The Open Window: Choosing Time for Art

Insights on Creativity by Quinn McDonald

You’ve heard it before. You are in a class and the instructor says, “All you need is ten minutes to do X. Do it right when you get up and it will be done.” The instructor is sincere, because the instructor has a routine and the routine feels about 10 minutes long. In reality, nothing takes 10 minutes, least of all right after you get up. If you lined up all those10 minutes you want to dedicate to exercise, writing, spiritual practice, organizing or pet walking, you’d have to start at 3 a.m. and stay up till midnight—and never go to that pesky day job.

So how are you ever going to get in a daily practice of writing, art, music, dance, meditation—anything—and stay alive?

I have an alternative suggestion. All of us have the same amount of time in a day—24 hours. They aren’t making any more. So getting up earlier or staying up later is not the issue. You are booked. Your day is full. If you want to create a daily practice, you have to choose. Avoid the word “prioritize” because it can leave a bitter after-taste. You are going to choose. Choose one thing over another.

For many artists, everything else comes before art. We got into that habit with the day job. Work came first, then kids, housecleaning and pets. Art came dragging along late at night. No wonder it didn’t contribute to your creative light. You treated your art as if it were an afterthought, not the creative force in your life. It seems fair to take care of everything else first, but when you put your creative work last, meaning-making takes a back seat to laundry.

Move art making as a daily practice to the top of the list. Fit in a day job, eating, and sleeping. Everything else drops down a notch, below art.

You not only don’t have to do all the housework yourself, sometimes it doesn’t get a priority at all. My house is hardly ever company-ready. Cat hair swirls in the corners behind the door. I don’t have dust bunnies; I have dust buffaloes. But I write, meditate and read every day—because I changed priorities.

I used to do all my chores on time—vacuum, dust, clean bathrooms, empty dishwasher, do laundry . . . the list was impressive. At the end of the day, I was too tired to be creative. Then I gave myself permission to let the housekeeping slide. Not forever, but some cleaning doesn’t get done until it needs to. Ask others in the house to pitch in. Don’t do it for them when they don’t. Laundry that isn’t perfectly folded can still be worn. If the sink backsplash has water spots on it, the sink is still clean enough to use.

Use the newly-found time to focus on your art, or reading or daydreaming, but don’t use it to check up on Facebook, watch TV or read blogs. Try daydreaming instead—it can be an important part of your creative practice.

 

Quinn McDonald is an artist and certified creativity coach who helps artists through transitions in their lives and work. You can e-mail your business-of-art questions to QuinnCreative@yahoo.com. Quinn is the author of Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art (North Light Books).


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