People sometimes ask me where I get the time to create art. The answer is: I steal it.
Most of us are bombarded with the everyday grind that demands we constantly address certain responsibilities. We must give time to those responsibilities just to earn a living. But if you want to live a life that includes art (or any given passion) your art must be one of these responsibilities. If you don’t take the time for your art, you won’t create your art. So you must steal some time back.
It may not be enough to wait for the time to come to you. Don’t expect that anyone is going to give you that time for free unless you’re really, really lucky. The idea that five hours of good studio time yields one hour of good painting is for those artists at the top of the bell curve who can afford to schedule their day in that manner. If you’re not one of them (and most of us simply aren’t; it’s fact of life) then the only way to get there is either to be super efficient with the time that you do have, or skim time off the top of other habits.
Society, work, home life, kids, parents, etc. These are all things that demand time. It’s not justifiable for most of us to devote time to our “hobbies.” Some of us are lucky enough to have supportive family and friends, but even then we fight with the voices in our own heads that tell us we should be getting back to work instead of doing some work. So, if you can’t find a way to be disciplined at finding time then you have to be naughty and steal it. You’ve got to think like a kid stealing candy and use every opportunity to escape to the studio and address some sweet task that furthers your goal while nobody’s looking.
The dishes might not require the kind of attention your art does. So maybe you wait till the end of the evening to do them, when you’re pleasantly tired from an hour or two of focused concentration on your art. We’ve been taught from youth to get those dishes out of the way first. But ask yourself if they wouldn’t come clean a little quicker if maybe they just soaked for a while.
Many successful artists are known to have ignored more mundane daily routines. Francis Bacon seems to have never washed out a paintbrush in his entire career. It is said that Michelangelo rarely bathed. I’m not saying you have to go to these extremes — but there are ways to pick the pockets of a basic routine to enrich a creative one. The idea is to find ways to carve off slices of the day to feed your passion so it will not starve to death.
If you’re finding that you seem to have no time at all because you have a full-time job and a hot mess of other daily routines, then try this. Eleanor Roosevelt said to do one thing, every day, that scares you. I say do one thing every day. At a minimum, do one thing every day that supports your passion, even if it’s washing out a paintbrush. If you have a whole Sunday to work in each week, find a way to end it with some undone things that you didn’t need to address immediately. Then during the week you can pick up a loose end and spend half an hour or more taking care of that detail. In this way you can even steal from your passion to support your passion.
When you feed your passion regular snacks it gets stronger, it’s a form of practice. Doing one thing every day, even if it’s at a different time each day, will generate a routine that starts to develop a sharpness you wouldn’t have if you did many things only one day a week. If you work a day job where the skills of your passion are required, this can only help there as well.
Stealing a little time every day doing what inspires you reminds you that you DO have the time.
If you spend only half an hour doing your one thing every day for a year, that’s roughly 23 eight-hour days, or about a month of business days. Add that to the maximum number of work days a Sunday painter gets and you’ve stolen back approximately two months of your working year.
Now go finish those dishes.