Can’t Keep up? Ways to Simplify Your Creative Life

We all know what is like being pulled in a dozen different directions.

You have galleries calling because they want more work, you have some events including Open Studio in three months, and the Annual Seafood Festival in a months time, an exhibition in the Autumn coming up which you will need to have some new works for…and on top of that half a dozen little shops between your city and the coast are begging for more cards and tea towel deliveries.

Your oldest is going through their exams, needing parental support and guidance and you booked a holiday which is for two weeks in two weeks time AND the dog has started to be picky about her food, which probably means she is sick and will need to go to the vet.

On top of everything, a local face has tipped you off that they are opening another location and they want some big dramatic works to offer to their clientele.   A big opportunity.

With no ‘stock’ in the studio, how can you create quick enough to meet demand, when everything you paint is sold before its finished?

It’s a feeling everyone can relate to, working to capacity and not meeting the needs; so how do we sort it out?

We have laid out some different techniques you might like to pick and mix to find what works for you.

Some aspects conflict so you do need to find that perfect combination.

Family First

As always the wellbeing of loved ones should come first.

From our little scenario outlined above, the exams seem pretty important, so put down whatever you are doing and ask your child “How can I help?  Do you need anything?  Do you want to talk about anything?”

Neglect them at your peril for if you do not have family or love, then what is left?

Yes, at times they can seem annoying, argumentative, ungrateful or selfish; but they are our tribe and when you look at the mess they have made or the trouble they have caused you; ask yourself what are the repercussions of not being part of the gang?

Squeeze the best experience out of them that you can while you can, because all too easily the loves in life can be taken from you, without warning and so the essence of life, love, must be valued as precious.

Just don’t sweat the small stuff.

Stepping Back

All too often we can be so close the apparent chaos of life that it can seem a Herculean task to unravel and understand what needs to happen first.

At times organising the first step, how far and in what direction, is the only push you need to get back on the horse.

By stepping out of the studio for a few minutes every hour, looking at the foreground, midground and background of whatever you see in front of you, your eyes will have a chance to relax and your head will begin to clean.

Depending on how much of a spaghetti junction your life has become, the stepping back might need to be a couple of hours, a few days a week or even a month off.

We all need time to take stock and recharge.

Taking One Step at a Time

When your means of coping start to creak under the pressure you have put yourself in; you need to remember that, it is all a choice.

You can stop whenever you want.  You can go and find a ‘normal’ job which has the same start time every day, where you get every weekend with no work, where you can get home and eat your dinner in front of the TV.

We would empathise if, like other extraordinary creatives, the mere prospect of ‘normal’ results in a cold sweat, a kind of living hell.

If you did have every weekend off with no work to do, what would you do for pleasure? Mightn’t you try your hand at what you now do for a job?

Therein lies the rub, what seems at first like a choice, a lifestyle choice is not in fact.  It is part and parcel of our core identity, who we are and doing is in spite of and because of who we are.

Taking one step at a time literally means thinking about each step before you take it;

  • What you have done?
  • What you are doing?
  • What do you need to do next?

Pausing to reflect on these three questions whenever you feel the panic rise in the pit of your stomach stop you ricocheting around like your in some sort of pinball machine.

Actions need to be considered and mindful.

Making the Most of Work Time

There is a phrase in our family

“I dont want you to work hard Lad, just fast”

It relates to the first job my father took.  His uncle had offered him some work on a construction site and on the first morning of his very first day at work, those immortal words were said in a broad Mancunian accent as the boy was directed to a large pile of bricks which needed to be moved from where they had been dumped to another place on site convenient to the bricklayers.

In truth, the job was the job.  How the job was done didn’t matter but the bricks had to be in place before a layer called for them.

How does this apply to artists overwhelmed by the world and being pulled Ghengis-fashion limb from limb; at least emotionally?

We have all wasted work time, sitting staring into the middle distance.  We might have sat for a week trying to think of a name for that new piece of work.  There is time for thinking and there is a time for doing.  Don’t waste doing time.

We may have sanded that fibreglass to perfection or taken our time stretching that canvas.

Did we do it fast?

There are some prep jobs which contribute towards perfection, but they do not need to be worked in a way that is sacred.  We can just get on and do the job in hand, which will enable the beautifying to happen at a pace which adds value.  Take your time where that is essential, otherwise; just work fast.

Seperating Needs from Wants

Wants are nice.  Needs are essential.

If you are up against it, cut out some of the wants so that doing time can be spent fulfilling needs.

Make a List

Writing down everything which needs to be done and having the satisfaction of crossing each item off the list, is a tried and tested means of getting productive.

Some people juggle lists in their heads, others are ‘list people’.  That’s OK.  We are all different.

I know someone who writes lists of lists.  There are lists for the day, week, different projects.  In fact, they might agree that a list is suitable in any occasion.

It is valid that the act of writing the list does allow the brain to process what needs to be done and by the time the list is written, some of the overwhelming pressure might simply vanish.

What Work Can be Delegated/Shared?

There are three different ways work can be delegated:

  • Can loved ones do some of the day-to-day chores allowing you more creative time to press on?
  • Can you engage a printer to print the cards or LE prints instead of printing them yourself, buying you time to press on?
  • Do you know anyone who is interested in collaborating and sharing some of the burdens?

Grass needs to be cut, the gate needs to be painted, bins need to be taken out, shopping needs to be done, bills need to be paid.  Think about what other members of your household can do instead of you doing all of it.

Creating prints can be laborious work.  Once you work out the cost of a printer, inks, paper AND YOUR TIME, getting a professional printer to do the layout and print work for you can be very cost effective.

Working with other artists on a piece, a project, show or exhibition can be fun.  Don’t carry the world on your shoulders, share the world.

Time For You

Getting time to go for a walk, breathe some air, look at the sky.  Try to appreciate the present.

Time For You can be going to Yoga or going down the pub to see a friend.    It might be laying on the floor in a dark room.

Whatever it is, build that into every day, week and month.

If you do not allow yourself to do exactly what you enjoy doing, you can burn out.  Burn out is bad.  Burn out can block your ability to be in the creative Zone.

Burn out to an artist is the same as writer’s block to a journalist or kryptonite to Superman.  It is something you must take time and effort to avoid, by giving yourself space.

Eyes On The Prize

For some, the prize is simply money.  For some, it’s about nourishing the ego.   For some its about the act of creating irrespective of sales or adulation.  Whatever it is that blows your skirt up, remember it, focus on it and achieve it.

Eyes on the prize means don’t get bogged down with distraction, procrastination of those things stand in the way of the prize.

Creating Capacity

One of my oldest friends makes tables and chairs.  His tables and chairs perform in the same way that any other tables and chairs do, but his tables and chairs are beautiful.  His showroom was by the sea and as people walked on the beach they would wander into his workshop and buy his tables and chairs.

Time went on and he got himself a reputation.  More people wandered in.  It was not long before he was taking orders in September but having to say, delivery would be after Christmas.

He took staff to help him make more tables and chairs, but it seemed like whatever he did the lead time was more than 20 weeks.  Ridiculous.

So, he doubled his price.

The amazing thing is that he sells more tables and chairs now than he ever did.  The market has changed a little, but the number of people who want his tables and chairs for double the price they were in the same size market as before.

You can try making a different size piece of work that is normally expected, bigger.  You could try a bigger price tag too.

Raising The Game

Taking your art business to the next level means just that.

Strategize where your work could be seen where it is not at the moment.

  • What do you need to do to get your work there?
  • Who do you need to speak to or meet?

As soon as you have the answers to those questions, implement that new plan. Always push the envelope as far as it will go!




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