Editor’s note: Last December, we received a thought-provoking set of comments on a Monday Post from reader Rick Daddario. Rick, an artist based in Hawaii, had a lot of useful and inspiring things to say about maintaining a daily creative practice. With Rick’s permission, I’m reposting his remarks here. I think you’ll find several gems among these wise words; recommended reading.
I agree enthusiastically with the idea of creating daily. I know personally for me when I do not create for a day or two I begin to feel quite “off” in many ways. That can lead to a downward spiral for me. So I find a way to create every day. Writing, taking photographs, working with digital technology or traditional materials — it all counts for me.
I’ve also learned that my day works best if I follow patterns. I’m not die-hard about my patterns, though. It’s easy to shift them on one day when needed and they evolve over time too allow me to fit in the things I need to do around my creating rather than my creating around what I need to do.
As a pattern, I find a way to work with my digital technology each day even though I do not post every day necessarily.
When I decide to get into the traditional materials I find that daily practice is extremely important as well. Sometimes I need to start out slow: 5-minute drawings; 15- to 30-minute paintings. After a few days to a week of this it’s hard to stop at 5 minutes or half an hour and I let my times increase as needed.
Scheduling time is a good way to commit yourself to a practice. Although I’ve found I’m quite contrary and tend to push my times around as needed. I know if I say I will do something to myself I often do the opposite. The doing is what is important however, and I find a way to do my art even if I have to stay up an extra half hour to an hour before sleeping. Yes, I will work tired if that is how I have to get my time in.
Some other ways I’ve heard that work for people and I’ve tried and found fun:
- When I’m clearing the table after breakfast say, as one of my jobs, I will daily do a sketch of the breakfast table (or one item on it or any part of it) just as I’ve left it before clearing it. It’s a way for me to allow myself the time to draw. I have to draw before I do the dishes or I lose my visual. I may set a timer if I need to limit my time but the commitment to drawing that table or any part of it gives me the permission to sit and draw BEFORE I do the dishes. Way fun on that. This kind of practice can be used with any task, per the bullets below.
- Shopping: Draw/photograph the shopping bags before you put everything away (maybe the milk and frozen items can go in the fridge and then I draw). You can take an item or two out to draw too. Still life with packages, bottles, cans, or fresh veggies/fruits.
- Weeding: Draw/photograph the tools before you weed (after, I’m usually a bit dusty mucky).
- Gardening, as in watering and general: A bouquet of flowers or the veggies/fruit etc. that you pick are great subjects.
- Laundry: The pile of clothes. Or clothes hug up to dry. Or folded.
- Kids’ toys: One a day. Or as they lay. Or as they look put away.
- Seasonal: Gift wrapping: before, during, or after wrapping a present.
When it’s writing rather than drawing/painting/photos that I’m after the same practice can work. Write from the moments the items suggest themselves or the thoughts that come up while you were working. Write of that moment or something those items bring up in a memory, or fantasize. . . .
I’m sure you get the idea.
Once I make creating part of my daily life it’s like any other job or chore I have to do. My day is not done until I do it. And if it’s fun, I’ll want to do it again. So I do what is fun for me. I play with line, or light, or shapes, or color etc. If it’s writing, I may play with writing forms, or shotgun writings, or 55-word short stories, etc. Way fun on that. And seasonal fun on all too.
I am passionate about creating daily. Even 5 minutes count — writing, drawing, or painting. 10 or 15 minutes even better. Just do it, though. That’s what what is important. Start. Just start and do it.
Don’t think you can draw/write something in 5 minutes?? Try this: Set a timer for 1 minute. See how much you can draw (or write on) something in 1 minute. When the timer goes off, click it and start on a new page again on the same thing. Again when the timer goes off, click it and repeat the process until you have 5 drawings (or 5 sentences or observations in words). Try to push yourself to get more down each time. The light, the shape edges, the lines. Now set the timer for 5 minutes and see how much you can get down. That’s a total of 10 minutes — but once you understand that you actually can get the entire thing down in some way in 5 minutes you can do this with anything and take only 5 minutes (or 10 when you have it).
We all have hurry-up-and-wait times. The doctor’s office, picking up a child from school or play time, the bus stop (local and long distance), car pool, train and plane ports. Bring your pencil and pad (hard back, double wired, small like 6 x 6 is my preference — or my iPad with drawing apps) and sketch/draw/write for 5 minutes.
Sit in the car and draw before you go in to shop, a hair appointment, the dentist, the visit with a friend. Or even on your way to work.
At one time I got so I’d leave 5 minutes early just so I could flip my pad open and draw. Then it was 15 minutes early to any activity and half an hour to 45 minutes early to work (at a photo lab). I could stop along the way or in the parking lot finding different views even there each day. Or sit on a bench or low wall on the walk to work.
Eventually I had to set a time when I stopped like this or I’d end up running over time and become late for my appointment or work — that happened once and I started the timer idea. Even then I’d push the timing, though.
It made my day to get a drawing in before work and then one after work that could be untimed. After work the drawing times were often shorter because I was tired. However, I felt a lot better for sitting and letting go in a drawing (or writing) for those few minutes.
Yeah, get me rambling along these lines and I reel out the things that are fun fun for me.