I decided to get this out of the way up front with this, my first column for ABN. Normally I try to avoid this topic, probably because it is not one of my own strongest qualities. I try—I really do—but if I don’t remind myself constantly, I fall back into old habits. But after all these years of being an artist, I’ve finally figured out the key to being successful: Discipline.
Renowned dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp has said that she starts off each day by getting into a taxi and going to the gym. For her, getting into the taxi is her daily discipline. If she can just make it there, then the rest is history… and we all know how her career turned out. (Her 2003 book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, has been translated into six languages.)
While reviewing the list of artists in an exhibit I recently curated, I was struck by how all of them are extremely disciplined when it comes to their artistic careers. Each one gets up every morning and sticks to his or her daily routine, whether it involves devoting all day to their art or working for an hour or two before starting their other jobs.
Another common denominator is that they all start their days with a physical ritual; whether it’s stretching, running, lifting weights, meditation or yoga, the ritual is the same every day.
Washington, D.C.-based mixed media artist Anne Marchand is a good example of an artist who has kept the same routine for years, and she has a successful career to show for it. Her routine goes like this:
- Morning Meditation
- Computer/Office Work
- Studio Time
As you can see from Marchand’s routine, she alternates between energizing the mind and energizing the body. This feeds her creativity and keeps her energy level high. Food and exercise have a great influence on your creativity and the actual artwork that you create.
Artists need experience that only time and practice can bring. But without the discipline it takes to get up every day and start a creative ritual, it’s easy to watch weeks, months or even years pass by with little or no progress in one’s artistic career.
One of the artists in that same exhibition I curated has three children, the youngest of whom is under one year; two have full-time jobs and another works part-time and has two children; the remaining three are full-time artists. When I asked how they manage to produce so much quality work, they told me that they just get up earlier and/or go to bed later. One of them takes a week out of the year to go away and recharge her batteries. And they all participate in their share of workshops during the year.
The artists also agree that if they didn’t stick to their daily routines, they definitely would not be producing the amount of quality art that they do. If for some reason their routine is broken—by travel, illness or a family emergency, for example—they get back to it as soon as possible.
So tomorrow morning, get up and start your own creative routine. Mine is stretching and lifting weights for five to 10 minutes. It loosens up my body, which loosens up my creative juices and sets me on my path for the rest of the day.
Have a creative day.
About the Author:
Jodi Walsh lives and creates her artwork in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. She is the founder of House of Artistry (www.HouseofArtistry.com) and the creator of the “12 STEP Program for Artists: The Art of Doing Business.”™ As an artist career consultant, Walsh offers portfolio and Website reviews and private career consultations. She is the owner of Gallery 555dc (www.gallery555dc.com) in Washington, D.C. E-mail her at HouseofArtistry@aol.com.
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