I am secretly annoyed when people ask me “How do you do it?” I have a job. I make art.
My first thought is that any young mother is ten times as busy as I am. It’s just that she doesn’t get the public accolades of an art show. Her project is her child. How do young mothers do it?
Here are a few hard-won ideas on how to make time for art.
- Do your art first, before anything else. Use your best time of day. Twice a week I go to the studio and work from 6AM to 7:30, then go to work. I have an alarm clock set in the studio to remind me to leave, just in case I enter flow time or art trance.
- Keep notebooks everywhere, not just in your home or studio. That’s right, have duplicate or triplicate notebooks. You can do some studio time in a notebook, but it has to be there. Sketch and write down poetry, daily junk, and ideas. It’s not important which notebook is your art notebook and which is a daily journal. Mix them up. The important thing is writing in them.
- Remember that even if you had more time, you wouldn’t necessarily do more art in it. Work in what you have right now, rather than get lost in a resentful dream state about your “other” imaginary life, which has both more time and more money, and in which you are better-looking. This is easier said than done.
- Make a contract with yourself or another person. That’s what the Caerus Artist Residency is all about: a simple support structure for art time and work for two weeks.
Impose a commitment and yes, gasp, a few limitations on time and energy. Be accountable to yourself and a few other people as well.
- Stop work when the painting (or your art form) is going well. Leave it in a good place. Do not work until crazed exhaustion and retinal eye spots begin to appear. If you stop when your time is over, and the work is going well, you’ll have an eager feeling when you hit the studio again. JUST PUT THE PAINTING DOWN AND LEAVE THE ROOM.
Don’t over-dramatize or over-romanticize the time needed for art. Routine is not a dirty word for creative work. It’s the fuse for the fireworks. I know you know this already. Just sayin’.
Book recommendation: I found The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield incredibly useful. We make war on our own resistance. Though I don’t like war and warriors as a metaphor, he uses it beautifully, and it’s one of the best books on artistic discipline I’ve ever found.
I liked this recent article by Aimee Bender called “A Contract of One’s own. You can read it here. Both authors are professional writers. I’ve often wondered about the difference in time needed for writing and painting. Painting, I found, requires more time and more “stuff.” Anyone else have an opinion on this?