No one ever tells us how our brain prefers to work. We simply have to discover it via trial and error. A series of failed attempts weighed against moments of intense artistic flow.
Start to map out the times you are the most productive. Note times you get easily sidetracked. You might also consider if you are doing deep work versus shallow work. I find that certain types of creation (inking, coloring, typing in handwritten pages) require less mental concentration and can be accomplished at times of the day where I might have more distractions. But deep work, where the real creation happens, is another think entirely.
There are three patterns that emerge for artists. I gleaned these off the Slowvember website and I’ve found them inspirational.
This is someone who likes to isolate themselves for long periods. Pretty much every Stephen King protagonist falls into this category. You know the type who retreats to a mountain cabin and types up a masterpiece. Except we’re not all so fortunate to have the ability to block out the whole world in one go.
The first step for a Hermit is to push everything else out of the way. Clear the decks of other items (even if you need to procrastinate on them) and give yourself time to work. And by God, turn the phone off. You can’t have interruptions if you’re someone who works this way.
You may find that you need to travel some other place to achieve the sort of isolation you require. However, sometimes working at off hours (early in the morning or late at night) might be ideal for this kind of artist. A time when few people or tasks are liable to get in the way.
These people block out chunks of their day and commit them to working creatively. This is my preferred routine. Again, you need to push aside other chores. That important email or task can wait till after your allotted art time. Even if you do nothing but stare at the blank page for 45 minutes, eventually your brain will learn that this time won’t be filled with other tasks. The creative side will open up.
I used to think I needed to isolate for this form of creativity (lock myself in a room) but now I realize there are other ways to block out the world and create. I set my phone to do not disturb and then use my AirPods to cancel any outside noise. This way I can block out time in the living room when my family is otherwise engaged.
These are the creative rogues of the bunch, able to snatch any free moment to work. In order to maximize this type of creativity, you need to be prepared. Nothing’s worse than having time to work and not having the supplies you need.
For visual artists, you need a kit with your pencils, pens and sketch pads. I have a small kit I keep in my car. Additionally, for writing, I have everything saved in the cloud, so I can access my stories even on my phone, if need be. Ultimately, I tote around a “creativity box” that has nearly everything I need to stop and work wherever.
You may find that different types of art require different ways of working. For sketches and idea generation, I tend to quickgrab time here and there. For writing and short bursts of writing, blocking works well. Often on the weekends I can carve out some Hermit time to really dig into a project.
Keep track of your artistic habits. Crack the code on how your brain works and you’ll find those precious minutes to work.