Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.”
It is good, especially during times of rapid and drastic change, to stop and reflect- remembering the places you’ve been. Every part of them – how they looked, tasted, smelled, and felt. But there is a big difference between a brief sentimental moment, and a full-on u-turn that sends you spiraling backwards.
I have a new rule for myself. Every once in a while when I am reminded of something in the past that I miss or feel unresolved pain over – I allow myself to listen to one, and only one, sad song. Not just any random sad song, but the perfect, heart-wrenching tear factory that fits that particular memory. I listen to it and let my mind go there completely. For around three minutes, I dive so very deeply into that place from my past.
Turn it into art if you feel so inclined….take notes, make a sketch, have a vision.
But then: when the song is over, I stop. Time to set all that aside and put on a different song and get back to my day. No more tears. Those three minutes are all you get.
Places, people, and things we spent our time on before now obviously once mattered to us a great deal, whether we would do it again today or not. Honor that. Pay it homage. Then get back to the life you have right now.
“…I have acquired the reputation over the years of being prolix when in fact I am measured against people who simply don’t work as hard or as long.” –Joyce Carol Oates
In my last post I talked about living a well-curated life, and part of that is designing a routine that allows you to efficiently make the most out of each day. My goal for the month of April is to create daily routines and rituals that are practical, productive, and easy.
I think we all cling to the fantasy of artists waking up at noon, being aloof and half-drunk all hours of the day, haphazardly creating as they go. For me the most romantic idea of an artist at work (and truthfully my preferred method if it weren’t for everything else in my life) will always be the image of Vincent Van Gogh obsessively devoting himself to his painting while he chain-smoked, surviving on a diet of whiskey and bread. But most of us realize this lifestyle isn’t consistently conducive to creating our best work. And it’s also not possible when you have kids and a job. With those two factors at play, you have to have a strict regimen or else it’s not all going to fit.
To assist me in making a new daily routine, I began reading Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. The very first artist mentioned is W.H. Arden, who I personally found very relatable. He is described as being “obsessively punctual.” He was very adamant about taming the muse to his schedule, and is quoted as saying, “The surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time.” Bingo. That’s exactly what we all want to achieve, right? I know I do.
I adored the description of Simone de Beauvoir’s daily life: “There was the presence only of essentials. It was an uncluttered kind of life, a simplicity deliberately constructed so that she could do her work.” Again – yes, please.
Jane Austen was described as being constantly surrounded by people with pretty much no quiet alone time. She worked in a discreet way that allowed her to hide her writing quickly. I think those of us with kids can all relate to that.
I found a part of Maya Angelou’s routine to be very applicable for my own life. She would stop working several hours before her husband got home, so she could have some time alone to transition back into non-work mode in order to be more present as they spent the evening together. I for one would definitely benefit from that. When things were arranged so that I had many hours during the day to work alone, I would often be irritable and good for nothing by the time I was with my family again in the evening. I still struggle with this today, even though with the baby running around I am never alone anymore. I definitely want to keep this in mind as I construct and perfect my routine.
I noticed a correlation between many of the artists I have read about so far: A lot of them used some sort of sleep-aid, and I do as well. I wonder why that is….Perhaps we work so hard to carefully structure these days and unleash our passion and inspiration, only to not be able to turn it back off again.
As for my own routine, the first week I made my classic mistake of cramming in too much all at once right off the bat – setting myself up for failure. In addition to trying to start way too many new things at once, I just threw in a lot of things that sounded good, but not necessarily things that really mattered for what I wanted to accomplish with a routine. While drinking lemon water, washing my face, and exercising are all wonderful, healthy things that I hope to work in some day, they are not exactly an exciting place for me to begin. Nor do they have anything to do with my bigger picture. I have made a lot of healthy changes recently, so I am going to call that a win for now and get back to making a schedule that caters to my ultimate goal: maintaining a balance between a thriving and productive art career, being the best I can be at my job, and my children – truly being present when I am at home and spending time with them.
For week 2, I have edited my list down to the essentials of self-care, productivity, and family time. I started with a general list of those things and am now in the process of deciding what times of the day I feel most up to each task. For example, I wanted to hit the ground running in the mornings, but in reality I know I need something gentle to ease me into the day. So I have made that my Pinterest time for reading my daily affirmations and seeking out inspiration. Then I am ready to get dressed and get going. I have aced transitioning into waking up early every day and going to bed on time every night, but other habits I have had a hard time successfully starting. I’m not willing to give up on them yet though.
I’ll post again next week with an update on my adventure in establishing routines and rituals, and I’d love for you to comment and tell me about your own experiences with this topic. Thanks for reading!
Recently I went through Tonya Dalton’s (Inkwell Press & The Productivity Paradox podcast) process for writing a personal mission statement. The idea behind a personal mission statement is the same as it would be for a business or organization. It is a clear, concise statement about what you are and what you’re doing. It can simplify your life a lot if used well. As new opportunities or ideas come up, check them against your mission statement. Do they align with it? Then proceed. If not, it might not be a wise investment of your time and energy.
My statement is: “To live a well-curated life filled with passion, drive, and an appreciation for the simple things – with my own elegance and style, forgoing the approval of others, inspiring those I meet to live fervently.”
Learning more about minimalism helped tremendously with the process of writing my statement. It taught me how to edit my life to match what I really wanted. I held onto a lot of stuff (physical and emotional clutter) out of guilt or attachment, which left me with an environment that overwhelmed me with the story of where I had been, but told me nothing about where I was trying to go. It left no room for the future.
Any editing process has the potential to be just as painful as it is freeing. When editing a work of art or a piece of writing, you hurt for the parts you let go of – even if you know they detract from the finished piece. But knowing that doesn’t always make it easier to let go. The same can be said for editing your life. Whether it is a project or hobby you’ve invested a lot into, a career, a field or industry, a relationship, your wardrobe, your home, or your possessions – it can hurt to let go of. But at the end of the day, if it isn’t conducive to who you want to be or where you want to go, you don’t have room for it in your life. It’s just holding you back. And while those seem like simple phrases to type, I know all too well they aren’t so simple to act upon. The result is freeing though. It is a bitter sweet step in getting you closer to the life you want.
Treat your life like an art exhibition. Decide how it should look and who your audience is – which might only be yourself. Carefully select what goes into it so that it makes the statement you want it to. Organize and tend to each individual piece with care, and fit it all together so that it flows into the larger, cohesive whole.
The more you edit, the easier it gets. And the less inclined you will be to make impulsive decisions you’ll regret later about who and what comes into your home and life, because you have worked so hard to make it exactly how you want it to be.
If you’re interested in writing your own mission statement and doing some editing in your life, I recommend checking out Tonya Dalton’s podcast: Productivity Paradox. I also recommend the book Design the Life you Love: A Step by Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future by Ayse Birsel. One of my favorite parts about this book is the constant reminder to leave room for playfulness in the re-designing of your life. I need that reminder in my work as well. It’s so easy to forget to loosen up and play, but often that is where the best ideas come from. I checked this book out from the library, but this one is actually worth buying because it is designed to be used as a journal or workbook with lots of pages to fill in and refer back to.
I wish you well on your journey of designing a life you love with a clear mission statement to guide you. Taking the time to do these things has made a drastic change in the direction of my life, and I hope it does the same for you.
This past Friday I read a quote in Where Women Create: Book of Organization that inspired me to give my studio a makeover.
“The Room: when you stand in the doorway and look into your very own ‘room’ it takes your breath away, make you feel calm and secure, as if you are returning home, inspire you to create whatever is your passion of the day.”
I have managed to accomplish that perfectly with my office, and I wanted the same effect in my art studio. I can’t say this little makeover fully achieved that, but it was a step in the right direction.
Here is a before photo, complete with a cameo from my oldest daughter, Ariel.
Things I have to be mindful of with this space are; that it is connected directly to my bedroom with an open archway in between, so it has to be clutter-free, organized, and easy to clean up or else I can see it from my bed and it gives me anxiety. Also, we have a one and a half year old running around, so all of the important stuff has to be out of her reach.
I didn’t want to change anything with the layout of the furniture. I love the position of my easel in the corner. It gets good lighting and is positioned perfectly between where I store my supplies and my desk, which I use as a work surface when I’m painting. But I also use my desk for writing half of the time, so I can’t keep many things on it. I usually keep a coaster and lamp on it, but that’s it. And my chair can be used for the desk or easel. Given the limitations mentioned above, I have to keep the trunk for storing supplies and paint colors that I don’t use daily.
The two main things I wanted to accomplish were to repaint the furniture (lately I have found white workspaces to be really refreshing and inspiring) and to de-clutter and reorganize all of my supplies.
This work table was previously our changing table for the baby! We bought it second hand pretty cheap from a friend, and by the time Edie outgrew it, it was falling apart. My current studio space was previously her nursery. When she moved upstairs to share a room with big sister, it just made sense to keep it down here and use it as a paint table. But as I was moving it outside to paint it this weekend, I considered just moving it into storage. I wasn’t convinced it was necessary. I took the drawers out to move it, and suddenly realized it would make a perfect painting storage space, which I have been in need of.
The key to organizing this space was making the supplies I use the most accessible and easy to grab, so I would be more inspired to jump into work throughout the day.
I make weekly trips to the library and like to keep those books in my studio. So, a new addition was this shelf – the wood for which I already had downstairs in our craft supply/music/laundry room (the remodel on that one is coming, but I’m not ready yet).
I keep a vision board that I change each month. The black frame houses my “theme” for the month. My mantra for April is a quote from Coco Chanel: “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
The metal, flower thing is meant to be a decorative place for keeping papers, photos, etc. It was really brightly colored and in my kitchen for the longest time, but while I was painting the furniture I decided to paint it black and relocate it to the studio. The more places to put papers and photos that isn’t my desk or table top – the better. This portion of the wall is similar to my vision board, but more specific to aesthetic inspiration. Right now I only have color swatches up but will be adding texture and other things soon.
Given my love for fashion, I have always found it appropriate that my vanity table lives in my studio. It remained untouched during the makeover. It’s a little messy right now, but otherwise it is perfect.
As soon as I finished I jumped in right away to break it in with a new painting.
No studio space post would be complete without the Virginia Woolf quote:
Hope you enjoyed this walk through my quick studio makeover, and I hope it gave you some ideas for your own work spaces. I would love it if anyone reading this would share pictures of your studio space in the comments!