Activity is not Creating! Or How artists should learn from baking.


My time these days, like I imagine everyone’s, is quite limited. I have a day-job, I have commitments to friends and community, and most of all I have a family in which I want to be a participant.
Lack of time leads me to feel that I need to push myself to produce more and more. Every moment I have to create art is precious, and I have the idea that every spare moment I have should be spent sitting down to draw, paint, or write. At the very least, I should emerge with sweat on my forehead and a satisfied sense that I have acted and produced.
I am, of course, entirely wrong.
This is a very simple mistake – I confuse activity for creativity – believing the most significant thing I can do with any time I have is to get to work. My pattern has been to push myself into the wee hours of night and morning to make, make, make.  I fight my eyes and my mind to stay focused, and push to get a project completed or at least on its way to being so. This has been a highly productive pattern for me, but as I grow older I realize how unsustainable and ultimately unsatisfying it is.
I have always been active, prolific and fast with my work. I believe very strongly that to be successful, making art needs to be the most important, interesting, and fun aspect in life.  And it is in this desire to continually push, that everything gets mucked up – drawings feel slowed, my energy swings manically, and my satisfaction wanes.
Pushing oneself to stretch at times is vital, but everything comes back to balance. So much happens when you are away from work that can truly make the work. The goal is to open yourself up and ease into a schedule in which the things you do can build and grow their forms at the pace that suits them, and keeps you alive and energized.
Letting each moment come in its own time is difficult, and my mind doesn’t take to the limited time and a slowing pace with any kind of ease. But sleep, envisioning, reflecting, and simply living with a work is a vital part of the process that can be so easily ignored when you feel your time compress. The goal is to remember how satisfying those less tangible aspects are in comparison to simply producing. And once you do, it is easy to see and feel how they rejuvenate and nourish true creativity and productivity.
Certainly there are times to sprint, and work as fast as you can. But this is a tool, not the goal. When your time is limited and your desire great, it can be so vital to move away from the highs of easily calculable milestones to the deep breaths of the long distance runner still far from imagined finish lines.
Like a baker, there are times to walk away and let the dough just rise.