There is a long, quite demanding, dayjob project that begins on Friday. This week has been broken up with hours allotted for its preparation.
But since October I have been learning, finally, the better tricks to protect my creative practice. I slip and flounder from time to time but it helps a lot to know that there are invisible hands ready to pull me back.
One trick is to match project with project. It seems obvious but often I treat creative work as a formless, over-flexible, open-ended task compared to the structured, defined, purposive design of a dayjob project. No wonder the latter can easily run over and overwhelm the former with its sharp edges and hard bullet points of objectives.
In other words I need to give some "structure" as well to my creative work. Nothing formal or constricting to the natural flow and rhythm of creativity, but something that will direct and steer the practice towards tangible output, and then applying some level of target "quality" to that output. This is probably something that applies to someone who has been working on a creative practice for a bit of time, someone who has already gained a clear understanding and acceptance that a creative practice is essential to his or her daily life. Also someone who has a good inkling of the types of creative work he or she wants to pursue or explore.
I discovered that when I define my creative work into "projects", I am better able to finish something. I am able to make a concrete list of actions and tasks that I can tick off at the end of a day and feel satisfied about. It does not matter if it is a small task such as "prime the canvas" or "paint the background" or "refill the paint palette". When I look at my list I see my creative practice getting done side-by-side with dayjob duty. It is not pushed aside or postponed, or de-prioritised.
The overall goal in defining the creative project is to have clear pockets of action that I can jump into given the time available to me. I have more than one creative project defined so there is always something that I can do real work on. (The time when I come up with ideas and inspiration and refill my creative well is a separate activity in itself and I find that for me, it is not the best counterbalance to dayjob work -- I will write about this in another post.)
Creative Project #1:
I am going to make paintings on these small circles of canvas -- I used 5-inch diameter embroidery hoops as frames.
The idea is a word that inspires or triggers a positive action or thought, set against a brightly patterned background. I started with "believe".
Next I'm thinking "create", "love", "become"...
Each finished piece goes into the "exhibit line" -- this project contributes to a bigger project of building up the pieces for my creative exhibit which I plan to realise next year.
Creative Project #2:
To practice both my calligraphy and poem-writing, I picked up on this random practice of doing both on small square pieces of memo pad. Now from random I decided to turn it into a proper practice.
The finished pieces can then feed bigger projects: transforming them into bigger calligraphy painting pieces, or making them part of a poetry book collection --- oh wait, what about greeting or message cards, as certain lovely ladies have suggested?
Notice that these projects are generally small-scale -- with tasks broken down and doable in fifteen to twenty minutes (making the time is a basic assumption here -- when one commits to a creative life one commits to making time even if it is only fifteen minutes). Convenient enough to slip in during dayjob work breaks (like when I am writing reports). These are the creative projects I have currently defined to match against upcoming dayjob work. I will continue to design new ones so I can have options while maintaining forward movement.
These projects are supplemented by a daily-page practice which serves as an additional anchor into creativity. I will post my tricks for that next.