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4.22.14 ~ i’ve got rhythm!

by | Apr 23, 2014 | art studio, art-making, artist residency, painting

Three weeks in my new studio and — for once in my life — I’ve got rhythm.

The funny thing is I’ve been a more or less full-time professional artist for years, yet it’s only now that I really feel like I’ve found a steady rhythm with my work.

What do I mean by rhythm? I mean a consistent groove. Flow. Long periods of flowing energy and focus. Deep intention manifested in a regular daily practice.

There’s three factors coming into play in my newly found creative rhythm.
1) The brilliant book Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. It’s a tiny book packed with big ideas. “Prepare for a highly concentrated does of insights

Josephine Baker doing the Charleston, c. 1926.

that will prove both enlightening and uncomfortable,” opens the forward by Scott Belsky, author of Making Ideas Happen. The book is filled with insight in how to accomplish your important creative work. As Belsky points out, “Through our constant connectivity to each other, we have become increasingly reactive to what comes to us rather than being proactive about what matters most to us. Being informed and connected becomes a disadvantage when the deluge supplants your space to think and act.” Indeed. This is what was happening to me.

Broken into five chapters, each chapter has five essays or Q&A from twenty “leading creative minds” and concludes with a sharp list of “Key Takeaways.”
Those for Chapter One:
Building a Rock-Solid Routine: How to give structure, rhythm, and purpose to your daily work:
—Great Work Before Everything Else
Do your most meaningful creative work at the beginning of your day, and leave “reactive work” — like responding to email or other messages — for later.
—Jump-start your creativity
Establish “associative triggers” — such as listening to the same music or arranging your desk in a certain way — that tell your mind it’s time to get down to work.
—Feel the Frequency
Commit to working on your project at consistent intervals— ideally every day—to build creative muscle and momentum over time.
—Pulse And Pause
Move rhythmically between spending and renewing your energy by working in ninety-minute bursts and then taking a break.
—Get Lonely
Make a point of spending some time alone each day. It’s a way to observe unproductive habits and thought processes, and to calm your mind.
—Don’t Wait For Moods
Show up, whether you feel inspired or not.

Buy the book and read it now.

2) Lessons learned during my experience at Playa — the residency program in eastern Oregon I attended for five weeks last November. I went there soon after reading Manage Your Day-to-Day and decided to put into action all that I read in that book. That meant unplugging and using creative triggers; having hard edges to my day; creating a routine that includes renewal; knowing my complex goals, and more. 

My studio in Diablo cabin, at Playa Creative Residency in Oregon.

More specifically, it meant freezing my email and social media platforms for a month and placing a total moratorium on the internet. It meant rising each morning at 4:55, beginning a daily meditation practice, and watching thirty sunrises in a row. It meant making time each day for writing, reading, reflection and Nature. 
It meant making PAINTING my focus every day. 
It meant falling asleep at night and waking each morning thinking, dreaming, breathing nothing but painting. 
It meant committing myself to taking some of this home with me: finding rhythm and focus with my work back in the real world.

3) This lovely new space

I have room for my muse and me to move around. I have storage. I have clear tables and surfaces and flooring to spread out on. I have a sink just a few steps from my work area. 
I have beautiful, gorgeous light. I have all of my creative force contained in one room, where I can close the door when I’m ready to take a break, and walk back in with an overwhelming sense of returning home. No one has to walk through here to get to the bathroom. I can step away a few feet — without negotiating stairs — to fix myself more tea, without even breaking my concentration. I don’t know if it’s feng shui or what, but the flow of this place is working for me.

And so.

My focus begins the night before at bedtime, when I unplug my modem — a tiny but mighty symbolic gesture to my brain and spirit that says “when you wake in the morning,

Early morning in my new studio.

you will be focused on Art.” 
To sleep, ideally, between 9:00 – 10:00.

Awake at 4:45.  Fresh pot of tea. In the studio by 5:15.
Work solid for an hour or two.
Break for fitness with The Pup.
Back in the studio for the rest of the morning.

Midday or so, SIESTA: Break for a few hours for errands and computer work and engaging with the world and….a nap.

Back in the studio later in the day, and sometimes — if I’m lucky — in the evening, too.

It works.

I work.

Very well.