Starting an art practice can be daunting. Here are my best tips and ideas to help get you set up for a sustainable practice. Startitus. This is the ninth in my series on How to Create Your Art Practice.
It’s never too late for an introduction
Before I dig into Startitus, I’ve gotta back up a minute. I need to do a preface to this series here in the ninth installment. When all of this becomes a book, then these paragraphs will go into the Introduction. But for now they’re going here at the beginning of Startitus because I’ve already written eight posts and someone just mentioned to me that it might be a good idea to clarify these thoughts for folks. So here’s my introduction to the series and hopefully it’s arriving right on time for you!
The Series Introduction
These posts are meant to include anyone who wants to call themselves an artist or if they want to call what they are making art. You can be a visual artist, a writer, a crocheter, a paper crafter, a coder, a chainmail maker, a gardener, a quilter, a bread baker, or a maker of anything else. You get to call what you make art and yourself an artist. If you’ve picked out color combos or plant combos. If you’ve at any time in your process scratched your head and said, “What will happen if I try this?” and then checked your results against what you wanted and adjusted. Or if you’ve folded 3,000 paper cranes or you are working on your second. I believe all of these things count as creative, so you are making art.
Secondly when I talk about an art practice, I mean it in the same way as a daily yoga practice. Not like a law practice or a doctor’s practice. You don’t have to be a professional. You don’t have to even be thinking of becoming a professional. I want you to think of your creative time as a practice just like you would practice an instrument or the fundamentals of a sport. Many people understand what sort of practice it takes to excel as an athlete or to become a well-versed piano player and then turn around and assume that art making and creativity are just bestowed on a lucky few. Sure, some folks have natural abilities. But many folks just practice their thing a whole lot to get good at it. You can too.
What is Startitus?
I really love looking for new crochet patterns. Then I love to gather yarn from my stash and wind my perfect yarn selection so I can start the project. I pick an appropriate hook and maybe do a swatch or some drape testing. And THEN I START. A NEW PROJECT. HOW EXCITING! I may get eight or ten rows done before bedtime. Then the next day I get a few more rows done. The day after that I’m scrolling patterns again. Startitus is the need to start new things without the same need to finish them.
I currently have four crochet projects going. Six art journals in various stages of completion. I also have two commissions in various stages of work. The starting is the fun part. The finishing part is the work.
A variation of Startitus is supply collecting. “These markers will make my art better!” “This yarn is perfect for this GIANT project I want to do!” “Having 47 shades of blue fabric is so helpful!” Yes, of course you need supplies but when the supplies become the focus you maybe have some Startitus.
The malingering middle
My crafty friend, Jessica, says, “Sometimes it’s kinda cathartic to find ufos (UnFinished Objects) and do some finishing to feel accomplished. That’s most helpful if I have things in the last stage, though. Finishing the half done projects can help, too. Just not as immediate. It can be nice to have some long term things to go back to when I’m between new things, too.”
I think my friend Jessica is a genius! So have projects in progress to work on? But also start new projects? Then too have projects that are almost finished? Gosh, Misty, that’s super helpful. No but really I think there’s something useful here…
New projects represent the excitement of new beginnings! Of course we want something new to start! There’s so much potential!! There’s something novel about the excitement of starting a new project. I think the need for that novelty is what drives much of my desire to start something new.
The middle part where everything is dragging and things tend to be kinda a mess, no one wants to hang out there. So having projects to start or to finish while you have one or two projects malingering in the middle can help offset some of that middle pain. Knowing that novelty is what is driving my startitus helps me to keep all the projects in perspective and moving between projects helps feed the need for some novelty.
There’s research out there that says small wins help us stay encouraged and build momentum. Starting or finishing something can be that encouragement to keep going with a longer project during that seemingly endless middle stage.
Schedule that business
I’m an overachiever. I like to do a LOT of things. I collect hobbies and activities but then don’t put some down when I find others I want to add. Projects can accumulate around me and when that happens I have to start scheduling my work. If I’m pushing a deadline, this is typical for me when I decide I’m going to make a bunch of Christmas gifts, I have to start doling out my time in hour or two hour chunks to projects.
“Won’t that turn my fun into work?” you might ask. I think it just spreads the fun around, only intentionally more evenly. That means I think the process is fun too. I mean, clearly I love process, or I wouldn’t have decided to write all of this down.
I don’t make a spreadsheet, usually. But if a spreadsheet makes it work for you, go for it! Mostly I just make a list to work from so I can ditch the feeling that I’m forgetting something. If I’ve really overstretched, then I might make some priority decisions. That way if I don’t get everything finished then at least I get the most important bits done.
Taking part in a group event like The100 Day Project for arts and crafts projects or NaNoWriMo for writing projects can also be really helpful in your attempt to finish things. Everyone is working on their individual, longish-term project but at the same time. Both of these groups have rich hashtag resources to see all the cool things other folks are doing, show off what you are working on, and engage with people.
You have probably noticed by now that I’m always gonna say “Community” to almost any question and what to do about Startitus is no different. Working alongside others who are doing something similar so you can cheer each other on and commiserate about the pitfalls is always going to make the journey easier.
If you can’t wait for January or November to get started, even just one accountability partner can keep you moving.
When I’m working, I usually want some music that mirrors either my energy level or speaks to the project in some way. When I’m writing, I use this ambiance music. I’ve been using it pretty consistently during this writing project and now I find I can settle and start writing pretty quickly once I turn it on.
For my show Women’s Work, I listened to a Pandora Missy Elliott station. When I work on crochet projects, I watch tv shows, usually something funny. Right now I’m working on a blanket for my nephew and I’m watching the sitcom “Community”.
All of these cues remind your brain that it’s time to work so even if you’d rather start something new, cueing your project to some music or to a show helps you stay on your current task.
I don’t particularly think Startitus is a bad thing. I love to start new things. There’s nothing like that rush. If starting and not finishing bothers you though, figuring out where your stumbling blocks are so you can route around them can be pretty useful. Hopefully, I’ve got you covered in this post. I’d love to hear about how you move through this process and navigate startitus so if you have a tip, send it to me!
What are your questions?
Hopefully you’ve been reading along with my How to Create an Art Practice posts. What’s coming up for you? Are you feeling energized to start or are you sagging in the middle? 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.