Making Time for Creativity--Growing Gills work through



  • I've taken a couple of her mini courses too! I've always come away with something useful or thought provoking. I love her blog and emails as well. I want to move from being more passive (just collecting nice ideas from cool people) and applying them... thus this work through/read along/whatever we want to call it. Please Join if you wish, or even just chime in even if you don't read the book. 🙂



  • @sarahluann Okay. I'm in! Just purchased (will get here on the 14th), so I'll hopefully keep up with ya'll.



  • This looks great! I may need to check it out...



  • This is so cool! I can't participate right now because I have a few others projects I'm working on, but I'm so curious to follow this thread and your works! Anyone posting their progress for this on instagram? I'd love to follow along.
    I'll definitely be bookmarking this book for later.



  • @sarahluann OMG. This book. I felt like I was reading about me in the Intro (pushing away art in school because it came easy to me, taking up classes that I felt were more "legitimate"). Yikes. Humbling, yet uplifting so far. Today I'm starting to track my time -- I'm a little scared to see just how much time I waste on FB/email/depressing news. I love how she lays out that as independent creatives, our schools/traditional workplaces don't show us the way for self-initiated creative projects, so it's normal that it falls to the wayside.


  • SVS OG

    Since I have a busy week coming up, I'll put my comments up early.

    I read the introduction and the first chapter, and did the activity of the "whys," which resulted in these two insights. First of all, I'm no longer really dealing as much with a time drain as with a creative drain. When I had children in the house, I definitely felt at times like I couldn't breathe (the gills is such a great metaphor) and got up at 5 am just to have time to work on creative things. Now, my kids are grown (the youngest is in college) but as they became more independent, I took on more responsibilities at work which all require creative output. As the minister of a small church, I not only have to put together worship and write a sermon every week, but I'm also in charge of the music program, writing our weekly Sunday School curriculum, etc.etc. I feel like I'm constantly having to drag creative ideas out of my brain so when I have time to work on my own stuff, I have no creativity left! If I've already started a piece and am just mindlessly painting, it's great but if I'm trying to compose a piece, my brain is too tired to think about it. Right now, I basically wait until Monday (my one day off) to spend on composition etc. but that means it takes longer than I want to get pieces done. Not sure what to do about that.

    The other insight, however, in doing the "why" activity was that when I asked myself "why" I sometimes avoid doing art even when I do have the time and energy, it went like this:

    I'm afraid it will turn out badly. Why am I afraid of that?
    Because it sometimes has. Why has it sometimes turned out badly?
    Because I'm not always sure of what I'm doing. Why am I not sure of what I'm doing?
    Because I don't have a lot of experience. Why don't I have a lot of experience?
    Because I sometimes avoid doing art because I'm afraid it will turn out badly!

    The exercise helped me to see what a stupid loop I've caught myself in 🙂

    Those are my initial thoughts. Looking forward to hearing everyone else's.



  • @demotlj Laurie, thanks for sharing your Whys. Here are mine:

    Resistance: I don't work everyday on my illustration.
    Because....I have to clean, shop, exercise, drive kids around, deal with contractors, etc.
    Because...I am the stay at home parent, so this work defaults to me.
    Because... my husband has more earning potential.
    Because....he's a lawyer.
    Why does that process fail? I'm putting the business (and busy-ness) of stay-home-parent above my illustration career.

    That was hard to write. But hey, first step to recovery.



  • Way to keep me honest guys.... I'm still finishing up with reading the first chapter! I've been focused on potty training this week, so many other things have gone on the back burner. It's gone pretty well actually, so I can breathe again.

    I am loving your thoughts and am excited to see what I'll uncover when I go through the exercise. I have a feeling that mine might look a lot like @Laurel-Aylesworth 's though, heh.


  • SVS OG

    @Laurel-Aylesworth well just hit copy and past and that’s my why’s! Even to the attorney husband! How funny!

    This seems way more my speed then the “art of tidying up” that all my friends are doing.

    @SarahLuAnn good luck with potty training. Everyone’s life stops for that process!

    @demotlj A minster! How awesome is that! I bet it does drain your creativity. When my brain can’t compose I just have “go to” flowers. Sometimes I just need to unwind by making non purposeful marks on the paper.


  • SVS OG

    @whitney-simms Ministry is a very meaningful life but for me it's also been a lifetime of figuring out how to retain a sense of joy and delight because I spend so much time listening to people in the midst of sorrow, grief, relationship problems, addictions etc. For me, drawing children's illustrations is not just a creative outlet but a way to continually feed my playful side that gets so neglected in my work.


  • SVS OG

    My perspective on these issues is slightly different from the rest of you because I am older (61) and my youngest is in college so I am no longer involved in child care but I remember it all too well. I am a single parent, having adopted my oldest son and taken in my younger two as foster kids (who ended up living with me permanently) so I had to learn how to fit my drawing into their schedules. I have lots and lots of sketches of track meets and ski meets (as well as having learned how to write sermons while sitting in my car between races.) My main problem in those years was finishing stuff because you can't do that in the bleachers of a sporting event! I tried all kinds of strategies and the only thing that ever worked for me without fail that I still use today is accountability. If I knew someone was waiting to see what I had produced, it made me figure out how to find the time even if the floors didn't get vacuumed that week 🙂 I also taught my kids to do their own laundry from the time they were 8 years old, and learned not to stress out about their messy rooms. (OK, kind of learned.) I really had to develop a certain amount of selfishness which is really hard in today's child-centered climate but my kids all turned out to be great human beings and when they went to college, were quite proud of the life skills I had forced on them.

    And getting back to the "Why" exercise, in a sense, that willingness to be selfish with my time and devote it to creative work that benefits no one but myself continues to be at the base of my struggle.



  • @whitney-simms LOL - that was one of my wake up calls. After reading the Magic of Tidying Up I was like, WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY TIME??



  • @demotlj I found the core of my dilemma is a loop as well. Mine goes something like this:

    Why don’t I get 1.5 hours of illustration work done a night?
    Because the kids take forever to get to bed.
    Why does it take them forever to get them to bed?
    Because they’re not on a set bedtime routine.
    Why aren’t they on a set bedtime routine?
    Because my wife and I are exhausted when we get home from work.
    Why are we exhausted when we get home from work?
    Because we stay up too late?
    Why do we stay up too late?
    Because the kids take forever to get to bed.

    This was a really easy loop to fall into once we had our second child (they are 6 and 4 now). However, assessing the trade-offs really makes it obvious what I need to do. For example, the trade-offs for keeping things the way they are now are that I can be lazy and chill with my kids as the evening ticks by, but I feel guilty for
    not putting the work in, clients may possibly have to wait to receive proofs, I dread work piling up because of that, and I end up resenting my wife and children for not helping me get to my evening illustration work. However, the trade-offs for solving the problem are accepting the initial resistance, blow-back, and stress of enforcing a consistent bedtime routine, but I'll (eventually) have more time for and pleasure in my illustration work, with the added bonuses of having happy, rested children and more one-on-one time with my wife.



  • Wow, thanks so much everyone for participating with me!

    I did a couple rounds of the 5 whys, one more generally centered on WHY do I not get much creative work done?

    And what it came down to was simply, I have two toddlers, to whom I am the primary care giver. This is the phase of life I am in. I chose it, and I do love it (when I stop to breathe.) This phase won't last forever, so for the time being, I just have to work around it as well as I can and be productive with the time that I do have. So this is very closely related to the whys that @Laurel-Aylesworth shared (except my husband is an engineer ;-). I'm glad we have @demotlj here to remind us that there will be a point when life doesn't revolve around kid's schedules ;-).

    @ajillustrates I feel like we have a little bit of your loop going on in our house too, but we've started to get back into a schedule now that the holidays are all the way over and I'm starting to get my husband on board with the regular earlier bedtime thing... for the kids. I find that now I have to discipline myself to actually go to bed at a decent hour, since the kids are going to bed on time and therefore waking up bright and early. Sigh.

    I did a second round of whys based on why, specifically, my dummy still isn't finished. The answer came down to the fact that I keep getting sidetracked by other, smaller quicker projects with actual deadlines (such as the Howl's Moving Castle contest I just entered, and now preparing my portfolio for the SCBWI conference I'm attending next month).

    That actually brings me to why I wanted to have you all work through this book with me... I'm finding that I work best with an external deadline/expectation. It doesn't work for me to just say to myself that I'll do it by such-and-such a date, I need to actually feel accountable to people outside myself to do a thing.

    This book, Growing Gills? I read the whole thing last year. Yep. But did I do ANY of the exercises or action steps? Nope. Nada. Zilch. I just went "Oh, yeah, that would probably be a great thing to do, I should try that..."

    So I went and made you all join in with me, so I'd feel like I HAD to do this.

    So far, it's working. 🙂



  • SO! For next week:

    Continue to do the Time Tracking activity from the introduction (which I forgot to mention in my previous post... sorry!)
    Read Chapter 2: Drowning in Idea Debt
    Complete the Activity: Idea Debt Inventory



  • Hello, thanks for sharing! I want to join (although I may be 2-3 chapters behind by the time I get the chance to read the book) : it seems the book helped you already!


  • SVS OG

    Hi @Julia, feel free to join! One reason we are moving slowly is so that anyone can keep up or catch up if they want to. We will look forward to seeing your thoughts!



  • K. So I got the book today because it looked fun and I like group activities. I actually have done 5 whys at work. Trips me out that I'm now "leaning" non-manufacturing life. XD
    I am doing way more illustration practice right now than usual since I'm off work for a bit, but there are still a few obstacles to being able to finish stuff.

    After contemplating a bit though I realized:

    I'm doing ok for where I'm at physically with doing art work. I finished a piece for a contest this month and will finish one for the SVS contest at this rate. My most important concern is my physical health and I'm not adding pressure to accomplish more. However, that said, I could put a bit more effort into getting an easel setup that I can comfortably oil paint at. I have been missing my painting time and trying to adapt for the last few months and it's nothing a floor easel, glass palette, comfy stool, and lots of hand wipes couldn't make happen. I have still been consistently creating though so not gonna be hard on myself about it but I can make traditional images happen with a bit of effort.

    Also, while in the end I signed up for an illustration class I've been wanting I struggle with valuing my artistic work and had to really fight those feelings to do so. In the back of my mind I feel like I should only be thinking about getting more engineering work because of the almighty dollar, but my art is important too and actually improves my technical work. The creative vs tech divide is myth, fwiw. 😛 Life is better when I paint and it's ok for me to want to share the things I make so my creations spread happiness and don't accumulate in corners of my home. And the cost of a class I've been wanting to take for literally five years is acceptable especially if it helps me level up. My artistic practice is worth it regardless of nagging doubts.

    Now to track my time for two weeks. Challenge accepted!



  • @ajillustrates Good luck with the routine! I hope it helps you get the time you need.
    @demotlj Your discussion of why you hesitate really hit home. I have been working (over about two years) on letting go of judgement during art time and before that I barely ever drew and painted. It really took a lot of work to be able to let go of critical voices long enough to even do quick sketches and I still have to be very conscious of critical Kate to look at what needs fixing in a piece and move it forward without critical Kate voice getting loose and disrupting the whole flow.
    On you second post, the valuing of time is definitely a lot of internal work! I, as a person who as yet doesn't have kids, am still convinced tiny people benefit by seeing us adults value ourselves and our work though.
    @Laurel-Aylesworth Your post was part of what convinced me to try the book. I put earnings above my art work partly because my ex was constantly on me to work to potential... by pushing myself only in high earnings areas and not in "unimportant" "hobby" art. Spending time on my art right now, when I'm not earning money at an engineering job, feels downright like an attack on social values. It's kind of absurd. 😆



  • @ThisKateCreates , I think you've really hit on one of my core reasons that I keep moving forward on my artistic career goals despite the difficulty and the tightness of my schedule.

    "I, as a person who as yet doesn't have kids, am still convinced tiny people benefit by seeing us adults value ourselves and our work though."

    I, a person who DOES have kids, feel the same thing very strongly! I want my kids to see that I believe in myself, I do hard things, and I don't just TELL them they can do/be anything that THEY want, I actually show them by doing it myself. And also, I firmly believe that I am a better mom because I take the time to be creative, my husband has commented on how much more fun I am to be around when I've made that time for myself, despite all that I need to get done.

    It becomes one of those problem loops though, because while my kids are a big part of the reason I want to push through and make this work, they are also the primary thing that makes it difficult to make the time to do so.

    The reading about dilemmas in this week's chapter is really hitting home. 🙄


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