It’s so strange to me that, as artists, we sometimes forget to (or simply don’t) make time to make art. Why is it that making time for art or creating a consistent creative practice can be so difficult when it’s something we were born to do? Maybe it’s our inner critic, saying you’re not good enough. Or a fear of failure, or success (that’s a real thing!)
I think that, for many of us, it’s kind of like self-care… it’s one of those things you want to do, you know that you should be doing, but when you have a million other things to do – like take care of your family, your home, maybe work a 9 to 5 job, or all the things that go along with owning your own business – not to mention having a life (some people still have those, right?!) making time for art can sometimes be last on your to-do list. And if it’s last, and the end of the day or week comes and you still haven’t done it, you just put it off. Again.
To me, art IS a form of self-care. Without it, I know I’m crankier, less focused, and more likely to feel sad for no real reason (other than the fact I’m not making art, of course!) But that doesn’t mean I automatically do it every day.
I actually have to schedule time to make art. With everything else on my own plate, I have found that this is the only way I’ll be sure to make art daily.
So I will literally write in my paper planner (I’m old school like that!) “make art.” Personally, I like to keep my schedule “loose” which means, unless I have a meeting or call at a certain time of day, I write down my top three things I need to get done on any certain day, and then I do them, as I feel like doing them.
This works for me because a). I’m a bit of a stubborn rebel (my mom calls it “willful” haha!) and I like to say that “I do what I want!” (But the fact is, I still have to run my business and pay my bills! 😂) And b). I like to work on things that my energy or intuition are leading me towards at any particular time of day.
I’ve been “planning” my days long enough this way that I know it works for me. But I also know it may not work for you. So if you know you’re most creative in the mornings, schedule time to make art from 8am-12 (or whatever times work best for you.) Or, if you’re a night owl, schedule your art time later. The point is, put it on your schedule. It’s really the most effective way I’ve found to make sure you make something, each day. Or, as often as you’d like… Once, twice or three times a week, or daily, Monday through Friday, etc. As long as it’s a consistent practice – and one you can keep up, long term.
Some other things I’ve found that help me keep a consistent creative practice are:
Schedule white space.
This one seemed counter-intuitive to me at first, but it’s one of the most effective ways I know to keep my creative juices flowing is by scheduling time to do nothing.
I know, it sounds weird. But I swear it works!
During this time, I can do whatever I want. Sometimes I’ll meditate (I have a daily meditation practice, but occasionally I like to do it more than once a day). Or I might read a book, take a walk around my neighborhood or down by the river by my house, take a long bath, etc.
Whatever I might choose to do, I always make it device-free. No music, podcasts, audiobooks, TV, Internet, etc. If I’m on a walk, I don’t want to think about what I could be Instagramming, I want to take in the beauty around me and simply enjoy it while I let my mind wander.
It’s during these white space hours that I most frequently come up with new ideas for my art and business. And if I feel inspired, I will start working on them right away! Because, besides my “device/distraction-free” rule, I can do basically anything I want during this time.
I can hear many of you saying, “Well, that sounds amazing for you, Jules! But I have 4 kids and I work 50 hours a week and I volunteer and, quite frankly, I barely have time to shower, much less schedule time to do … nothing!?”
I understand, I really do. Especially when my girls were little, and I had a web design business that I worked on about 60 hours a week. But even then, what I would do is, first go to bed early every night, and then wake up 30-60 minutes before anyone else in the house was going to be awake. Even if you can only schedule 15 minutes of whitespace (early in the morning, or whenever you can fit it in), a few times a week, it can be helpful. I loved those quiet mornings.
Take a class.
Taking a class in a local studio or community college is a great way to set aside time each week to make art. Plus, it’s always inspiring to me to be around other creative souls.
Teach a class.
Teaching a class is an amazing way to make time for art. Not only can you create things for yourself, but you can inspire others to make art, too.
Join in on a challenge.
There are tons of art challenges online. Last year I participated in the #100DayChallenge with Elle Luna. In the beginning, I was so excited! In the middle, I couldn’t wait for it to end (and seriously thought about dropping out almost daily.) But in the end? Those last 20 days or so? THAT was where the magic happened. I started creating in new ways, and really, truly grew as an artist.
But when it was over? I swore I’d never do it again! haha!
But guess what?
I’m going to! (It starts April 3, 2017, so if you want to do it along with me, it’s pretty simple: you just use the hashtag #100dayproject and then you come up with what you project and hashtag will be. Last year mine was #100daysofblackwhiteandpink — I’m still trying to decide what my project will be this year!) Even though I didn’t think I would do it again, I just don’t think I can pass up on that kind of growth. So I’m all in!
Get a Studio Space.
Having your own studio space can be great motivation for creating a consistent art practice. My friend and fellow artist Adri Luna recently told me, “Having a studio has completed changed my art practice! Before I would have things scattered all over my house, including the dining room table and living room. Even when we moved into a house that had an extra room I could use as my studio space I found when I was home I would want to watch movies or cook and I would end up avoiding the space. The room had excellent light but only during certain times of the day and it was the coldest room in the house which made it hard to work during certain seasons.
Then I found the perfect studio outside of my home. Now I have a dedicated space for all my materials so I never have to search my house for anything. Because it’s my studio space (in a large shared studio community) and it’s open I’m more inclined to clean up before leaving so I don’t come back to a mess. There is beautiful, natural light in the daytime and amazing lighting so I can work 24 hours without a problem. I’m able to take pictures of my work, which I was not able to do in my house, I can meet clients in a professional setting and collaborate with other makers. I have found a community I can engage who understand if I need to put headphones on and crank out some work.”
If you’re struggling to keep a regular art practice, I hope one (or more!) of these ideas will help you. Art may seem frivolous in such challenging times, but maybe it’s now more than ever before that we need to use our creativity as a voice for change. And that can mean anything from activism to simply adding more beauty to the world. Your art is important, and I truly hope you’ll continue to consistently make time for it and make it.