When have you practiced something? Like, did you ever learn to play an instrument, or learn to play soccer, or some such thing?
I learned to play the saxophone when I was a kid.
At first, I practiced a couple of times a week, and then that grew and eventually I practiced every day for several hours. I was disciplined about much of that practice. I started with a warm-up sequence and moved to short pieces of music that I already knew well, and then I would move on to new and more difficult pieces. I usually ended with playing along with ad-lib records to just jam a bit.
I also learned to become a super-fast swimmer. I swam every day and pushed myself to learn new strokes and to beat my times and hold my breath longer and do better dives. I worked to get better and better, ultimately to win races.
Making a Practice
I know how to set up and follow a practice. I can look into my past and see that I’ve done it. I’m sure most of you have done the same, built a practice and learned how to do something well.
It might take a bit of trial and error, but eventually, a routine develops. Going through that routine day after day develops into an actual habit. And then we get better at whatever it is we’re practicing.
So why does setting up a creative practice for arting seem so tedious??
I’m pretty sure that I have some barefoot-and-fancy-free-romanticized notion of the artist’s life. You know, like: 1. wake up and have coffee, 2. stare at the clouds, 3. listen to the birds, 4. eat something sweet and yummy, 5. ride my bike, 6. see some great colors on the trees, and finally, 7. paint.
Well. I actually do those things, although not always in that order. Of course, other stuff in my day gets mixed in there :) All the way up to number 7. At number 7, I lose my focus. I know, seems like I didn’t have much focus during the first 6 :)
At number 7…that’s where the practice becomes important. Some days, I look at the canvas (or the blank paper or the blank computer or whatever) and just sit there. Or maybe I don’t even get that far. Maybe I just think about getting in front of the canvas.
But it all happens at number 7. If I’m going to get off-track and NOT create anything, that’s where it’ll happen.
Then my whole gig is shot. Because if I don’t create, I lose my mind. If I don’t create, I’m not moving forward in my art. And if I don’t create, I don’t get better at creating. And I want to get better.
So what do you do at that point?
With my creative practice, I have built a similar style and sequence to follow as I once did for my saxophone practice.
My Practice Time
First, I warm-up. That’s right, I warm-up. I don’t just start painting directly on the canvas that I’ve been creating. If I did that, I’d screw it up. I’ve actually done that many, many times. It took me a while, but I did learn that I can’t just start with the big thing, I have to start with something not so important-seeming.
So I start with doodling or coloring a drawing or smearing paint on the background of a journal page. Just something to get my hand moving, and something to get me out of my head.
After warming up a bit, I’ll move on to adding layers to any of my several journals-in-progress. That can mean slapping some paint onto a blank page, or putting gesso on some pages, or drawing borders on existing backgrounds. Something that moves some of my work forward.
I’ll also glue tidbits into journals at this point also. Because adding glue means having to let stuff dry, it’s a great time to get stuff glued in to set aside while I work on another journal.
Typically, I’ll move onto text in at least one of my journals at this point. I try to keep up with writing of some kind every day.
Main Project Time
Then I’ll get into whatever my main creative project is at the current juncture. Canvas, wood, walls, sewing…it doesn’t really matter what’s next. It’s just that after the warm-up stuff I’ve stopped thinking so much, I’ve stopped being so caught up in what’s been going on in my day or in my life at the moment. I can get on to the act of really arting.
And here’s the crux of this biscuit: I have a creative practice because of the habits, the autonomy that I have taught myself. Even if I’m not sure that I feel so creative or inspired, if I just start the sequence, I will get into my zone.
My zone. That’s where I want to be so that I can create. My zone is where my magic happens, where my soul and my spirit talk and connect and center me. My zone is where I find my calm and peace. And I create stuff. What a nice product of soul work!
What you do in your own sequence isn’t nearly as important as just having a sequence. You can teach yourself to get there even when you think you’re too crabby or tired.
And don’t think just because you may not have a whole bunch of time that it’s not going to work.
I have days where I just do one or two pieces of my sequence. Some days I do some of the pieces all timed throughout the day. But my mind and body knows what’s next.
Because I practice.
Prompt: Spend some time considering what you can do to up your game, i.e. put into practice to get really good at your craft, or something new!
And leave a comment here and tell us what kinds of things you do in your creative practice, we can all benefit from the ideas!!