5 Methods I Use to Stay Focused & Maintain Creative Momentum
Q: Where do you find time to create with a full time job, a relationship, health/fitness, spirituality/self-care, friends/family, etc.?
A: In short, time management and clarity. If I’m not spending my time creating, I’m planning for it. What informs my every decision is knowing what I want and most importantly, what I don’t.
Below I’ve listed a few small changes I’ve made in my life that help me stay focused on artwork and maintain creative momentum with a consistently heavy schedule.
1. Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Like many artists, I struggle with doubts about worth and artistic authenticity because I don’t make 100% of my living from creative sales. I’m consistently concerned over the hundreds of irreplaceable painting hours I give to my day job. But a shift in perspective makes an immense difference. Truthfully and thankfully, the silver lining is security. I’m never scrambling for the funds to support myself, which only supports my craft. I do my best to get what I can from my 9 - 5. I analyze the do’s and don’ts of professional relationships and learn what’s applicable to a budding business. I know it’s all temporary and it’s my sole responsibility to make sure it isn’t time wasted.
2. Be a Good Student
When I can’t physically be in the studio, I stay focused by keeping learning material with me always. I keep art and self-help books on my kindle, save articles that might help me improve, and keep notes on both my literary findings and on the job analysis. I save music for the gym and use my work commute to listen to podcasts (which i’ll share recommendations for in another post).
The mind is a muscle and it’s important to keep it in shape.
I’ve found that the more I mentally prepare, the more freely the creativity flows when I can finally get to a canvas. Preparation is key for execution.
3. Be Conservative with Distractions
My biggest distractions in the past have been one-sided investments in relationships and entertainment. As an introvert, it’s quite natural for me to stay conservative with people/places/situations I can’t grow with. So my focus is making sure that I have control and intention over what I’m exposed to.
Social media, for example, can be extremely helpful and inspiring if you use it as a tool. Every few months I do an audit of who I’m following on Instagram, to make sure the pages I see either fuel or support my ambitions. It was difficult when I first started, as I felt inexplicably invested in the lives of people I didn’t know or was no longer in touch with. This attachment was merely guilt for having already invested so much of my time and attention without purpose.
The more frequently I practiced unfollowing useless accounts and following inspiring, educational, art-focused accounts, the easier it got. And now my entire feed is full of ambitious or accomplished creatives and void of anything that makes me insecure or steals my focus.
4. “Inspiration is for Lazy People”
When it comes to fitness, I don’t wait for gym inspiration because I care about my health. When it comes to my 9 - 5, I don’t wait for work inspiration because I need my paycheck. When it comes to art, I don’t wait for creative inspiration because it’s not going to make itself.
The idea that an artist needs inspiration to work, is lazy and false in my mind.
The only way to improve and be productive is to have discipline. Get into the studio, set up your palette and start sketching without direction if you must. Lack of inspiration doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work. Focus on the process and progress, not just the product. If you work on the first two, the third will come naturally. I honestly believe this is true for all things in life.
5. Strive for Balance
For me, balance does not mean every aspect of my life gets an equal amount of attention. It means each aspect gets the appropriate amount of attention. Deciding what my biggest priorities were and who I wanted to become was an obvious first step to living a more well-rounded, balanced life. After cutting out all major distractions, I decided my non-negotiable ambitions were to be a good artist, independent, daughter, lover and friend. Some days I’m 3 parts an artist, 2 parts a lover. Others I’m 4 parts a daughter, 1 part an independent.
How much I give is fluid. To what I give is solidified.
The things you’re absolutely sure you want to be will inform what balance looks like to you. But self-care is a must. Check in on yourself. Maintain healthy levels of happiness, productiveness and fear. And remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup!