Routine is a funny thing. As an artist, inherently I battle against it, not wanting to get into anything “strict” because it feels too structured for me. It’s too restrictive and downright leads to boredom, and then dangerously, to depression.
For me, flexibility of an unstructured day breathes freedom into my life. The choice to make decisions based on how I feel and what I feel like doing, and when, is my ultimate goal. For me, it equates to a positive outlook of my day and overall, I feel grateful for the quality of life each day. It also allows for spontaneity and synchronicity to flow much easier, something that I continually search for in my creative process.
But at this time in my life, having no routine or schedule is just frankly, not an option. Having two kids and being married comes with all the stresses of our everyday life.
I’m a full-time working mom, with a new baby son, born in April, and already a mama to almost 5 year old son now. My baby son was born in April and my maternity leave ended in the beginning of June. With going back to work, and then flying to Denver and then Boston to see family for vacation, it’s been quite a busy but exciting summer. It has also been quite a “let down,” to say the least, this fall.
My husband also works full time and is continuing his education online getting (another) Masters as well. This past summer he took four months off from his studying and it turned out be a blast. We spent so much time every weekend at the pool and then also at the golf range or riding around in a golf cart. The days were beautiful, bright and just FUN. But it truly felt like we were on this speed train flying through the countryside, hardly having a moment to take a breath, and we blinked, and it is September!
Wait, where the hell did summer go?
In the midst of all this chaos (and still trying to get few hours of sleep at night with a young baby) throughout the summer, it became apparent that instead of focusing on the 100 day project (which I usually have found extremely inspiring for me), I found myself ready and excited to start a new series of works. Yeah! Which is great because that’s what the 100 day project actually helps ignite for myself anyway - just doing something that gets the creative juices going.
I’ve been way overdue for a new series of works (my latest completed in 2016), so it’s been percolating for some time now. And out of all the mandated routines and schedules of summer camp, daycare, and full weekend days enjoying much needed “family time,” I somehow ended up finding “extra” time here and there to go down into our basement where my studio is, just to paint.
It started with small increments here and there. I have 15 minutes, I’ll put a layer on this painting. Another night I’ll have 30 minutes so I’ll do a couple layers with 3 paintings. I have small paintings, medium and larger paintings. I just continued to layer and layer and layer. One night at a time. Or one afternoon here or there.
The week before my maternity was up, my husband “gifted” me another week of delaying work allowing me some much needed “me” time while it was the first week for our baby boy to go to full-time daycare. So I was home alone during the day. And two days I actually spent three hours each day to paint. It was blissful! And it pushed me ahead in several larger paintings which I could actually see some progress.
Now that I have a second to breathe and reflect why this is still happening, since September is ending, I am proud of myself to say that I’m still doing this! I’ve completed several paintings of the series (see here), but I’m still only half way through. Why am I still doing this?
I ask myself because I usually do not like to work this way - with a LOT of things in my life. I usually prefer to be “project-based” where different projects come my way and there’s a beginning, middle and end. And it may be intense for a couple weeks or a day or two but then the push is over. And then other times it might be slower and quiet. But I thrive on this kind of pace. It feels cyclical and manageable, and exciting and interesting.
Doing things little by little in “chunks” is not something I inherently find enjoyment in - mainly because I think BIG, I’m a dreamer. That comes with advantages but also weaknesses. I dream up all these possibilities and it’s so fun in my mind, then I come down to earth and it’s tough to start the nitty-gritty. Needless to say I start 100’s of things and have a challenge finishing them.
And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve read so much about this is how a lot of people get their business online going in the midst of their everyday life. Just the compound effect fact, little by little, doing it over time is way more effective and sustainable then jumping in with high expectations and finding yourself quitting before even barely started. Certainly can be that way with diets and exercise.
For me, it’s the “inevitability,” the scheduling that everything is the same over and over each day . . . forever, that kills me. (My husband, The Accountant, thrives on these mini-routines, makes him feel secure and safe). I feel suffocated because my life is now mapped out in front of me. I feel like I loose control.
But THIS IS WORKING for me! And I can hardly believe it. I attribue a lot to my 5 year old son, right now. Because he wants to be in the same room as I am while he’s playing, and the simple practicality helps in that we’ve set up his playroom in the basement next to where I work. As long as I am putting on one of my favorite BBC British TV series and working near or around my desk, Grant is so happy and content to play near me. Trey (our baby boy), benefits too. He has several “spots” that I can now put him in for 10 minutes here or there, or often, he takes a nap by the heater on the floor.
In this way, the consistency of just being home, having 30 minutes or an hour to kill before bedtime has been immensely helpful for me. I feel such accomplishment! I also find consistency - just looking at my artwork each night allows me to think on it all the next day, to visualize and test out what I could do there or there to take it 1 step further.
Yes, my dream would be to have designated studio days to paint all day long. But for right now, this is working because I’ve chosen to have a family, and a life outside of just being a painter. And I love that and accept it but also need to allow myself to breathe and not make such high, unrealistic demands about it.
As I get older I do find comfort in knowing that I will be doing this for the rest of my life - painting is not something that I will ever stop. So in that way, I will always circle back to it.
And on the flip side, in a life right now that seems very restrictive in a way that I struggle daily with the structure, routine and the “should do’s” that aren’t fun, as long as I have these couple minutes to be creative, I find I am happy with myself. I am grateful for my life.