Most of us will have days or weeks when we can’t make as much stuff as we’d like. Things get busy, we have jobs, families and lives which means occasionally you’ll be out of time to sit down and make art. There are some simple tips you can try to maximize the thinking, mulling, and considering time that can help fuel your creative work. I think time allotted for musing and pondering is highly underrated, and the tips below go some of the way in allowing for more time these moments.
1. Read before you fall asleep
This is a classic subconscious-employing trick, used a lot for when you really need to study and remember material. If you want to think more about your artwork (or anything), read about it just before you fall asleep. Studies show that your brain remembers more and thinks subconsciously about the information you process just before going into REM sleep. You might even dream about what you read, were thinking about or were doing just before sleep. If you’re reading a book on creativity you really want to digest, this is a great strategy to help recall and your own creative process.
2. Take notes whenever ideas come
Take notes. Lots of notes. No matter what time of day (or night). Give keeping a notepad and pen beside your bed, and always carry one in your handbag or pocket. Don’t be afraid to take notes in public, in elevators, or anywhere the inspiration strikes. Some strategies you could try are making lists of future or potential artwork or doing lose free-form sketches of half-baked ideas for new works. Taking notes can be valuable in their offhanded, indiscriminate format — sometimes they’re not important or playful, and sometimes they can be tiny seeds of gold.
3. Make conversations about your artwork a priority
Ditch the guilt around talking about yourself too much, and think about how much time you spend talking out loud about your artwork. It can really help to regularly make the effort to speak about what you’ve been working on. There’s a learning curve that comes out of forcing yourself to name things. Set up catch-ups or phone calls with others artists to check in with each other regarding your work. Hopefully these conversations can happen with family and friends or co-workers, and can be used as an artistic compass to check you are on course, on the whole, with making work.
If you can name the thing you’re doing, and explain why and describe it well to others, it’s a good sign you’re focused and really engaged with what you’re doing.
4. Use commute time
Use the time you’re driving, on the train, or commuting to and from work to your advantage. Read, listen, think, make lists, or mentally check off your progress. I know artists who use commute time to meditate and reflect on themselves, which is another interesting strategy to try. Using commute time means that when you do sit down to create work, you’ve often done the heavy thinking and are ready to dive into the practical, hands-on work. It is an obvious one, but it’s been tried and tested.
5. Don’t underestimate thinking time
When you’re not making artwork, make time to simply think. It seems like many artworks are made after months (or even years) of living inside your own head. Whether you’re at work, walking pets, or doing the dishes, using this time to think hard about your artwork can pay off greatly. You can often surprise yourself with how much you can progress you can make if you clock the thinking hours. Realizing that this was a “thing” was one of the most helpful and insightful lessons I learned as an artist. Thinking time is time well spent.