas. I had to keep writing.
Several days later, I was still writing down ideas in my minutes that I had to myself. I even volunteered to babysit some kids I found badly behaved in my babysitting coop because I wanted more time off. Their mom agreed to trade with me eagerly because no one liked babysitting her kids. They turned out to be well behaved because when they first came into the house, I told them the house rules.
I had learned this trick to babysitting from my mom when she had come to visit once and I had some of the kid’s friends over. They started not listening when they realized that the two adults were busy having a chat.
She stopped all the playing, sat them on the sofa and sternly told them the house rules in THIS house, right now and forever. The consequences of bad behaviour were included. I adopted this technique in my repertoire and it has worked ever since.
The time came for my children to go to her house. I took out my list and scanned it. None of the ideas of why I was doing art spoke to me. I did not know what to do. Did I need to stop doing art? My gut said no. Persevere! I started adding to my list. By the time the kids came home, I had decided.
In my art career, I had done portraits, still life, animals, landscape and designed logos. I liked it all up to a point. I could do portraits if I put my mind to it but I did not love it. The same was true of still life. I liked the arrangement of shapes to create a pleasing effect but again, up to a point. What I did really like was landscape.
There were all sorts of reasons not to pick landscape. Landscape was ‘out’ in the contemporary art world. Issues like abuse, poverty or politics were in. Again, I did not love ‘issues’. They just made me sad that the world was out of sorts. I loved texture, colour and light. I could find all of that in landscape. Landscape had enough variety to keep me interested. I could do different themes; trees, water, skies or even erosion.
Those were all the good reasons to say yes to landscape. What I needed to do now is decide how I wanted to treat the theme but that would have to wait for another long thinking moment in time. I felt happy. I had decided my purpose.
The kids came home and life started again. I wonder now what would have happened if I had not had that period of time to think about my work. Would I have gone on creating without a goal? This period of time changed my art life.
To come back to the beginning, take the time to think about your work. What do you really like doing. You have a limited amount of time, if you are a working parent and you need to use it wisely. I found out later that this moment of ‘aha’ is called flow. Wikepedia says:
Flow — the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task — is a strong contributor to creativity. When in flow, the creator and the universe become one, outside distractions recede from consciousness and one’s mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the king of flow. He wrote several books on the topic and I strongly recommend them. Flow is what happens when you create and when you get those wonderful ideas. Look at these videos:
These videos will help you learn how to enhance your creative side and be even more productive.