I was talking with a customer on the weekend at market about being fully self employed with my creative business and while she was surprised she also said with a touch of envy “imagine being able to do what you want, whenever you want, everyday” and I had to laugh to myself. Anyone making their living from what they make know that such an idea is so very far from reality.
As much as we love making our living from our own creativity it isn’t always easy, you rarely get to spend the day exactly as you like and there’s regularly a healthy dose of self discipline that needs to be applied.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but I can’t afford to be anything but focused on making it work. If I just created whatever came to mind I would never launch new designs, the website wouldn’t be built and there wouldn’t be designs to buy on it. I would miss kiln firings and have nothing to take to market.
What has discipline got to do with Creativity?
Each week I need to get a certain amount made ready for the two kilns – one is for bisque firing and the other is for the final glaze fire. When I fall behind, and I do sometimes, I feel like I’m in a mad scramble to catchup so I have enough stock, so I don’t have holes in my ranges, missing colours and designs. I never like saying to customer at market “Sorry, I don’t have that one” because I missed a firing and see them walk away.
I basically work out of two studios, my home studio space (aka the sunroom because it’s the smallest room to clean the pottery dust) and a pottery studio where the kilns are. I fire with two pottery friends who work mainly in homewares and my little pieces fit in around their work. My home studio lets me work at any hour and the pottery studio is the place that gets really hot in summer with 3-4 kilns firing away most days. I love going into the studio and being around other ceramicists but it does mean I need to be organised for each week’s visit.
I’ve come to realise that self discipline and planning is core to being creative, whether that’s in making for market and shows, working on new designs, getting ready for the kilns or learning new skills. I love all of it but it does take focus and will power to do it every week.
And I think this is true for any creative endeavour. If you want to be drawing every week then there will be times when you just have to sit yourself down to make those marks.
If you want to write a book you need to be writing your 1000 words a day everyday, whether they are crap or not. After 40 days you’ll have 40,000 words to work with and whittle down to 30,000 words.
If you want to go on Masterchef you need to cook everyday something interesting and challenging and keep careful notes of what you’re doing so if you stumble upon something amazing you’ve got it nailed, alternatively, if you go way off target you’ll have a path to track the mistake.
But for all of these endeavours you’ll need a apply your own self discipline because there’ll be days when it is a slog and other days when it is a joy.
Yesterday I excitedly went to the studio because I’m testing out new designs and I had the first lot coming out from the bisque fire. So off I dashed, taking with me two other lots for the next firings – some for the next bisque fire and some for the next glaze fire and taking the time to work on the glaze batch too discipline, because all I wanted to do was play with the tiny new thing. To my delight all my work was out of both the kilns and everything had worked. I had a great time in the studio and came home smiling from ear to ear, so thankful for what I do. But there was a constant voice in the back of my head reminding me of everything else I need to do like fix that stupid Windows problem that keeps messing intermediately with my printer – or ability to print (and the silly buggers at Microsoft want me to “upgrade” to Windows 10 when all you hear about the place is how crap it is).
So after the fun of the studio I had to settle down to the computer and get some other work done. But that’s just normal, for all of us. We all have to do the admin side to how we earn our money.
To be very clear though, there have been days when I’ve had to force myself to sit down in my little sunny studio and do the work that’s needed to change clay into porcelain. I’ve always felt good about what I’ve achieved after I’ve done my work, it’s just the starting that is challenging sometimes.
The thing is we also need to apply the disciple we have for getting through work to achieving the creative activities we want to bring into our lives. There will be days when you’re in the flow and you’re charging along, feeling like life is richer and brighter. Other times you just need to push yourself along so you do get moving in the direction you want and that too will bring with it the joy you’re seeking.
I’ve found working with some structure to help a great deal, whether that’s for the creative activities or the administration that comes with running any business. For many areas this structure has morphed into routines like booking into market, paying bills, checking emails and social media, ordering components like under glazes and clay, picking out which pieces will be worked on for the glaze fire each week and the list goes on. I have my little routines that gets certain things done.
5 Tips for Sticking To Your Creative Aspirations
So to help with ideas of how to keep moving towards your own way of making every day creative here are some practical ideas:
- Have a structure that you can move into, this can be a routine to how you setup and get started, maybe some music you put on, just something that signals to you that you’re changing gears and going to do your creative activities now.
- I’ve found the make a mark a day project really useful for working on new designs. I’ve set my own rules around it and I stick it to fairly well. There are times when I need to push myself that bit more with it and other days when it’s all I want to do, but that’s true for anything you love.
- Set aside a regular time for your activity like my friend Gemma who has blocked out four hours a week for her crafty pursuits. This is treated as a serious commitment and is honoured diligently.
- Put a ban on buying anything new for your activity until you’re completed a project. Many quilters and scrap bookers have this approach to finalise some of those UFO’s that always seem to build up. I’ve done it with paints, no new brushes or paints until I’ve finished a new range of necklaces and brooches.
- Make it the first thing you do in the day then it is done. This works for all manner of activities from yoga to walking to writing to sketching to designing. It’s just about getting some movement in the right direction for yourself and it is a lot easier to find the flow later in the day when you’re seeking it. This first thing approach can take as much or as little time as you like, from 15 minutes to an hour. It’s amazing how the household adapts to you having this routine as well.
Enjoying Creative Highlights
I feel that my life is richer and more rewarding with the more I make every day creative. I don’t expect everything I do to be loads of fun or amazingly special. I do hope to look at each week and see creative highlights, even the tough weeks when I feel knocked around by life. Creativity for me is around ideas, books, art, clay and porcelain, paints and pencils, walking in green spaces, moving stories and documentaries as well as gardening and good food. I think that’s quite a broad scope to be able to pull things out of each week. But I’m only aware of this because I took the time and made the space to figure out what was creativity for me. But that’s another story for another time.