Category Archives: Getting creative work done

Balancing Everyday Life with the Creative Life, Part 1

Well, here it is springtime once again! After an overly busy last year, I spent the early winter months of 2012 quietly. My goal was to hibernate – something that I found hard to achieve and took quite a bit of determination and persistence to pull off. Nevertheless, I intentionally slowed down the pace of my life for a few months and I am pleased. During my time of quiet hibernation I did a lot of thinking, reading, writing, and clarifying my intentions for my everyday life and my creative life this year.  Oh – and I spent a lot of time in my studio as well. I feel a sense of renewal and my creative juices are flowing once again. 

One of my constant challenges is being able to keep painting in the middle of a very busy personal life and a full workshop schedule, and I’m always looking for new strategies for “balancing my everyday life with my creative life.” It’s one thing to be in the studio consistently when life is quiet and slow, it’s quite another to be in there consistently when things heat up and life is super busy. 

However, when I thought a little deeper about it, I realized that regardless of whether my life is super busy, busy, or not so busy – there always seems to be something pulling me away from my painting. I’ve come to realize that sometimes what keeps me out of the studio isn’t the time factor or my busy everyday life at all – it’s me. It’s that part of me that fears that after investing a lot of time and emotional energy in a painting, I might be disappointed – it might not be the masterpiece that a part of me expects and even demands. Or sometimes I fear that I’ll encounter yet another “missing link” that I’ll have to struggle with. That one often leads directly to the part of me that fears (and, by the way, this part of me is pretty sure) that I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing anyway. Then there’s that part of me that fears that no one will like my painting anyway, so why bother – it’s all just a waste of time. And my latest discovery is that although one part of me is totally committed to process-oriented painting and improvisation, another part of me fears entering into unknown territories unless I’m guaranteed successful results in advance. It really is hard to stay put and keep on keeping on when these dragons of fear show up and start wreaking havoc in the studio.  It’s much easier to become immersed in the distractions of everyday life than it is to stay and deal with the dragons that stand at my studio door.  

In his book Coaching the Artist Within, Eric Maisel points out that as a creativity self-coach, you are obliged to become your own fear and anxiety expert, and he shares these 4 tips for becoming that expert: 

  1. Begin by getting in touch with all of the stages of your creative process.
  2. Ask yourself, “What characteristically makes me fearful or causes me anxiety in each of these stages?
  3. Answer the question, “What can I do to effectively deal with these regular, predictable experiences of fear and anxiety? (Your answer might just take the form of “Just be aware of the fear or anxiety and choose not to flee”)
  4. Test your answer the next time you experience fear or anxiety during your creative process.

I’m pretty sure that everyday life will always be busy – there is no escaping it. However, I’m not so sure anymore that the key to a rich and meaningful creative life is balancing everyday life with the creative life. I’m thinking it may have more to do with choosing not to flee and learning how to confront those dragons that show up at the studio door.    

What do you think? What challenges do you face in your creative life, and how do you deal with them?

PS:  In my next post I will continue with the topic Balancing Everyday Life with the Creative Life, and I will also be making an exciting announcement concerning Eric Maisel and my blog. 

Happy Painting! 

Doing Great Work

      

Donna Zagotta, Look Both Ways

I’m excited to say that my painting in today’s post, Look Both Ways will be included in the 2010 National Watercolor Society Exhibition that opens later this month in San Pedro, California.  It was a breakthrough painting for me, it’s one of my favorites, and I am so thrilled that the jurors liked it too!  

In his book Do More Great Work, Michael Stanier writes, “There’s a basic pattern, a rhythm, to the creative process, a backbeat driving the emergence of ideas:

                         Out/In

                         Expand/Contract

                         Diverge/Converge

                         Create/ Select 

You open up, expand possibilities, and have ideas (out, expand, diverge, create). Then you narrow your focus, close down options, and make a choice (in, contract, converge, select).  And repeat.”

Half the battle of improving our work and getting it closer to where we really want it to be is knowing what we want. I find it extremely helpful to sit down with my art journal and get my “wants” into specifics. I make lists of the ideas and elements I want to add to my work, and then I search for ways to implement them. The second list of “ways” is actually more important than the first list of “wants” because the items on that list will often be outside of our current areas of expertise and therefore will require learning something new, trial and error experiments, failing, leaving behind old habits, and starting from square one again.  While it sounds simple, it’s not easy. But, it is the secret to doing more great work! 

Happy Painting!

The Creative Habit

I’ve been reading Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit. It’s inspiring and positive and encouraging. I highly recommend this book to all who practice art and life.     

I’ve learned that being creative is a full-time job with its own daily patterns. That’s why writers, for example, like to establish routines for themselves. The most productive ones get started early in the morning, when the world is quiet, the phones aren’t ringing, and their minds are rested, alert, and not yet polluted by other people’s words. They might set a goal for themselves – write fifteen hundred words, or stay at their desk until noon – but the real secret is that they do this every day. In other words, they are disciplined. Over time, as the daily routines become second nature, discipline morphs into habit.

It’s the same for any creative individual, whether it’s a painter finding his way each morning to the easel, or a medical researcher returning daily to the laboratory. The routine is a much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. This routine is available to everyone.

Happy Painting!