This drawing is one of several torn flag drawings which are part of a larger body of work titled “American Dream.” The events of the past decade, particularly the economic crisis, have caused me to deeply question the concept of the American Dream, at least as I understood it as a child of the 1970s. During the depths of the recession I became intensely sad and angry at the feeling that the American Dream has been stolen from my generation and those to follow. The ensuing political opportunism and deliberately induced discord have led to increasingly extreme results with no end currently in sight. These flags represent the battered state of the American Dream as well as our state of being torn apart from one another by the current political climate.
Once upon a time as a young, optimistic art school graduate, I assumed I would spend all my time making art and everything else would just fall into place. Sound familiar? Many days came and went. I worked. I got married. Moved. Bought a house. Some days I made art, some days–well there’s always tomorrow right? It wasn’t until after my son was born that I realized time is limited. Like really limited. Like 2 hours until mother’s morning out is over and no more time until Thursday. That’s when I started to get disciplined. I read First Things First. It helped.
A few years after that, I attended a presentation on marketing by local artist Carmella Jarvi. She made a suggestion that resonated with me: Keep track of how you spend your time for two weeks. I strongly recommend doing this. I guarantee you’ll find some time-wasting activities that you can reduce to make room for your creative work.
Needless to say this was right up my alley and I followed her advice, continuing beyond the two weeks. At that point I was working part time and handling a major volunteer commitment, in addition to raising a small child and managing a household. I became somewhat obsessed with the idea of constructing the “ideal” week to balance all of these demands with enough time left over to make art.
Although I have yet to construct such a week, the act of tracking my time became not only a helpful analysis tool but a major accountability tool. It’s hard to blame your lack of creative output on anything but yourself if you spent 15 hours binge watching The West Wing on Netflix last week . (I would never do that.)
And then I discovered a fabulous tool. It’s an app called aTimelogger. (Disclaimer: I have no connection to the producers of this app. There may be others that do the same thing. I just like this one.) ATimelogger allows you to set up any number of activities. When you start one, just press start. Then press stop when you’re done. The app produces stats like how many hours in a month you spent on an activity, and will even make a pie chart showing the percentage of your overall time you spend on it. Just the kind of feedback I love.
At some point during this whole “ideal week” period I started trying budget a certain number of hours a week for art. It may have been 10 hours, I can’t remember. Here’s the problem with that approach, at least for me. Once you have a week, or two, when you fail to meet that goal, IT’S ALL RUINED and the black and white thinkers among us will just give up. It’s the same dynamic that causes dieters to give up after one slip.
For me, that’s the magic of setting a yearly goal. You have a second chance, and a third, fourth, etc. If you have a bad week you can make up for it slowly by adding a few hours to the next few. You can bank hours ahead of time so you can go on vacation.You can look back and see measurable progress. That progress will motivate you to continue.
So if you have a creative pursuit that you would like to nurture, here is my advice to begin. (I assume you know what you want to do-if you don’t, read First Things First-it helps!)
1. Track how you use your time for two weeks or more. Yes, it’s a pain, and yes it’s totally obsessive but you will end up with invaluable information about yourself and how you can find time to pursue your passion even if you have work, a family, etc. You can post your stats in the comments below!
2. Look at your analysis and decide on a realistic weekly average. Is it 50 hours (approximately 1 hour/ week) this year? That’s better than nothing! Maybe you can do 100 or 500 or more. That’s up to you, but don’t set yourself up for failure. You can always increase your goal mid-year or next year. Post your goals below too.
Start thinking about your 2015 goals. If you found this post helpful, please share it with the buttons below!
A Belated Happy New Year to all!
How did you do on your New Year’s Resolutions last year? My goal was to spend at least 500 hours making art. Despite a slightly rocky start and a fairly unproductive patch in the early summer, I did pretty well!
I made up a lot of time in the fall, passed the 500 hour mark on November 29 and went on to complete a total of 532 hours for the year. It was really nice to be able to let go a little during the holidays, knowing I had achieved this goal. My marketing and business goal fell a little short at 238/250 hours. I had an additional 137 hours of “supporting tasks” like research, prepping materials, framing etc., for a total of 907 hours of art related activity.
So what were the fruits of my labor? I actually had a pretty good year. Here are the highlights:
- Seven 22X30″ drawings
- Two 48X60″ drawings
- Four videos
My favorite drawing from 2014
In addition, I:
- applied to eight shows and was accepted to four
- won first place in one of them
- made some sales, including one major piece
- got a nice spotlight in the Wilmington Star-News
- completed my grant project, learning a TON about video editing software and making time lapse videos
- redesigned my website and made some headway using various social media platforms
What could I have done better? I had hoped to produce more drawings than I did. The video project took up a lot more time than I had anticipated. Still, I am really glad I did it and plan to continue with time lapse and maybe even branch into some animation. However, in 2015 I am upping the ante once again. I have decided that 500 hour goal will apply to tangible studio work only. Any video work will be in addition to that. Once again I will set my marketing goal at 250 hours. This goal includes tasks such as managing my website and social media and identifying and applying to galleries and shows.
So that is my overview for 2015. I am still cleaning up some teensy leftover details from last year and developing some specific work goals, but setting this hourly goal each year has helped me immensely! In the next few posts I will share some of the tools I use to stay on track. I am looking forward to seeing what the new year will bring.
PS: To see some of my drawings from this year,visit laurasussmanrandall.com
Snow Days. Corporate Taxes. Birthday Parties. Sick pets. Dirty Laundry. Just a few of the reasons that I am behind-probably some of the same reasons you are behind too. Gone are the days of the Royal Artist supported by patrons while the rest of us toiled in the fields. That’s a good thing. On the other hand, as individuals in modern culture we are now required to be knowledgeable about-and preferably excel at-any number of disciplines. Parenting. Working. Finances. Technology. Making your own homemade organic cookies with hidden veggies that you grew yourself. Oh yeah, and Art. Now we make art while toiling in the field (figuratively, at least).
So, I’m behind. According to my calculations, I should be at the 350 hour mark for studio work, and 175 for marketing. I’m actually at 173 for marketing, thanks to some long hours spiffy-ing up my website. But my studio hours are at 294. For those of you who like quantifying data as much as I do, that’s 84%. When I looked up 84%, I was surprised to find that it is equal to a B. It feels more like a B- or C to me. Not acceptable! But I think I can still catch up. With a 56 hour deficit and 18 weeks left in the year, I can do it with 3 extra hours a week. I’m going to aim for 5 because I know the holidays are going to knock some weeks out of the running.
Unfortunately, until someone starts making money from your work, the world for the most part doesn’t care if you make art today or not. (Cynical, yes, but I think true.) So you have to hold yourself accountable if art is what you want to be doing. That’s what this blog is all about. It’s not too late to revisit your own goals-go do it!