Friday, November 23, 2012

Methods of Working

Commuters ©Evertson 2006 solarplate etching, 8 x 10.5


I recently saw an excellent post from the blog Brain Pickings by author Maria Popova on the working habits of famous writers.  It got me thinking about comparisons to the working habits of artists and specifically, "how does my days schedule hold up?"

Maria culled through Paris Review archives and found some interesting excerpts from diaries and interviews by Bradbury, Didion, E.B.White, Kerouac, Sontag and many more.  Keeping in mind that there are huge differences between these well known authors working on a project and most of the working artists I know as friends and colleagues; most notably everyone I know isn't making a living solely from their art production.  This aspect seemed mostly absent from the authors; so I'm assuming, with some exceptions, these authors are writing of their days after achieving some success.

The first similarity is the quest for solitary time in which to immerse oneself.  This Hemingway quote seems about right.
 When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.
Corona ©Evertson 2010 digital pigment print, 17 x 22

I come from a blue collar background with a dad who worked on the family farm then trained to be a machinist and eventually had his own auto repair business. (where the whole family pitched in 6 days a week)  In the years after college and grad school I also tended to be self employed in order to have some control over my time.  Mostly I built; sometimes welding, sometimes cabinetry but for years it was houses.  Hardhat work where you bid on jobs and work your tail off in all kinds of weather until you collect a check.

I bring that mentality to my art. Get up and go to work; work the job (now primarily art) and not the clock. Quitting time comes when you're satisfied that you've made enough progress. My day begins around 5:30.
5:30 - 6:00     Wake - coffee - breakfast - quick check of tv news and weather
7:00 - 8:00     Computer to check email, Facebook and blog comments
8:00 - 9:00     Workout (because if it doesn't happen it becomes too difficult later)
9:00 -11:00     Back to computer for PR, updates to websites and blogs, grant applications or           residencies, digital archiving and generally the business end to artmaking.
11:00 - 12:00  Short peek into the studio to prioritize work either by deadline or more often by mood.
12:00 - 2:00    Lunch, errands and power nap
2:00 - 7:00     Generally my most concentrated block of time for actual work. Sometimes in the zone, sometimes stalking around the studio like a caged animal, but I stick it out because the zone always returns.
7:00 - 8:00     Making supper, catching up with my wife.
8:00 - 10:00    Doodle, jot ideas in notebooks, music, movie, more Facebook to see what my artist friends are posting.
10:00 - 11:00  Reading in bed     

All in all, I was surprised how similar my days were to writers.  They're not waiting for inspiration and neither am I.  I've got years of notebooks filled with projects, sketches and ideas. I pay attention to the art world; what's showing, what's receiving attention, but it has little bearing on what I produce. Producing is what I do, it's work, it takes time and some solitude; sometimes the result finds an external home or an exhibition but showing up everyday for work is what is most important to me these days.

Another quote from the Brain Picking blog by one of my favorite authors, William Gibson, describes it better than I.

As I move through the book it becomes more demanding. At the beginning, I have a five-day workweek, and each day is roughly ten to five, with a break for lunch and a nap. At the very end, it’s a seven-day week, and it could be a twelve-hour day.
Toward the end of a book, the state of composition feels like a complex, chemically altered state that will go away if I don’t continue to give it what it needs. What it needs is simply to write all the time. Downtime other than simply sleeping becomes problematic. I’m always glad to see the back of that.
Of course it may not always go smoothly as the vicissitudes of life intrude, yet trying to stick to the routine as much as possible IS the challenge and with it learning to say no to both distractions and those who think artists have free time.

How about you?  How do you carve out time to create without going crazy?

 Meltdown ©Evertson 2009 digital pigment print, 20 x 25



Post a Comment