What I struggle with as an artist – Starting the day

©Stuart Bush, Saturate Postcards 1-3
On entering my studio, I often find myself in a low emotional state, where I am not in the mood to make work.  This often happens when I have rushed around to get the kids to school, tidied up and done some basic housework.  On those mornings I feel worn out before the day of work has started.  I am very conscious that I am tired and overwhelmed with life and it all pressures. However, I am also often determined to try to move out of this negative state of mind and get back to being productive. 
 
I have realised that by preparing what I am going to do the night before, as explained in a previous blog post, helps me to know what to do first.  But sometimes my energy is so low not even this is enough to get me going.
 
In order to wake me up and change my energy levels, l find a hot or a cold shower helps to reinvigorate me. I follow this by sitting in an upright position and focusing on controlling my breathing. I think about what I am grateful for, what I appreciate and what makes me feel alive.  I appreciate my relationships, I have a lovely family and happy place to live. I am grateful and lucky to have the opportunity to be creative and paint regularly in my studio.  The last part of this re-focusing is to go for a short walk to remind myself of my conviction as an artist.  A change of location can make a big difference.  I feel the sun, wind or the rain on my face.         All this takes no more than 30 minutes. 
 
The real trick is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. My unconscious mind needs time to sort itself out.  I need space to pose open questions concerning my next piece of work.  I mull over issues and gently filter out my distracting, conscious thoughts. This process stops the excessive focus on myself and feels like a reset and a physical transformation.  It creates a natural high until I can’t wait to get back to work and I haven’t got a moment to lose. 

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Redefining my studio time

©Stuart Bush, The Law of the Jungle 2015 oil on aluminium panel 38 x 76 cm - £3000 + shipping enquiry
©Stuart Bush, The Law of the Jungle 2015 oil on aluminium panel 38 x 76 cm
I am always looking for ways to improve my output, whether I want to be creative or when I need to complete business tasks.  I recently read ‘Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule‘ an essay by Paul Graham. Paul Graham is a blogger, computer programmer and entrepreneur.  He is known for Lisp, his former startup Viaweb (later renamed, Yahoo! Store), co-founding the influential startup accelerator and seed capital firm Y Combinator.  Let me explain how Paul Graham’s essay helped me refine my time to help me be more productive, especially in the studio.
 
Paul Graham’s Maker’s schedule relates to computer programming. His maker’s schedule is generally about scheduling creative time, an uninterpreted period of about half of a day.  As an artist, the idea of a makers schedule helps me to keep my studio time and business tasks separate. The night before or at the start of each day, I like to write a plan of what I want to achieve. This way when I walk into my studio I begin with the creative time. 
 
The Manager’s schedule is cut into appointments of around an hour long, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Business tasks generally require a closed mind as there is little creativity.  When working on business tasks or managing a project, it is important not to let them stray into your studio time as this can be a time and energy killer. I have learnt to batch business tasks or managers tasks into blocks which l use for emails, social media activities, meetings and admin tasks.  I try to schedule these tasks to be completed in the afternoon or evening.
 
During the studio time I have found that there are two extra categories within maker schedule, not mentioned in the essay, that apply to the way I work. When I am trying to solve a problem I need to be creative and in an open mind frame. It can be hard to get into the state of creative flow; but once I am in it, interruptions would spoil my artistic output.  I need to be in a relaxed, less purposeful mode where l am more contemplative and playful, allowing my creativity mind to take over.  Sometimes I just need to look at my latest work and contemplate the next step and the future direction to take.  
 
Often when I am away from the studio, my mind subconsciously continues to play around with solutions.  Part of the reason I like to plan before I reach my studio is so that I have time to consider the direction my work is heading before I arrive.  If my mind is given time to wander on different subjects my brain makes connections. Although this to time ponder the problem can be uncomfortable, I often acquire the confidence to know what direction to take my work during my next studio visit. This allows me to work directly on the task with highly focused intensity and resolve issues.
 
There is lots to be done every day.  In the creative open state, sometimes my mind wonders on to business tasks or things going on in my personal life.  Any job or thought that interferes with my creative flow has the potential to stop me achieving my most important goal for the day, which is always to make new work. I keep a pen and paper nearby to write these thoughts and ideas down so I can get them out of my mind and resolve them later.  This approach leaves me content and happy that I have focused on the most important thing first and to leave the other stuff till later.  
 
It took me a while to figure out this solution to my artistic day, but it all fell into place once I had read this essay and had time to think it through. Case in point, when I take my mind off my studio work and am finished for the day, it is amazing what creative breakthroughs I have achieved.   I hope  you like these thoughts and this link to ‘Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule’ helps. Please read my related posts;
 
This post focuses on what I want to achieve in the studio each day.
 
Advice for starting a session of creativity in the studio.
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Finding time for your priorities

©Stuart Bush, You don’t understand me series 1-4, 2015 gouache on paper
I recently watched a video on TED titled, ‘How to gain control of your free time’ by Laura Vanderkam.   Laura spoke about how we are always so busy, but if we come home and needed to resolve a situation like a broken boiler, we know we must prioritise it, and we always manage to find the time.
 
In Laura’s story, it took 7 hours to deal with the emergency, to clean up the mess and get a plumber to come and fix it. It is surprising to think that is possible to find 7 hours to deal something like this in a very busy daily schedule.
 
As I watched the video, I wondered how I could make better use of my time.  How much time do I spend in the day doing unproductive things that don’t work towards my goals?  If time is a choice and I take some time to decide what my priorities are for the long and short term I know l need to plan for the next year in advance and put these priorities over other requests for my time.  Then I can fit in scheduled time into slots in my diary and make sure my time is focused time.  Then the results will follow.
 
A final piece of helpful advice from the video to help manage your priorities is for when you receive requests for your time, rather than say, “I don’t have time because of X, Y & Z,” is to say, ”I don’t do X, Y & Z because they are not a priority.”  

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