Come Doodle With Me!

Finding the Time to Create

One of the number one questions that I get asked is how do you find the time to do so much?

I wish I had a glamorous answer that would revolutionize the world.  But I don't.  Like so many other people I am sleep deprived.  I am a workaholic.  I often choose creating over a social life.  And I inevitably fall behind on due dates, deadlines, and my own expectations.

"Spare time" is like "spare change."  Nobody really has any.  In fact, I'll bet that if you polled 100 Americans and asked them what in the world they wanted more of, most would say time or money.  Given that most of us have a limited amount of the latter and all of us have a limited amount of the former, you have to establish your priorities.

I once read something that said we can only handle five priorities in our life at any given time.  For me it's (in no particular order):

  1. My family
  2. My marriage
  3. My theatre company
  4. My art
  5. My blog

Yours might look very different.  Some things that might be on your list:

  • kids
  • church/temple/religion
  • exercise/athletics
  • cooking/baking
  • housework/clean house/interior decorating
  • friends/social network
  • job
  • social media (doing or reading) - twitter, facebook, blog
  • TV/video games/movies
  • reading
  • writing
  • dating
  • travel

The list is kind of endless.  But, at least in my experience, while I do dabble in many of the things on the second list, they always give way to my five priority areas.  And the five priorities are still a lot of juggling.

My brother had a girlfriend who loved to exercise.  Loved it.  She would wake up in the morning thinking about the spinning class she was going to take after work.  She actively looked for ways to incorporate physical activity into her day.  Walking to work, taking the stairs, jumping up and down in her office.  These things made her happy.  And if you made plans with her, she would only be able to meet you after she had been to the gym.  And she really stuck to her guns every single day. 

You might suggest a 7:05 movie and she'd say, "No.  Let's do the 8:45.  I have a mini trampoline class."

Recently, a friend of mine asked me if we could hang out on Thursday.  I told her, "Sure, but that's my MoMA day.  So you'll have to come to MoMA with me."

As a result of our choices my brother's ex-girlfriend has a fantastic body and I have an extensive body of work.

So what if you already have five priorities?  Well here are six ideas to help you cram in some creativity:

  1. A dedicated space.  It doesn't have to be a whole room.  It can be a nook, a closet, a desk, an area.  But having a dedicated space allows you to leave things in process.  That means that you can walk by, move some things around, cut something out, and get a project finished in tiny bursts.  I work in fifteen minute bursts all the time!  (BTW: If having a dedicated space is impossible, try investing in some cookie sheets or simple trays.  You can create a moveable workspace.  Spread out on the trays and then stash them - under a bed, even under a sofa - when you need to clean up!)
  2. Make an appointment.  One of the girls on the Prima design team recently shared that she has a babysitter come once a week to watch her kids (she has FIVE).  While the sitter is there she has a few crafty hours to herself and manages to get everything done!  I know other people who attend a weekly crop at their local scrapbook store, or block out Saturday mornings as "their time."  Whether it's a few hours or a whole day, try to make creating a regular appointment in your week.  Think of it as a necessary task, like laundry, but much more fun!  And don't let other things get in the way.  It is a "must do."
  3. Carry a notebook.  I have a tiny moleskine that is in my purse, by my bed, or in my back pocket at all times.  Designing is the most time consuming part of any artistic endeavor.  And the good news is that you can write out your ideas, doodle little pictures, and do all that heavy lifting virtually anywhere.  Try carrying a notebook all week.  You'll find that when you sit down to create, things move very quickly.  It's simply a matter of assembling what you've already laid out.  And in a similar vein...
  4. Copy.  There's such an odd stigma attached to copying.  But it's a great tool for creativity and it allows you to create a lot in only a little bit of time.  I'm not saying that you should ever copy and try to pass it off as your own.  That's a never, never, never.  But I was at the Matisse exhibit at MoMA last week and one of the gallery signs explained why Matisse's teachers wanted him to learn his craft by copying the Old Masters: "It allowed the young artists to focus on methods of construction rather than inventing new compositions."  Copy and learn.  Copy and explore.  Copy yourself!  Made something you love?  Copy it in another color or with different materials.  And yes, always give credit.  I believe in karma. 
  5. Make artistic chicken stock.  You're more likely to cook a big meal if you have your chicken stock already made and your vegetables are already cut up.  It's less daunting.  You just have to put it together, you don't have to do all the prep work, right?  Well art making is the same way!  Have a free moment?  Throw some paint down in your art journal.  Cut out a pile of fabric hearts.  Have things ready.  I buy the already cut up cauliflower from the grocery store, even though it's more expensive, because I know I'll use it if it's easy.  Buy the pre-made embellishments.  Make it easier on yourself!
  6. Find a buddy.  Find someone in your area and make an art date.  Make a mess together and motivate each other to dedicate time to making art.  And if there's no one around?  Find an online partner in crime!  Challenge each other to use the same five supplies or try a new technique and then share your results over e-mail or on your blogs.  And don't be shy!  Why not invite a lot of people and start a group?  One of my all time favorite (and best for me) art experiences was joining an online scrapbook critique group.  It was very early in my artistic journey and I learned so much about design simply by having to type into words what I thought worked or didn't work about someone else's page and why.

In the end, remember that it's not a competition.  There will never be enough time to get done everything you want to.  We could all use an extra hour.  Or an extra limb.  So go easy on yourself.  Do what you can.  Enjoy it.  Tomorrow is another day full of promise.

Thanks for stopping by!