How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. -Annie Dillard
Several weeks ago I made a change to how I spend my days. I always had great intentions for working on my art projects but somehow things never worked out the way I planned. I would look ahead in my schedule and find big blocks of time when I could work on projects, evenings after work or sometimes as much as a whole weekend day. And the time would come and I would be too tired after working all day or I would have chores I needed to do for the week or I would get distracted and play around with a new idea and my projects would languish.
This past summer I started getting messages from the universe about frequency. It seemed everywhere I looked there was a message about doing your creative work daily, even just for a few minutes. In my explorations for Selina Barker’s Project You class I stumbled upon this book, particularly the essays by Mark McGuiness and Gretchen Rubin. McGuiness writes that when we spend our time on “reactive” work, doing all the tasks we think we have to do before we start out creative work, we never get quality time for our creative work. Sound familiar? McGuiness argues we should do our creative work first, at the time of day when we are at our best, every day, even if just for a short period of time. Those steady small doses will add up to something of value far sooner than all the good intentions in the world.
a small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules. – Anthony Trollope
This essay, along with one by Gretchen Rubin on the benefits of frequency from the same book led me to examine my creative work habits. And to see that they weren’t working.
After reading the Annie Dillard quote above, I realized I wasn’t spending my days as an artist and I wanted that to change.
The young cats like to wake me up early. Instead of arguing with them about how much more sleep I’m allowed to have, I started just getting up and working on my art projects. And I love it! Quiet, uninterrupted time every morning, sometimes as little as 15 minutes, is leading to significant progress. I’m never ready to stop when it’s time to get ready for work, which means I’m excited to come back the next morning. And it’s easier to focus on a project when I’m always excited to get back to it. Working on art every day means I think about art every day so inspiration is constant. And suddenly I have time (and mental energy!) to work out new ideas as well as plug along completing things I’ve already started.
This small piece is an offshoot idea from a larger piece I’m working on, a series really, of folk-art inspired stitched collages. Working frequently means pieces like this actually get made, rather than just floating around in my mind waiting for me to find the right time to make them.
Of course I don’t manage to get creative work done every single day. I’m struggling with my weekend habit of getting the chores and errands done before I’m “allowed” to play. But I’m creating first enough days that it’s becoming a routine. And it’s changing how I spend my life.