I love what’s happening over at Alison Gresik’s blog. She’s upping her game with a beautifully-redesigned site, focusing her content and her message, and even has a telethon going on right now, in which, instead of money, readers are asked to pledge their time – the amount of time they’ll spend on their art.
It’s a brilliant idea. (And honestly, I wish I’d thought of it!)
“15 minutes a day isn’t enough anymore,” blares the headline of the post announcing the telethon, “You want Hours For Art.”
It’s a bold challenge to creatives to up their own game, and I love it!
I’d like to take a moment to quietly defend the concept of 15 Minutes a Day.
First, let me be clear that I am in no way dissing what Alison is doing, which I think is awesome. I am 100% behind getting more artists to put their art at the center of their lives. I’m all about Creative Abundance, after all, and putting your art at the center is what Creative Abundance is all about!
My goal is to see you, me, and ALL creatives really rockin’ our creativity. Hard. Right at the center. Thriving in every possible way from and with our art. ALL DAY doing my creative things is the kind of vision I’m talkin’ about. All day, every day.
What about the sweet and wonderful peeps for whom hours for art feels not just out of reach, but impossible?
Are your goals SMART?
In order to be effective, goals need to be SMART(ER). Here’s a chart from Wikipedia on what that handy acronym stands for, including more commonly accepted terms (“Major Term”) and additional (and sometimes duplicative) “Minor Terms”:
||Significant, Stretching, Simple
||Meaningful, Motivational, Manageable
||Appropriate, Achievable, Agreed, Assignable, Actionable, Action-oriented, Ambitious, Aligned, Aspirational
||Realistic, Results/Results-focused/Results-oriented, Resourced, Rewarding
||Time-oriented, Time framed, Timed, Time-based, Timeboxed, Timely, Time-Specific, Timetabled, Time limited, Trackable, Tangible
||Ethical, Excitable, Enjoyable, Engaging, Ecological
||Rewarded, Reassess, Revisit, Recordable, Rewarding, Reaching
In a nutshell, when you set a goal, you want to make sure it’s specific, measurable, ATTAINABLE, relevant and time-bound. And to ensure success, you want to evaluate and re-evaluate your goal over time.
Let’s look at how this applies to committing time to your art/creativity. If you pledge an hour a day, say, before you are truly ready to live up to that commitment – if an hour a day isn’t truly attainable – you’re doomed to fail. And nothing feels suckier or contributes more to stuckness than that.
What’s SMART for me may not be SMART for you
So what about the sweet lovelies who are just plain stuck to begin with? Those who are unable to get themselves to lift their pen, or guitar, or knitting needles, or what-have-you, because they haven’t yet been able to unclog the cloggage in their way?
Gentle, loving treatment is required. Sleuthing to uncover the keys to unblocking, hand-holding, and ideally a partner who will help untangle the knots is what’s needed. Stuck creatives need a challenge that’s just the right level to push them… but not too much… so they can remember and reconnect with their creativity.
A delicate re-introduction is sometimes in order, to give a blocked creative the safety to play with her creativity, without the kind of pressure that might scare it back into hiding.
For the tender creative who is maybe just ready to shyly get re-acquainted with her creative self, 15 minutes a day might be just right.
After a routine, a regular practice, has been solidly established, then a larger commitment may indeed be the next step.
The thing about systems (Alison calls them labyrinths, and constructs a really lovely metaphor around the term that I just love) is that in order to work, they must be your systems. One-size-fits-all is never the solution for a creative.
Although I believe a daily practice is foundational, and it’s certainly key for me, you may not be a daily kind of person. And that’s okay.
You may be a one-hour-and-45-minutes-once-a-week person (which, btw, is what 7 days of 15 minutes a day adds up to). And if that works for you, and you’re able to maintain your practice and feel nourished by it and connected to your creativity – great! Go you!
My dirty, little secret
Here’s the thing about my personal 15 Minutes a Day practice:
It’s a lie.
I’ve committed only to 15 minutes a day, but in fact, I spend more more time that that, more often than not.
The way I’m currently
working playing in the Creative Sandbox – painting and calligraphing multiple layers on a large, stretched sheet of paper, which I later tear down into several smaller finished pieces – suits my “soft” schedule really well. I may work play for ten or fifteen minutes, putting down a layer, then let the paint or ink dry while I turn to writing, or go to yoga, or do some bookkeeping or data entry, or check email.
An hour later I may take a break from the computer and add another layer. And when that dries, yet another.
In actual fact my art is truly at the centre of my day – interspersed in the middle of everything I do – and yet I only require of myself 15 minutes.
It’s a way of tricking myself. Of taking the pressure off.
If I were to keep track of my weekly Creative Sandbox time, add it up, and commit to that amount of time every week, I guarantee it would put me into a panic. It might even backfire, as nothing chokes me up like the fear of failure.
What works for you?
Now, I’m not in any way telling you that this is how you should work. Not at all. I have a unique situation: working at home, making art that’s easy to do in the same room where I do my other work (ie, I don’t need a steel forge or potter’s wheel or trampoline to do my art). Working on my art in spurts throughout the day is a system I’ve stumbled upon that works quite well for me.
You, my dear, will have to discover or create the systems that work for you.
It may be that you’re ready to commit to great chunks of time, and that a pledge of hours for your art is exactly what you need right now to take you to the next level. To that I say, “Go you!”
But if that’s not where you are, if you need a softer entry or re-entry into this whole Creative Abundance thing, let me assure you with a loving voice that it’s okay. Your way is okay.
Whatever gets you to actually do your art is brilliant and good and right.
So don’t ever sign up for anything that makes you feel pressured.
Pushed, yes, like having hands on your back pushing you up a steep hill kind of pushed.
Believed in, yes.
And a little nervousness is normal, and not necessarily a bad thing at all. What we’re aiming for here is to get you out of your comfort zone a bit – enough to stretch and grow and build a home for your creativity that’s really awesome – but without even a molecule of the kind of anxiety that would push you in the other direction.
You can do this. You must do this – the Universe is waiting. You don’t have to do it in a way that doesn’t fit, nor should you. And if you’d like a partner to help get you down this path, I’d love to help.
Whether you pledge 15 minutes a day or 15 hours a week, I’m cheering you on all the way.
What’s your system? Does it work better for you to officially commit to a smaller goal – even a tiny one – and then over-perform? Or do you rock it out most when you challenge yourself with a really big commitment? Share your reactions in the comments below.
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