When I close my eyes and picture myself in the future, I am painting huge canvases in a studio that looks a bit like Picasso’s one in the south of France. Sunlight streaming through windows, the beach only a short walk away. I will wander through meadows, and live in a house that looks just like Frida Kahlo’s Blue house. There will be windchimes everywhere, and the aroma of fresh coffee and almond cake.
Yup. Sometimes I have a very loose grip on reality (Oh, and by the way, I don’t even drink coffee!).
I’m a big, soppy dreamer.
I think that’s a given with most artists – overactive imaginations and a fear of inertia are apparently the norm amongst us creative types. However, life often gives you something very different from your dreams. Take my life for example: I work from home, have two kids, and live in the suburbs, so my life is riddled with routines, repetition, and not much in the way of wandering through meadows. I won’t lie, it can sometimes bog me down and drag me into anxiety driven yearning for change and stimulation – that’s what fuels my frequent trips into the city. But I can’t be mopey all the time, I need to get on with things. I am a parent, I own a business, I have a lot of projects on the go (and dreams to realize). I can’t just give into ennui.
The artist Chuck Close once said that “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.” He is right, and I am forever on the lookout for ways to stay motivated and productive. Every few months I shake my routine up a little and add elements to it that will keep me on my toes things during my work day. I go through super productive periods followed by periods of chaos and procrastination. Here is what is working for me at the moment.
The Learning Hour
Sounds like a BBC daytime programme!
Everyday, from 3pm-4pm, (that time of day when I normally start to slump and snack mindlessly) I dedicate an hour of time to developing a skill, or learning something new. Right now, I am taking an online course called So You want to be an illustrator? by Lisa Congdon. In the future, I plan to develop my watercolor and lettering skills, and sort through my portfolio. It’s only an hour a day, so things are developing slowly. However, do not underestimate the power of learning new stuff. The Learning Hour gives me a burst of energy that seeps into the next day as well. It’s so important to stay current, and evolving, and to not produce work in isolation. I think everyone needs to incorporate a Learning Hour into their day.
The Chopped Schedule
Working from home gives your schedule a lot of freedom – maybe too much for the likes of me. To deal with my general wiggliness and short attention span, I have adopted a technique used by the best preschool teachers. I write a schedule each night for the next day, chopping my day into short chunks and mixing up my tasks so my day is varied. This tight structure works for me at the moment because I am working on so many different projects and can easily feel overwhelmed by it all. Here is an example:
8-9.30am work on canvas, 9.30 -10.45 sew shirts for markets, 11-12.00 yoga class, 12.15-12.30 lunch, 1.00-3.00 write curriculum and respond to emails, 3.00-4.00 learning time, 4.30 kids get home. After the kids go to bed: sew shirts.
Sounds uptight and scary? Well, that’s just because this happens to be a particularly busy time of year for me. Not every day will be structured so tightly, and some days focus on certain projects more than others. Last week, I’m was makeup artist for my daughter’s school play performances, so things were a little more crazy than usual, and I worked more in the evenings. Right now, this helps me stay on top of things.
I make time for my yoga practice and dance classes during the week, because they keep me happy and vital, and I refuse to feel guilty about it. With a job like mine, people often assume that I am really not working full time, and mistake my relatively flexible schedule for an emptier schedule. I am learning to look people in the eye and say “Actually I run my own business, and that is not easy. I often work in the evenings and on the weekends, and my brain hardly ever stops thinking about Noctiluna.” I’m learning to say no to some of the things I get asked to do, and I’m learning to speak confidently about my work. Sigh.
If you own a small business, and work from home keep on going, and realize that there will be tantrums, stress eating, people who don’t understand what you do, and times when you wish you had a 9-5 job. But as my husband says, “keep going, and one day that studio by the beach will be yours”. All my love to the hard working dreamers out there.