Friday, August 3, 2012

Inspiration and Organization

Lately, I've been making a point to make time to meet and hang-out with creative people as much as possible.  Why? There are lots of reasons.  They're fun and full of incredible ideas and I like that.  My day job isn't creative at all, and while I work with talented and incredible people, our jobs are mostly technical in nature, and there isn't much time for anything else.  I want to make sure I don't get stuck in a rut in which I forget to be creative.  Creative people have an energy that inspires and motivates.  They tend to share ideas freely and encourage liberally and I crave that.

I do love the connection of talking with people face-to-face, but I don't always have the time to spare for a leisurely afternoon of tea and art talk.  I'd love to have occasional sessions in my studio in which a small group could get together and just informally paint and share time together, but time belligerently refuses to cooperate with me.  In fact, time seems to be particularly difficult to get along with lately.  It just keeps whizzing by and laughing manically, which makes me crazy.  Luckily, we're living in a time in which inspiration and collaboration are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yes, folks - I refer to the Internets.

There is so much glorious, incredible work on the internet.  So much talent. There are tutorials showing artistic techniques step-by-step.  There are carefully curated blogs with nothing but artwork. There are mailing lists which send you an artsy and inspirational quote each morning.  There are websites with good solid writing advice and prompts.  I could literally spend all day looking at junk on the internet if I didn't try and discipline myself. The tricky part is sorting the time-wasting activities from the useful, valuable ones.  This might be the time to note:  I'm not saying I'm right about everything I'm about to say, I'm just saying this is my way, and it works for me. This advice is coming from a person with a time & energy consuming job, and avocations too numerous to keep track of, therefore I have been forced to prioritize and organize.  Do with it what you will.

First, some things NOT to do.  I reiterate, these are just my personal rules which I established for my own sanity.  If they don't work for you or they seem too restrictive, by all means, ignore them.
  • Don't play games on FB.  Ever. I personally don't play games of any sort, but that probably has less to do with time management and more to do with the fact that I am completely inept at computer and video games. As I mentioned to someone the other day (and it was true), I can't even make Mario swim.  A fact which annoyed my kids to no end for years.  I think they were probably 4 and 6 when they first began begging me to play these games with them.  I never did master that skill and they both proceeded to kick my butt regularly.  I'm still traumatized.
  • Don't leave your chat perpetually active. Turn it on briefly when you want to talk with someone, and then turn it right back off.
  • Don't watch videos for entertainment.  By this I mean, a video demonstrating a new encaustic technique (fill in this blank with any activity which directly supports your creative goal) is probably a good investment of time, but a video showing cute cats, all the crazy people at Chik-Fil-A, or anything related to a Kardashian and/or reality TV is most assuredly not.
  • Minimize distractions as much as possible.  Take a moment to unsubscribe from those e-mails you never actually read.  Both Chrome and Firefox have apps to block ads; download and use them.
Now, what SHOULD you do?
  • PLAN.  First and foremost, make a plan and then try to adhere to it.  I do this at home and at work.  I constantly carry my planner and consult it regularly. It contains meetings and plans for the day.  As the day progresses, I make notes of things to follow-up with, things to remember.  If I still relied on little scraps of paper like I did in the past, I'd be screwed.  If you're like me, a seemingly unrelated activity will prompt a series of random thoughts to bubble to the surface.  Right in the middle of a meeting, thoughts begin to run through my head,  a messy stream of consciousness.   I need black acrylic paint.  I should write a character who wears raincoats all the time. Bright colors.  Bright colors.   I hope Chopper never dies.  What should I get Don for his birthday?   Some of it is complete shit, but every once in a while, good things pop up.  When they do, write them (or at the very least, a keyword) down.  For the longest time, I told myself I'd make a mental note, but the truth is, I never remembered it later.     
  • Set goals and put yourself on a schedule.  This doesn't have to make your life too rigid and suck the happiness out of it, but a goal will give you something to shoot for and make you feel accomplished when you meet that goal.  I walked in the door after work last night feeling like an absolute bad-ass.  I hadn't actually accomplished anything super-duper-fantastic, but I had managed to cross off every single one of my goals for the day, and that made me feel pretty awesome. I think I said this as I walked in the door, "Hi, I'm a bad-ass." My husband didn't think it strange at all, because he's used to these proclamations.  He just carried on with dinner preparations. He's quite the bad-ass himself, so it could be that he's just used to it.  As a side note, it did help that The Don had prepared a divine chicken picatta. This meal was un-freaking-believable.   I'm not sure if it's common knowledge, but the best food for bad-asses of all types usually contains lemons.  Lemons make them stronger.
  • Find a few sites that work for getting your juices flowing and visit them for a few minutes every day. Here are some suggestions for general sites that work for me: 
A note on 'research'.  Ahem...someone I know tends to categorize endless reading of flash fiction and other lit journals under the heading of RESEARCH FOR MY WRITING.  While it is absolutely true that research, whether for art, writing, or whatever is important, research along will not paint your painting or write your novel.  Set yourself a time limit while pursuing this valuable research and then move on.  Sometimes, I actually set the time on my cell phone.  But more on that in a later post.  

I should add that these inspiration and organization tips work for things other than art and writing. I apply them to many areas of my life. In fact, they were originally developed during the eight years of my life in which I was going to school and working at the same time.  Guess what?  It worked! 

I actually had a lot more to say, and what you see about isn't even what I'd had in mind to post about.  But this post has grown way too long, and I need to go be creative, so I'll address that in my next post.

One lament I've heard from artists over and over again in the past couple of weeks is that some of them are unsure of how to make themselves known using social media.  I have some ideas and I'll share them next time.

Have a delightful weekend!

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