It wasn’t until I became a mama that I actually realized how important MY time was. It also helped give me courage to let go of my fears and start creating art. What I found was a desire to learn and explore many different forms of art and graphic design as well as a need for being organized in order to balance multiple projects in the little time I had available to create between being a mama and wife for my family.
When I see an artist who seems to be focusing on one style or type of project, I am often envious of their dedication and of finding of a specific passion to focus on. But, this is not me, and I’ve realized I’m happy to be a multi-focused creator. It may be a part of the process of learning, as I am mostly self taught (& still learning!) I also realize that even these artists likely have to balance multiple projects within their focused areas though.
In reflecting on my practices of balancing many projects and creative explorations, I’ve created a list of tips to consider for how I find a balance when working on many different artistic projects:
EVALUATE AND PRIORITIZE PROJECTS & THEN SCHEDULE YOUR TIME AROUND THIS
I am doing this process often as I reevaluate what projects I want to do and the priority of getting them done. Priority may depend on deadlines, but it can also depend on my desire to do a project (like a new art exploration or a continued practice).
Having multiple projects can get overwhelming. I’ve always been a to-do list maker, keeping track of all the projects I am working on and listing out all the ones I am dreaming up. About a year ago, I started using the Get to Work Book planner by Elise Joy as a way to keep my lists together and organized and to loosely schedule out my days. I am a big fan of this planner, but there are plenty of options for you to keep track of your work or the work you’d like to complete. I’d suggest finding a way that works best for you to record your projects & keep this in your workspace as a reminder of the tasks you are wanting to complete for the day, week, month, etc. I often start my day by reviewing what’s on my day’s to-do list. I also use it as a way to refocus if I am getting distracted or wanting to work on something else.
ORGANIZE YOUR ART SPACE
It is important for me to have a space in my home to make it easy to work on my art/projects as I have time. Until recently, it was my dining room table, but now I have a dedicated office that I am working to organize for easy access to making between my day-to-day tasks & being a mama. I have an extra long table that holds my computer work station next to space for art making. Having everything within reach when I sit down has been convenient for me to make the most of my creative time.
HAVE WORK TO TAKE ON THE GO
It is very rare that I leave my home without some sort of art supplies in my bag. Most often it is just a sketchbook and pen, but sometimes, depending on the plans for the day, I might pack a little more supplies for projects I can do if I get a free moment while out (for example: park playground playtime, waiting to pick up my husband from work, waiting for an appointment to start, etc.) The work I take with me is often a pen and a sketchbook. I tend to keep it simple.
KNOW YOUR AVAILABLE WORK TIMES & FIND CREATIVE WAYS TO MAKE MORE TIME
Think about your day and when you can get time to create. I find my time spread throughout the day, and some days I have more time than others. I often wake up an hour or two before my little one. This is when I try to get my most important tasks done often ones that might involve sitting at my work table or being on the computer. The rest of my time is flexible & changes from day-to-day. If my daughter is interested in doing projects at her art table, I’ll work along beside her on my own projects at my art table. As I mentioned before, I also take my sketchbook with me when we leave the house in case I can squeeze a few minutes in during our outing or play time at the park. My last block of time is usually in the evening when my family relaxes together in the living room after dinner. This time is usually used for sketchbook work or playing on the iPad Pro using the Apple Pencil. I have to be creative with finding time to make, but I need this time for my own sanity so I prioritize making it work while being flexible with the fact that some days I get more time than others. I also have to tell myself to stay off social media during times that I could be creating.
HAVING AT LEAST ONE SMALL PERSONAL PROJECT A DAY
A simple daily project is a good way to make sure I am creating something of my own choice everyday. Sometimes I feel like I’m spending a lot of time working on specific projects for clients and not getting my freedom to create, but having a daily project that can be completed quickly when time is lacking and has flexibility helps fill my needs to create freely daily. I don’t tend to do the same project for the whole year, but I do pick projects and work on them daily, sometimes in a formal way (like my current 100 day project where I’m sketching with a pen and notebook everyday) and sometimes in an informal way (spending the week practicing lettering on the iPad Pro daily as a way to work on perfecting my skills or doing 10 abstract paintings). Whatever it may be, having at least a little time to work on what I call my “own project” helps keep me motivated to complete all the other projects and art that I am balancing.
Remember, creativity is a habit, but I’ve found that it’s a really rewarding habit to have if you can find what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Alicia Schultz is the artist & designer behind Vine & Thistle. You can find more of her work by following her on Instagram.