As of late of late, both Akawui and I have made some major life changes. I completed my Masters Degree in August after three years of hard work, and having a baby smack in the middle. While last month, Akawui went on a life changing trip to Morocco to take part in a music residency program, reinvigorating his creativity, and his goals. Both of these experiences have left us with an altered perspective about how we want to spend our time, and we have agreed that rather than live a life of mundanity we will seek out work that we are passionate about doing daily.
Living off your artform is not always easy, and we will be the first to tell you that it’s a hustle. We are careful with our spending and at times our finances are unpredictable- based on sales, gigs, and fluctuating demand for our skills. But truly, we wouldn’t have it another way.
As a young family, we know that with a busy schedule often one’s passion projects can fall behind. If this is something that you’re dealing with, we’ve made a little list of 4 steps to staying creative that have helped us along the way, so here it goes:
1. Focus your creativity and set goals for yourself.
Getting started on a new venture, or reviving an old one, can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe you already have an idea in mind, but if not and you’re just itching for something creative to put your energy into- consider what you’re passionate about. Not sure? Ask yourself, what keeps you endlessly interested? What images or articles are saved in your phone because you want the ideas to stick? What do you love doing, or what do you want to learn?
For me, I have so many answers to these questions as there are so many things that interest me- so I have to focus and try to work on one thing at a time. Native crafts are my passion and music is Akawui’s. Individually we look at what we want, and we commit to short term creative goals. For Akawui it may be that one week he decides he’s going to write the lyrics to a new song, or work on an arrangement. For myself, I commit to finishing a pair of moccasins in amount of set time.
Both of us have studied our areas of interest in the past- Akawui has travelled internationally to hone his familiarity with musical rhythms and I am an avid workshop participant in Native crafts. We are comfortable in the areas we are interested in but if this is not your situation, you may need to take a class, seek out an expert, or research online the thing that you want to do. From there, set a goal for yourself- take on one thing at a time and begin working. I encourage you to jump in without fear, nobody is born an expert in anything!
2. Put aside time to do what you love.
This is an important one. For years, I was so enthusiastic about painting, but I didn’t put aside the time to make it a part of my life on weekly basis. I would go for a couple months without painting anything because I didn’t feel I had the time.
Since becoming a mom, I have learned to use my time differently. Prioritizing your creative goals should be an essential component of planning your week. Taking one morning, afternoon, or evening a week to focus on your goals may be all that you can do but let me tell you- it will be so rewarding. When developing any skill or working towards a particular goal obviously the more time that you can put towards it, the better but DO WHAT YOU CAN. Life is busy but creativity feeds the soul and that is as important as whatever else you have going on.
3. Find a place where you thrive creatively.
Let’s be real. Getting things done at home isn’t always as productive as we would like it to be. At home there can be so many distractions; the people, the television, household cleaning or other tasks, and the list goes on. Some days are better than others, but ultimately, I’ve had to seek out other locations to get things done.
Often Akawui and I find ourselves in cafes- a very Montreal thing to do. Some spots are better than others for getting things done. Google reviews are great for identifying the atmosphere of a café, indicating if it’s a quiet place or better for socializing. If this is conducive to your creative goals, you may have to try out a few spots to find an environment that inspires or relaxes you.
Also, consider finding places in your community that might support the kind of work you’re interested in doing. For example, I like to attend the Craft Night at Native Montreal. Other artisans, of all levels of skill, come together to work away in a room on their individual projects. The evening consists of light conversation, a relaxing environment to get things done, and free coffee- not to mention the expertise of other artisans who can help if needed.
Your creative place may look a little different. Maybe you have a friend with similar interests who welcomes you with tea and a relaxed atmosphere for getting things done at their house- great! No matter what the space is, it’s important that it feels right, and stress-free while you’re working toward your goal.
4. Rid yourself of the things that are dragging you down.
Ok, we aren’t talking an overhaul of your life with this one but it is important to leave some things behind when you enter your creative mental space. In native cultures, there is a belief that items created by hand must be done so with positive energy because when the item is completed it will carry the energy with which it was created. So, if I’m sewing a pair of moccasins and all I can think about is how ticked off I am at someone, the moccasins will carry that negative energy and plague the person who wears them. If you’re using your creative time to sit with your friends and complain about all the things that are bugging you- you’re doing it wrong! Leave it at the door, and clear your mind while you work so that your creativity will not be stifled by these grievances and you can find true peace in creative process.
Focus on the task at hand, and make every effort to enjoy the journey. Your work will carry positive energy and you will finish with a good feeling.
So, there you have it. Your creative venture may require many more steps as I’ve left out some obvious things like acquiring materials etc. (things that I would think are a given) but this little list is meant to help you consider what your goals are and the basics of how you might achieve them- when, where, and how.
From one artist to another- I wish you the best of luck in exploring your creativity and achieving your goals!