do it. create. walk and see. cut and paste. scratch and sniff.
do whatever you have to do to feed your soul.
this is my commitment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

the minimal landscape of a working artist

I loved receiving Brian Johnson's daily newsletter today and being reminded of this quote from Austin Kleon (Steal Like An Artist).
I'm a boring guy with a nine-to-five job who lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog.  That whole romantic image of the creative genius doing drugs and running around and sleeping with everyone is played out.  It's for the superhuman and the people who want to die young.  The thing is: It takes a lot of energy to be creative.  You don't have that energy if you waste it on other stuff.

When I read this, I laughed, out loud (AGAIN) for two reasons in particular:
1. Others could easily perceive my life as boring.
2. I think some people have a tendency to glorify or have romantic notions about the life of an artist.

But this also triggers a tender, vulnerable place within me because I do find it extremely challenging to stay committed to this creative life.  It DOES take A LOT of energy.  I may tell myself over the course of a day that I am "working" but if I have not consciously removed all the (millions of) potential blocks (what I have been able to - over the course of much time - identify as "unnecessary stimuli")  to my creativity, I am not really working.  And, for me, this can sometimes mean checking in with myself hour by hour, constantly adjusting or reframing.  Sometimes it can also mean making my to-do list the night before and doing whatever I can to stick to this list the following day without spiraling off course.

Of course this doesn't apply to the days I am completely absorbed in the act of painting in my studio: the studio I entered at 7am (or earlier), the studio I haven't left for over nine hours, the studio where I completely lose track of time and forget to eat.  These days probably wouldn't be perceived as boring to anyone.  But these days are very few and far between.  And, (as many of us do) I pine for these days.

I also believe that these "few and far between days" are less likely to happen unless I practice the day to day discipline that I have found works for me.  And this day to day discipline would definitely seem mundane to the average viewer.  Yeah, this life would definitely win least likely to ever be considered for a reality show.

What the day-to-day looks like for me (never in this order):

1. A LOT of sitting, writing and reading with warm beverages and/or my own version of liquid sunshine
2. a long walk (these happen a lot less often than I'd like)
3. drawing
4. idea listing
5. talking, texting or emailing other creatives
6. if I am lucky, I have a favorite tv show I can watch in the early evening
7. errands are ideally all done during one day of the week (not a weekend)
8. walking errands are really helpful and can happen whenever: post office, drug store, library, bank
9. on an especially good day, I meet a friend for happy hour - I love good company paired with good food
10. in the winter, I cook a lot of warm vegetable dishes, stews and soups
11. a glass of wine
12. early to bed/early to rise
13. designing/planning/researching
14. meeting with other creatives for support
15. exposing myself to other artists, their work, learning about their process

I have found that if I steer away from this list - which can be extremely tempting some days, other days it's just inevitable (life happens) something within me gets put on hold and I need to work even that much harder at tapping into my creative spirit.

If you liked this post, you might also like:
We've got it backwards.  It looks like this: Be. Do. Have.
How I Found Myself: 10 Ways
It Takes Our Undivided Attention (handle yourself with care)

It's just about that time of year again - the 12 Days of Christmas creative commitment is approaching! Keep your eyes out and consider playing along!

The 2016 New Year Creative Workshop will also be available soon!

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