“To create one’s own world in any of the arts takes courage.” – Georgia O’Keefe
I’m still working on how to live a fully integrated – creative life. It’s funny that I am focussing on this right now because today was the first day since last April that I’ve been able to spend a full uninterrupted day in my studio. These past few months have made me think about my rhythms and the best way for me to work.
Creative momentum must be cultivated. It’s not an automatic self-sustaining condition. In my last post I talked about trying to be creative in all areas of my life no matter what I am doing. I wasn’t just talking about finding the time to be creative but to actually live creatively. We all have full schedules and lots of responsibilities that take us away from our art making. I’m trying to discover how to keep my creative momentum going whether I’m in my studio or not.
To be able to keep this momentum, I need to approach all my tasks as a chance for inspiration and renewal. If I can keep from being frustrated or annoyed about all the things that take me away from my work, maybe I will be able to notice more about the world around me. And that just might help, because I believe creativity must be a frame of mind – a way of looking and being in the world – not based on talent at all – just a way of being.
There’s that Zen saying, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” I take this to mean that all tasks are important. So to be a better artist, I need to notice everything – textures, smells — to be present in each moment no matter how mundane or annoying the task is. I believe everything you create has a lifetime’s worth of information contained within it. It’s the result of all you’ve seen and touched. If that’s true, then paying attention becomes very important. In fact, even though I may grumble, I find that stepping away from my studio and doing other work creates a little ‘mind-space’ so ideas can bubble up.
And then sometimes, even with the time to be in my studio, creativity and inspiration can be missing. I have a few things that spark momentum for me. Gardening is a big one. There’s something about being in my garden that makes me peaceful and it’s in that peaceful state I feel most creative. Taking a long walk or listening to music also feed my creativity and can be a source of inspiration. And of course just being in my studio is the best. What works for you?
This summer has also made me realize that it’s important to establish good working habits by actually scheduling time to be in my studio. With such a crazy schedule the last few months, it’s been hard to juggle my creative energy. Just because I find an hour or so to work, doesn’t mean I’m always in the right frame of mind to create anything.
There’s a John Cage quote that I’ve always felt is true, “The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.”
So I’ve decided to try and have at least 3 consecutive days in my studio. It’s easier for me to work consistently and not have my work days scatter throughout the week. My (new) plan is to be in my studio on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday leaving Monday and Friday for household responsibilities and I like leaving the weekends free for fun with my family.
This schedule is to be my work time. I’m not going to make appointments, wash clothes, answer the phone or email or think about what to make for dinner. This time is to be strictly for me. 3 days is important because I feel like when I first get back in my studio after a few days away, I need a little time to clean and organize. The physical action of just moving things around, touching my clay and paints helps to put me in the right frame of mind. And it’s also important to have uninterrupted time to follow an idea.
The only problem with these good ideas is inspiration and creativity don’t always show up just because you have a chance to work. That’s why I think weaving creativity throughout all your tasks is important, but it’s also important to give yourself a chance to experience new things and have some time for quiet nothingness. How do you keep yourself motivated and schedule your work time?
I’ve also signed up for an October encaustic workshop. I’d love to use clay as my canvas. I can’t wait to learn more!