How Do You Find the Time?

flourish, photograph

“If I don’t practice for one day, I know it; if I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it; if I don’t practice for three days, the audience knows it.”

– Ignace Paderewski

Do you find that as an artist you need to limber up – you know, flex your creative muscles before undertaking any serious work? Or do you dive right in? Is there a specific ritual that gets you warmed up?

What happens to your work if you can’t do it for awhile? Does it feel like you have regressed or can you pick up where you left off? Has this ability changed as you have progressed in your own art career?

As a photographer, there are some constraints about when I can practice my art. It’s hard to do at night, for example (though there are some things one can do then). Add to that that I run a small business full time and have family duties and I find that my time to do photography usually comes in short randomly spaced bursts of time. I might have a couple of hours here and another hour there. Rarely is it even as much as a full day.

So I have to dive in and make the most of that time when it appears. I’m sure my work would be better if I could do it more regularly. One thing I miss about painting is that it was a little easier to do, since it all occurred in my studio and I could do it whenever I had a little time. There was less dependency on the external world being in a certain condition – perhaps that’s one reason I was drawn to do abstract painting (even less external dependency).

I have recently been trying to create more discipline in my photography by focusing on projects that are self-assigned. When I have a deadline, even a self-imposed one, I find I plan a little more and make more time.

What strategies do you use to get yourself to create more time in your schedule to make art? Maybe I can steal one or two…

9 responses to “How Do You Find the Time?

  1. I understand your pain…
    I set up personal deadlines myself, which are usually set for Sat or Sun since I am a stay at home dad of a 15 month. I fully agree with your posting this evening. Good luck in gettin’ it done!

  2. I constantly berate myself for not practicing, Bob. I never take the time to improve what skills I have, and accuse myself of being lazy. I always leave rehearsals for big shows until the last minute. (Today for example, I will at some point drag myself into the studio and run the set for tomorrow night in Germany.)

    One of my skills, however, is the ability to improvise, and even walk in on a band I’ve never played with and just ‘get by’. It’s a great skill to have, but it makes me a little lazy, and I’ll never be a virtuoso. But the real key here is enjoyment. I need to love what I do. When it becomes a chore, it is of no interest to me. So I do what is needed to perform the song, and no more.
    Lazy? Perhaps. Minimalist? Definitely. But in the words of the Golden arches: I’m lovin’ it!

    • Kev

      I admire your ability to keep perspective and stay focused on enjoying yourself. We artists tend to take ourselves so seriously sometimes.

      Somehow, when I read what you go through to perform the last word I think of is “lazy”!

  3. This is a fabulous, sensitive and striking photograph. Wow.

    I realize now that time isn’t something I will finally “manage.” It is always a process. I’ve been away from the studio for a couple of weeks now, due to the holiday trip to be with family – people near and dear to my heart. And there is more of that coming up again very soon. November and December are not months of great productivity, and that’s just the way it is. Yes, I get rusty and I have to do some limbering in the studio to get back in the flow.

    Deadlines are a big help. But playing with my creativity is more than paint and studio time. Everyday I think, read and consider ideas that come to me – and that’s being creative. Writing is also a wonderful creative activity and I can often do that when it’s dark, or when time is limited. I say “no” to many activities so I can say “yes” to creativity.

    Coaching clients will often say they want time management skills – but I find they get the most from clarifying what they really want. If we know what we really want the hierarchy of how we use time changes. Great topic Bob.

    • Leslie

      Thanks for the feedback on the photograph – it’s an old one I never liked in color but I’m putting together a BW version of my figure work and suddenly I liked it!

      I think you’re dead on about time management vs clarity of purpose. A lot of us hide behind the wrong issue because we haven’t contemplated sufficiently what we’re really trying to accomplish. That’s much harder to do than figure out some way to improve efficiency a little bit…

  4. Bob, having just returned from another 48 hour 4 flight marathon in order to deliver a 45 minute set in Kiel, I have to agree with you – I haven’t felt lazy this weekend!

  5. ahhh– time– the crux of the whole creative process.. this time of year– I give it up to shopping, decorating, cooking, baking,cleaning, wrapping, card sending, enjoying my 3 sons when they arrive home for xmas– but the rest of year– I have the luxury of working in my studio in my home FULL TIME– and always have the discipline and drive to work in my studio 5-7 hours a day 5-6 days a week– the rest of the time is outside in my zen gardens. Getting to work is the best way to get past blocks and feeling lost, or inadequate. I teach workshops and this question of getting into the studio always comes up– I get up in the morning, exercise, get dressed and go to my studio, even on the beautiful sunny days– I never ask myself how am I going to get in my studio– I ask myself how am I going to get my errands done or the bathroom cleaned.

  6. I agree with Leslie and you that this is a beautiful photograph that works well in B&W. It suggests a theme caught up in a dance.

    My strategy:

    First–Go to the studio every day that one designates to be there. That once meant, open the door, look in and sigh, while closing the door slowly. But, eventually I opened the door and walked in–spending a few minutes there each day. This idea came from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

    Second–The hierarchy of things to do includes art. Art making is not separate, or extra, or a luxury, or an indulgence, or ___fill in the blank here. It is as important as making sure your business records are in order or your mortgage is paid.

    That said, when I played a musical instrument, I found that I needed to keep the physical dexterity intact the way Kevmoore stated. Drawing well requires this too.

    However, painting can be so expressive that ideas can incubate over time without practice and then burst forth in a new and mature way. Letting an idea or your right brain rest a bit can be a good thing.

    Well, there’s one more thing that has helped me. I played a trick on my fear of studio time. I told myself that I couldn’t paint on the other days (chore days) and that motivated created enthusiasm to work on the art days.

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