Starting an art practice can be daunting. Here are my best tips and ideas to help get you set up for a sustainable practice. Modulate our input. This is the fourth in my series on How to Create Your Art Practice.
This week I want to talk about modulating our input. Learning how we balance our input and output, rest and activity can go a long way to sustaining our practices. We can learn to modulate our input.
This one is hard for me because I love collecting things. And at the end of the day, our Pinterest boards, saved IG posts, and purchased classes are all just collections of a sort. When I load up on those inputs, then I tend to feel their weight mentally and it holds me back from output (creating).
What I mean by that is when I have 4-5 classes I haven’t done, I feel obligated to watch them because I paid for them and it becomes another item on my mental to do list. If I have a bunch of Pinterest boards to maintain, I feel the pressure of doing that before, or instead of, creating.
So how do we manage all of that?
We have to pick and choose. For me that means limiting time, energy, and money spent.
Internet Time Trap
Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and my blog reader are my greatest encouragement and my greatest downfall all at the same time. I love seeing what other people are making! It can really spark a lot of new ideas for me, areas I want to push in, techniques I want to try. But those apps are called “infinity pools” for a reason. They are designed to keep you scrolling and refreshing so you’ll see something new. I can sit and scroll for hours, if I let myself. And that’s hours I could be putting in on my own work.
I decided a few years ago to start being more choosy about where I put my internet attention. I started by giving up on Pinterest altogether. I have almost zero idea of what is going on there. Once upon a time, I scrolled Pinterest to add cool things to my boards. I was always trying to keep them up to date. Now I use Pinterest like a search engine. If I want to see what’s in style for a new front door sign, I pop over to Pinterest. Or if I need a recipe, I might dig through my recipe pins to see if anything strikes my fancy. Other than that, I don’t go there. Sorry Pinterest!
I’ve largely given up on my personal Facebook account. I maintain a business Facebook account which I cross post most things from Instagram. So I don’t even have to have Facebook on my phone! Taking Facebook off of my phone was really a game changer for me. It not being readily available every time I touched my phone freed up a lot of time for me.
I limit my Instagram scrolling to about 10 minutes in the morning and the same or maybe slightly longer in the evening. Anything that I think is interesting or I want to see again, I hit the save button.
About every six months I look back through my saved Instagram posts. I pick some favorites and print them out. I bind them up in a little book. I make notes on the work and ideas I have in relation to those pieces. Then I have these handy little resources to pull from when I’m stumped for ideas. AND it keeps me out of the infinity pools when I should be working. (Big shoutout to Amy Maricle from Mindful Art Studios for this amazing tool. I took a creative mentoring session with her last summer and I adapted a piece of my homework to build this practice. Cannot recommend Amy enough if you are looking to deepen your art practice in all kinds of ways.)
I post my work at all times of the day. When I think of it, when I snap a cute pic for Stories, when I finish the piece I’m working on for the day. But I really do try to contain my scrolling and commenting for the beginning and end of the day.
Yes, I still have a blog reader. I use Feedly. It’s great because if I miss a few days, they are all there for when I have a few minutes to read. I usually do this while watching tv in the evenings. I know I’m showing my age when I say I still read blogs. Clearly I love them since I spend so much time writing here!
The apps I didn’t name
This also means I’m slow-to-never at adopting new things. I don’t have a Tik Tok account. Reels in Instagram is set up to be a competitor, so I don’t a need to add yet another channel. There’s probably something else even newer that I don’t know about and I’m ok with that. I know it makes me an Old and I don’t even care.
Take classes…but not too many.
Internet classes are THE BEST. We can learn from truly gifted teachers, often on our own schedule, from the comfort of our own space. There are a range of price points and skill levels to choose from. They can be a fabulous tool for learning new skills or for busting a creative rut. During the deep part of the pandemic last year, I bought and used a ton of classes. They were a lifeline to creating when I was kinda frozen by current events. So much goodness.
I’ve been striving for balance in this area so that I only have one or two unwatched classes. It keeps my mental to-do list under control. As I said in the intro, too many classes really add to my mental clutter. I’ve been trying to be picky about what I buy. That way I have one or two classes I really want to do instead of a bunch of classes I bought because they were on sale.
Rarely do I watch a class with the idea of replicating the whole project as the instructor does it. Rather I am watching for the tricks I don’t know or the techniques I haven’t tried. I find with this method I can watch videos on a faster speed and move through them more quickly. You may be at a point in your practice where you have to do the whole project. But I encourage you to try watching for tricks sometime if that’s a method you haven’t used before.
Once again, this is an area where you will have to find the balance that works for you. When you find your balance, you are able to spend more good brain cycles on making art.
P.M. couch time
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney, HBO Max, and all of the others that want to hold your eyelids open with toothpicks all hours of the day have something to answer for as well. I talked in an earlier post about reclaiming evening hours for project time. Depending on when you need to do creative work, you may have to shut off this fire hose as well. I love nothing better than a long Sunday afternoon where my partner and I are marathon watching a show and I’m on the couch in my pjs crocheting, but it’s the exception and not the rule for me.
I’ve freed up time in my day, now what?
Make art! This is the end result we’ve been taking this time accounting to achieve! When we aren’t spending our free time looking at other people’s stuff then we have time to make our own. Flip open your handy-dandy notebook where you’ve been keeping your project ideas and pick one to dive into. Here’s my current list for writing, art projects, classes, and places I want to apply to show my work:
I always have something to work on. Always. And if I don’t have something to work on, then I have a class to fall back on! Or I can switch up what I’m doing and put my energy toward an application or writing for you all.
Beyond the work, you also need to rest. You need time to be outside in nature. You need time to cook something fun or kinda extravagant and to dance while you do it. Or lounge on the couch to read some fiction. Maybe take a trip to the farmer’s market in your town and take in the sights and sounds.
I have become increasingly convinced that rest is essential to the creative life. But it has to be rest that isn’t taken up by screens. Relaxing by turning off our productivity to just be. I find this regular practice to be essential to my art practice. And we can do these things because we’ve modulated our input.
What are your questions?
Hopefully you’ve read the past few How to Create an Art Practice posts. What’s coming up for you? Are you feeling energized to start? Do you have questions that you are hoping I’ll answer in this series? Send me an email and let me know what you are looking for or wondering about.