RealJob is on an annual cycle and this tends to be the denouement of the year: a calm few weeks winding down though there’s still plenty of work to do. It’s still shocking to me that I decided to combine the usual April frenzy at RealJob with intensive daily stitching on that flapper design at home. But now it feels good to take a day or two to bask in the glory of a stitchery “finish,” reassess the ultimate goals for the project, and ruminate on process and product.
The next two designs to stitch are all queued and cued up, but it feels good to make sure to choose the next one wisely. Eh, I’ll likely choose to work on both at once.
I happened upon a three-week series on the daily rituals of “successful” artists and scholars over on Slate. [How do I (or we) define "successful"? That's fodder for another day.] It’s not a particularly deep analysis, but presents interesting categories of habits that affect both creativity and productivity.
Here’s a run-down of the categories (in the same order as the posts in the series) with my own navel-gazing observations. I get questions about these things all the time, so I’ll treat this like an FAQ. Please keep in mind that we are all different, so your responses might vary; it doesn’t mean either of us is wrong.
1. Have a daily routine. While I do have some strongly ingrained habits, every day is different around here in many ways. The times when I am most successful all-around are when I do adhere to some disciplined plan of action, however. This is elaborated on in the details below.
2. Wake up early every day or burn the midnight oil every night. The articles separate artists into one of these two categories. But I am both. I wake up at the same rather early time every day—weekday or weekend. On the other hand, my concentration is most intense late at night. So I’ll push the limits and stay up to work on RealJob all night, switching over to a bit of art or design if I’m still awake at quitting time. So…do I sleep? Yes, however, life is too short to spend it sleeping very much, especially when there is fulfillment in what fills the waking hours.
3. Drink buckets of coffee. And maybe consider uppers? Coffee is the reason for life and it is a reliable hero after long nights of work. When the year is at its busiest, I’ll go to 2-3 cups per day. I prefer to keep it to just 1 and only in the morning. So this comes nowhere near the the amounts chronicled in the article. [Balzac drank 50 cups per day!] There is inspiration in the bean, but it’s good to avoid the twitches. And we should all definitely skip the amphetamines.
4. Drink booze, but not while working creatively. Okay, if you say so. Only clear liquids get anywhere near the work areas anyway. It avoids some heartbreak caused by my perennial clumsiness.
5. Don’t eat much. I graze, choosing small servings of healthy options and eating only when hungry. When immersed in any sort of work, though, I just keep going for hours and hours and forget to eat. This has been a challenge for decades.
6. Take long walks. Take breaks. It’s a chance to disengage and tease latent ideas up into the consciousness. Although I almost never do so, taking an afternoon nap can sometimes be restorative and yield a second wind.
7. Without guilt, I definitely procrastinate. Mine is a productive procrastination, in which non-concrete preparation for postponed tasks is ongoing. I guess this is not true procrastination, but there’s still an element of motivational anxiety pushing through to deadline with an eye on quality. I’m almost never late and even more rarely early.
8. Have a day job. Yep. Although it takes time, there is stability and great personal reward in mine. When I try to spend vacations just making, I end up wishing for daily structure including time spent doing something else.
9. Embrace solitude. Indeed, I revel in silence and thrive in solitude. Carve out the time (by staying up late or getting up early, perhaps?) and indulge in some sustained concentration.
10. Don’t wait for inspiration, always make stuff. These are words to live by. Of course, it’s not enough to have good ideas, right? We know the artists we know because they put their ideas into practice. Better ideas come to me while I’m figuring out how to make something else work. Not everything one makes will be amazing, but again you have to make things to find out where the amazingness is to be found.
Each of these is fleshed out a bit more in the series over on Slate. Any maybe we can explore more in the realm of textile art? There are constraints we face that are different from other artists. Eh…we’ll see.
Have a great weekend!