My response to difficult times, whether personal or in the wider culture, has been to make more art. This is a concept I’ve adapted from my past work on Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit https://store.bookbaby.com/book/dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit – a book I did some time ago in which Dr. Bob says “The best response is living well” and also “Feelings are guides not gods”. These concepts have stood me in good stead and helped me to make more art.
Creative people tend to “feed good wolves” to use their imaginations and think of what is possible, needed, hopeful, helpful, necessary – this is kindness, this is ‘living well’, and it is most needed during difficult times. The issue is that sometimes during the difficult times when the creative persons activity is needed most they don’t ‘feel like’ creating. So the question becomes how to do it anyway.
I define “creators” broadly as any one who writes, sings, acts, draws, films – any technique or medium that uses a human mind and heart to (re)imagine the world. Creativity can be done by anyone – you don’t have to be a professional artist or have fancy equipment. That said in my list below I’ll refer to fine art making as that’s what I know best but please know that this list applies to any artistic endeavor at any skill level.
9 ways to make more art
- Find a regular time daily or weekly – whether 15 or 30 minutes at first – when you’re awake and alert and set it aside as a ‘creative appointment’ with your self and your art supplies. Set it in your schedule/to-do list. This way it’s an appointment not an activity subject to how you feel at a given time. (Obviously if you’re throwing up then please stay in bed so as to not get sick on the art supplies.)
- Stick to this appointed time for 2 weeks. Evaluate. If that time period seems to not work. Set a different one. Stick to that new time for 2 weeks. Do this 2 week trial period until you find a time/day that works for you. The same with the length of the appointment; start off with a short time like 10 minutes – keep testing until you have set a duration that feels playful. Be religious about doing this testing. Once you find the best time/day that works for you then successfully meet your creative appointment with your self for 45 consecutive days minimum. (after that it’ll become a habit)
- During your ‘creative appointment’ step away from the phone, social media and any other “in boxes”. Don’t answer the doorbell. Take the dog out for a potty break before you start your appointment. Tell your spouse, kids that you’ll be having 15 minutes (or 30) of uninterrupted creative time. (Remember to say please and thank you to them.)
- Have your art/creative supplies at the ready. This can be an entire room set aside for the purpose of creativity. It can be a corner of one room. It can be a box or tray of supplies kept in a drawer or cupboard to be pulled out during your appointment. It can even be as simple as a single sketchbook and a few pens kept in one spot. But whatever arrangement works – keep it well stocked! You don’t want to run out of your favorite ink pen in the middle of a ‘creative appointment’! Re-stock during non-appointment times. At the end of each ‘creative appointment’ re-sharpen your pencils or put your color pens back in their box etc. Make sure everything is ready for use at the next appointment time.
- Keep a set of creative prompts handy to get you started. (One of the ones I like “The Tricksters Hat” by Nick Bantock.) Look at art blogs, how-to books for prompts. As a ‘creative appointment’ exercise one thing I do is sit and list as fast, as I can, 10 or 20 topics that interest me or are on my mind at that moment. From such a list I often get ideas for artwork projects. I also enjoy using a set of “Story Cubes” (yes, the kids dice game) as creative prompts. Don’t be afraid of the genres – explore any of them related to your creative prompt/topic! Whatever kind of creative prompts appeal to you collect them outside of your ‘creative appointment’ time and have them accessible (like your supplies) when your appointment starts.
- You do not have to complete anything during your appointment. You can continue to work on the same project from one appointment to the next. You do not have to make a “masterpiece”. You can make a mess! If after a few minutes you’re not having fun feel free to start something else creative! All you have to do is something of a creative nature for the entire 15 minutes (or whatever duration of time feels fun and natural to you) of your appointment time. As Dr. Bob said “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first”
- When trying a new medium or a new subject in earnest set aside a block of time longer than your typical creative appointment so as to really get into the spirit of your new medium or subject. After that you can continue work on your project in short bursts during a regular ‘creative appointment’.
- Gather data from the world. Visit art galleries, museums, other artist studios, listen to another artist talk about their work or read a book about an artist or art medium – and take notes, write your responses, your thoughts about what you see. Note what you like and why you like it. Ask yourself questions. Or if you’re interested in a certain topic – investigate that (for example; I’m interested in dogs so sometimes I go to dog parks). Find and pursue whatever your interests are that make you glad to be alive. Surround yourself with things that remind you of them. This type of ‘data collection’ can count as a ‘creative appointment’ activity.
- Keep a list of what you’ve created – no matter how small or silly you feel your creation was write it down in a log book. Keeping a log book of your creative activity (whatever you did during each ‘creative appointment’) is a weirdly effective incentive to keep creating!
I’ve posted this page from Dr. Bob’s Emotional First Aid Kit before – but it’s my favorite page and is a “prompt” that I put in the front of each one of my new sketchbooks.