Making Time for Creativity--Growing Gills work through

  • 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. :smiling_face_with_open_mouth_closed_eyes:

  • @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. 🙄

  • I'm doing the worksheet for Chapter 2, and it's embarrassing to see that I hardly have ANY ideas. I have a few, but I suspect I'm Type N: I tend to skip working on ideas because it's just too much. How could I possibly finish? How are you guys finding this chapter so far?

  • I'm definitely going to get a copy of this book, reading all your thoughts about it and your 5 Why's activity has been a real eye opener!
    I'm not sure if there is a certain way of doing the 5 Why's but I had a go myself to see if I came up with anything...

    Why am I still not comfortable working digitally?
    Because I’m afraid it will turn out badly
    Why am I afraid that it will turn out badly?
    Because I don’t seem to like any work that I produce
    Why don’t I like any work that I produce?
    Because it doesn’t look the way I want it to
    Why doesn’t it look the way I want it to?
    Because I don’t experiment enough
    Why don’t I experiment enough?
    Because I’m afraid it will turn out badly

    Look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on the next chapter!

  • For chapter two I only have a few open projects:
    Nc animals paintings
    Cute life comics
    Cosmetics line
    Incubator project
    Video game

    Two of them aren't art related and I think the incubator one has to die. It was a electronic device project that I just haven't had time and resources for. The comics I just do for fun sometimes and could got too really.

  • Just came in to say thank you for sharing this book! I plan to check it out and hopefully it can help me get back on track!

  • SVS OG

    @Jason-Kilthau No problem! I am excited that would seem interested in participating and people are getting good insights from it. One reason I want to just do one chapter a week is so people can catch up if they want.

  • SVS OG

    Here is my chapter 2 homework:


    I've been putting ideas in my Notes app in my phone for awhile now, so I went through those and pulled out the most important/relevant ideas. I allowed some ideas to die there and not be transferred to this list at all. There are a couple that might be on this list due to the whole Sunk Costs/Idea Debt Type N that the chapter discusses.

    This was a great exercise for me, even if its a bit overwhelming to see all at once like that. The thing I was most surprised by was how many ideas I had for topics I want to talk about on my blog--apparently I have a lot to share! That is something I was pretty good about doing pre-kids, but ever since I had my first baby blog posts have been pretty sparse and spare--usually just posting about a new illustration and showing a bit of how it came together. I'm realizing that if I want to make a real dent in my Idea Debt, I'm going to have to give some love to my blog. My picture book and comic ideas loom so much larger in my brain I feel like they're the things I always have to pour all my work hours into, but they are such big time-consuming projects they take months or years to complete.

    The nice thing about blog posts is they are so much more approachable! I can finish one and hit Post and have a finished (not perfect 😉 thing checked off the list to give me a sense of accomplishment.

    Another interesting insight for me was my participation in Storystorm--or lack of it. I participated in January of 2017 and generated a whole list of ideas (some good, some terrible) and continued noting down ideas for the next few months, though that habit petered out after awhile. (Many of those ideas made it into my Idea Inventory above.) In January 2018 and then 2019, I had little interest in participating again, even though a lot of writer friends were posting about how great it was and necessary for creatives, etc. etc.

    I realized that part of the reason I didn't feel like participating was I still had some ideas left over from the first time that I hadn't yet had the time to complete--why give myself a whole list of new ideas to feel guilt over? This was a great insight for me, because I had the question in the back of my mind--why am I not excited to do Storystorm? I got alot of great ideas last time, maybe I should try it... now I know. I didn't want to add to my Idea Debt.

    And a note on the exercise from the introduction, the time tracking: I consciously chose to let myself off the hook for this one. My arms are full of kids most of the day and trying to track what I was doing when I often didn't even have a hand free was adding stress. I do believe it is a good activity, but at this time in my life the cost was greater than the benefit. I did get two entire days mostly tracked and a few more partially. The bit I did complete was helpful in that it showed me... I actually am using my time quite well. I DO make time for my creative projects, despite being the primary caregiver of two toddlers--go me!

    I don't have many time wasting habits--I don't watch TV, play video games, read novels, or do any other common time wasters much or at all. (Which, just by the way, are wonderful fun things to do and I don't fault anyone who does them! I'm going to make more time to read more novels... someday.) My one vice is (surprise, surprise) social media... and even that I have been working hard to reduce. Since I started tracking my screen time months ago, I've reduced my daily average screen time significantly. I am very proud of that. What I am hoping to get out of working through this book isn't the determination to make time to work, I'm doing that already. My focus is on effectively using that time to actually complete projects and get them out into the world.

    So, how are we all doing? I'll tag everyone who has been participating for an extra nudge to get this week's chapter complete: @ThisKateCreates @hannahmccaffery @Laurel-Aylesworth @ajillustrates @demotlj @Whitney-Simms ... @kaitlinmakes @Eli and @Kristin-Wauson also showed some interest 😉

  • SVS OG

    Hi all, I'm new to this discussion. I started reading this book a few weeks ago and have already made a lot of insightful discoveries. I'm traveling now, so I don't have all my notes with me.

    The most important discovery, from the five why's is that I'm afraid of failing. I'm 47 and have never done any at until about 5 years ago. I discovered drawing realistically in graphite and colored pencil and have had a bit of (personal) success with it. However, I want to get more creative by drawing digitally and in a more illustration style, which I have never done before. Hence the anxiety....

    I have no kids so my time tracking mostly revealed that I spend most of my free time playing useless games on my phone or watching Netflix.... Time much better spent on something useful. So why don't I? Because I'm no good at the moment because I don't know what I'm doing. Because I need to learn this will from scratch. Because I'm afraid I will discovery that I can't learn, that I have no originality, that I will fail. The chapter on big ideas floating around in my head didn't ring for me, since I'm afraid I'll never have any great ideas. But I still want to try, I just can't seem to find the courage.

    Since I'm traveling I do a lot of reading and in quite a bit ahead in the book. I'm currently reading chapter 13 and things are starting to fall into place. This chapter really speaks to me. It's about finding your routine and through your routine, ideas will come to you. Wow, this gives me such hope. Maybe I will be able to find my own original voice and ideas.

    One last thing (for anyone who's made it this far in my ramblings😉) chapter 11 talks about setting up an accountability group to stay motivated. I don't have any creatives nearby. Is anyone here interested in forming such a group? A group of 4 to 10 people should be ideal apparently.

    Meanwhile I love how you all share your stories here!

  • SVS OG

    I read this chapter last week but had been procrastinating over my reflection on it because, like @Laurel-Aylesworth my primary feeling was, "I don't have that many ideas." Rather than "idea debt," I struggle more with "idea desert."

    Of the three debts she describes, however, Idea Debt P is closest to what I experience in that I spend a lot more time on learning and preparing than I do on doing. I have a dozen half viewed SVS videos because one minute I decide I'm going to learn how to watercolor, another how to do pen and ink, and yet another how to do digital painting. I attribute some of that to being new-ish at my art. I've played around with it before but it's only in the last two years that I decided to get serious and figure out what I'm doing. There is so much I want to try that it's hard to stick with one thing long enough to become competent at it.

    I agree with the author's statement that the best way to deal with it is to produce more work and set yourself a deadline which is why after Christmas I started doing an illustration/story prompt that I send to my five year old niece every month for which she is supposed to write a story. (OK, she's actually my grand-niece but it makes me feel so old to call her that!) I still get bogged down in figuring out which style I'm going to do for each picture but it forces me finally to make a choice and see an illustration through to the end. For example, when I painted my recent picture of Evelyn the Bat flying out of the cave, I started out thinking I was going to do it as primarily line work with a light wash but when that wasn't working, I tried full watercolor which was still a struggle. Knowing I had to send the picture to my niece by the end of the month, however, I finally committed to a style, re-did the composition, and saw it through. There was lots of gnashing of my teeth but at least I got it done.

    So here is my list of things I carry around in my head. They are not projects per se but they certainly get in the way of my focus:

    1. I'm going to learn how to paint watercolors that are so artistic that a friend of mine who is more into fine arts than illustrations will be impressed 🙂

    2. I am going to learn how to digitally paint illustrations in the style of some of the incredible artists on SVS so that I can feel like I belong here

    3. I am going to learn to do pen and ink in a style that is reminiscent of E. H. Shepherd because it reminds me of the illustrations of my childhood

    4. I am going to learn to do watercolor illustrations in the style of Beatrix Potter because she is considered an icon of illustrators so if I can paint like she did, I'll believe I'm a decent artist.

    As you can see, most of my roadblocks are internal insecurities about the legitimacy of what I am doing. I think that's one of the hazards of being an amateur -- without the credentials of an art degree, I always feel a little like an imposter and am afraid that I am not even trained enough to tell whether my work is even any good. The forum has helped me realize that art degrees don't protect people from that feeling so I'm starting to worry a little less about it but it's still there. In fact, honestly, my initial reaction to this chapter was: "I must not be a real artist because I don't have tons of ideas floating around in my head."

  • SVS OG

    This is so interesting to me because, as my sketchbook pages above indicate, I have way too many ideas 😂.

    I think though that sometimes we let ideas go because we don’t think we are good enough to do them justice, in which case gaining confidence and ability is a good first step. This can easily become a trap, though, as the chapter indicates—our ideas will never be as good in reality as they are in our head. Like the Platonic Ideal/Essence of a thing that only exists in our head, but can never be perfectly translated into reality.

    Also just developing the habit of gathering ideas instead of letting them just slide away in the moment—it’s my personal belief that everyone has ideas, it’s just that some people grab hold of them and others don’t. 🤷♀️ But what do I know 🙃.

    Anyway, your project with your niece sounds really fun @demotlj 😁 I loved your bat image. I am excited to see what else you produce!

  • SVS OG

    @Sarah-LuAnn I love your reference to Platonic ideals. I have always thought of my sermons as shadows of Platonic ideals — that mere words can never really match the power of the spiritual ideal I am trying to communicate and I am coming to see art the same way. (I believe C.S. Lewis used that metaphor of living in the shadows of the ideal too though I don’t trust my memory enough to attempt to describe how he used it.)

Log in to reply