A feng shui practitioner was advising me on my house (like, 20 years ago). Trying to get me to prioritize, he asked, “If you had a fire and lost everything, what is the first thing you would need to replace?”
I thought hard about this. “I guess I’d need to get new costumes. And a stereo. And music.”
He stared at me. “A BED!” he gasped. “You’d need to get a bed!”
“Oh!” I said. “I just assumed I’d be sleeping on a friend’s sofa.”
The Most Important Thing is Art.
Sure, there are LOTS of enormously important things–our children, families, lovers, livelihoods. Our beds and blankets. Our four walls, roof, food and water. These are vital. They are precious.
And so is art. For artists such as ourselves, our creative work is our most important work. Yet…
We do allll the other crap on the list. From our paid work on down to staring off into space, anything is a great candidate for putting off art. Somehow those other things expand to fill up all the available space. We drop into bed exhausted, sure that tomorrow will be different. But it isn’t. It’s like the White Queen’s jam, always yesterday or tomorrow. Never jam today.
Why do we tend to put art last?
Lots of reasons. We want to make a big space of time, so we have to get everything else out of the way first. We don’t feel like it right now, but later maybe we will. We have to do things to make money, care for our fam, etc. Things are too crazy right now, I don’t have time, focus, energy. Art is frivolous, who am I, I’m not a professional artist, I don’t even count…
I get all the things. I have spent a LOT of time NOT doing my creative work. I have spent years feeling numb and uninspired. Taken up with other obligations. You are not alone, however it is that you are coping. I am with you, and on your side. I started teaching dance because I couldn’t make myself practice.
But time and again, I have come back to this fundamental truth: The most important thing is art. And found ways to goad or inspire myself to do some.
This is how the 90 Day Dance Party was born
I was frustrated and fractious, and then I remembered–the most important thing is art. So I committed publicly to a 90-day free-improv practice of 20 minutes a day, and invited people to do it with me. 400 people signed up. That was in the fall of 2012. This year is the 10th anniversary of that momentous decision. More about that in the next few months ; )
What’s ironic is that doing our creative work often takes a lot less time than any of the other pieces, especially if we make a habit of it and give it a time block, like the 20 minutes of the 90 days. When we do our creative work first, we have plenty of time to curse and struggle with the other stuff. Plus we get to feel good all day long! So…
Here is your permission to make art first
Feel free to add your name with the graphics program of your choice. Or write to me and I’ll send you a personalized copy.
Whatever the creative work you choose to do, pick a block of time, and make a habit for it.
I usually pick ONE Thing to focus on the night before, so when I get started, I already know what I want to do. For today, it was this newsletter.
Currently my creative time blocks are 90 minutes long. Even without a clock, I can tell when 90 minutes is up, because my mind starts wandering and I have an urge to check my email or look at my phone. (I do not look at my phone in the morning. I have it on Do Not Disturb all night and morning. My kids and my sweetie can ring through Everyone else can wait.)
After 90 minutes, I dance for three songs on my playlist, and maybe have a snack, for my willpower. And I celebrate! By then my brain comes back online. I give this combo most of the morning, as I am making a (very modest) living from art, which is both terrifying and astonishing. This is not something I ever planned to do–previously, dance paid for dance. I made money from dance so I could take classes and travel to events. But over the parent care years, my previous income stream drifted, and now here I am. It’s been a very long, circuitous road for me.
My creative work now tends to be writing, like this newsletter
Making courses, like the upcoming Create Your Glorious Self. I count doing Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) as creative work. Dance, drawing pictures. One of these days, I’ll get to marketing being creative work and then I’ll be all set ; ).
It’s taken a lot of experience for me to do this, and a lot of paring back. I would have had a very hard time of it when I was younger, when my kids were small. Last week, we talked about willpower, being a parent, doing what needs to be done whether we feel like it or not. I love my kids, and my mom. I am grateful I was able to be there for them. I did what I felt was was right as much as I could. It was hard, and I wish I could have done it better, but we are all who we are in the moment and we do the best we can. So…
Feel free to start very small…
Make a 10-minute time block. Do a little drawing, or a freewrite, or dance to a few songs on your playlist. Make it into a habit. Over time, it will become easier. Over time, it can expand. But for the rest of they day, you have that secret spark of knowing you did some art today. And celebrate it!
PS Create Your Glorious Self is the most exciting thing I’ve done in a while. The page is getting close to done!
What draws you? What turns you off? What questions do you have?
Your thoughts are welcome. Just reply to this email. Thank you!