I always have multiple projects going on at any one time that reflect my widely varied interests. If there’s anything that can be said with certainly about the way my mind works, it’s that when I spend much time focusing on just one interest, I fall into deeper depression than I do when I’m exploring a number of interests concurrently. Of course, I really suck at time management, so oftentimes, my various projects sit idle or with very little attention. It’s something I’m working on but still have a way to go.
What I am finding works for me is to dedicate one big block of time to the most important interest/activity — in this case a project I consider my ‘Grand Endeavor’ that draws upon my software architecture and development skills. I try to maintain two 3-5 hour blocks of time each day for working on it. I use two large blocks instead of one big block as I find I can stay focused more easily if I work in two mid-sized chunks than I do in one large block. Sometimes smaller blocks work, but I still work to maintain the same amount of time each day.
For my other interests and activities, they get splayed out as I have time. Some interests, like anime and drawing, I can explore with my daughters here, as they share the same interests and we do a lot of it together. Some, like painting, I dive further into when my daughters aren’t around because I need more focus and more uninterrupted space. Unfortunately, these interests tend to receive a lot less time and focus because I’m always hesitant to begin something if I think I’ll have to leave it in the way when the girls come over (like my easel and painting table, or my polymer clays and oven). I tried restructuring my time so that I’d use an evening for each activity when the girls weren’t around, but the creative muse doesn’t flow that way. What it’s caused me to do is to learn to relax a bit about my creative workflow.
For instance, I now leave one small table set up in front of my easy chair. It sits over the ottoman quite nicely so that it doesn’t really take up more tha a couple of inches that the ottoman wouldn’t use already. So I’m not wasting space, and I can leave some extended projects on it, such as a detailed drawing I’m trying to work on this month. I’m also trying to learn to shift some of my interests towards the digital realm. I have this wonderful Wacom tablet that I need to explore using more, and the software tools to support digital art workflows. It’s time to take advantage of that as well as my traditional mediums.
It’s also time to recognize that, with my varied interests, it’s okay to let some drop from time to time, because I know eventually I’ll return to them. I haven’t painted with oils or acrylics in six months. I’m feeling the urge again, and the ideas are flowing, whereas they weren’t when I felt I had to force it. Additionally, as my drawing skills increase, some other fun ideas have come up that I may want to explore, such as working on a periodic web comic. What I’m also starting to reinforce in myself is that these pauses and changes over time are fine, because while I like to show others what I’m working on and create, my desire to create is entirely for myself and as such, I’m okay with it changing, evolving and occasionally being cyclical. I think that as I learn to ‘go with the flow’ I’ll become an even better artist and more inspired in what I create.
The best part? Always being able to look forward to what new idea I’ll surprise myself with tomorrow!