Today I want to talk about Art Practice and Deadlines. I really hate the term “Art Practice” but I can’t think of a better term so I’m stuck with it. All artists have some kind of art practice. Whether you are an illustrator who draws daily or a painter who keeps an Art Journal; Art Practice is important to your growth as an artist. Musicians play their instruments daily to keep their skills honed. As I posted on social media at the end of January I keep writing journals. Keeping a writing journal is something I started in University but it wasn’t a completely foreign idea. When I was in high school part of our curriculum was to keep a visual arts diary because I took (what was then T.E.E.) classes in Art. Our Visual Diaries were part of our final grade and after the Education Department had finished marking them the Diaries that received higher marks, as well as the assignments, were displayed at the State Art Gallery in Perth. In year 11 we were taken to the gallery for the exhibition and I loved it. I actually quite miss painting and drawing. I’d love to illustrate some kids books I’ve written (but not yet published) but I need to work on my skills again. They have deteriorated due to lack of practice. Unfortunately, my time is extremely limited, as I said in previous posts being an Indie Author, I have to be everything that a Publishing house has a department for – as well as go to my paying job and fit in admin work for my husbands’ business, so I have to choose what to focus on.
But, I’m getting side-tracked. I have a large collection of journals that span the last ten years filled with ideas for stories, bits of story that have come to me when I was away from my computer, thoughts I’ve pondered, dreams, doodles, and things that I’ve collected that inspire me or I simply liked. Things like quotes, pictures out of magazines, newspaper articles, song lyrics etc. I almost never buy myself notebooks because family and friends have been gifting them to me since I was 16. I prefer sketch pads because I can write or draw in them but I use lined journals more frequently. I love looking at Art Journals on Pinterest for inspiration for ways to let my creativity out. Journaling is vital to my growth as a writer. I can come back to ideas that are years old, I can trace where three different ideas have come together and amalgamated into a story, and I can see my skills improve over the years. But at its base level, there is always the fact that if I didn’t have an outlet for my creativity I’d probably start climbing the walls (or painting them).
I strongly recommend, no matter what kind of art you produce, that you keep a journal of some description. I usually carry mine in my handbag, especially if I know I’m going to be stuck somewhere like a doctor’s office, so that I can always write down the things that come to me. At a pinch I have been known to open the note app in my phone and record things there until I can get home to my journal.
If you want to start an art journal or writing journal and you don’t know where to start there’s plenty of places on the internet and social media buzzing with ideas. There are pages on Facebook that will give you daily writing prompts, there’s pins on Pinterest with “challenges” where it will give you a month long challenge with a different thing to draw/paint/write about each day and there are of course books on writing that will give you activities or inspirations to journal about. One of my favourites is The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood (see left image). Of course you can always just work on whatever you are inspired on but challenges and prompts are great when the muse has flown. In my opinion, if you want to make a living out of your art you need to treat it like a full time job. That means having “office hours” (even if they are jumbled around a paying job) and working on your art every day. Progress doesn’t get made unless you are making it. Which leads me into deadlines.
You’re probably thinking that Indie Authors, being self-employed, don’t have to worry about deadlines. I can’t talk for everyone, but I can definitely say that I need deadlines and I would imagine that a lot of Indie authors do. A deadline in my case is less a hard and fast “this needs to be at the printers by X date” and more like “I want to finish this manuscript by the end of next month so I can send it to my editor (yes I have an editor, she is an amazing human being who reviews my work for all the stuff I missed) with enough time for her to get it back to me, and changes to be made so that I can have the book out by say, Christmas. Sometimes manuscripts will go to her several times before I’m ready to publish. I think The Kingston Chronicles went to her twice, a second editor once and one of my friends beta read it to see if people would enjoy the story. The Kingston Chronicles took me nine years to write due in part to life circumstances, my terror at the idea of people reading it and hating it, and not having a defined goal or path to how it was going to be published. Mostly it was the lack of discipline to work on the manuscript in a routine. You might not have time to write every day but to get the ball rolling I recommend you have a few hours set aside every week to focus on your writing. Once I chose to self-publish and had the manuscript to where I was happy with the whole “publishing” side took less than six months. The long part is writing and editing the manuscript. I still have days where I sit at the computer and mess around on social media, listening to music, while I’m trying to figure out where the story is going next but that’s part of the process. I’d love it if I could sit down and write for eight hours straight every day and be super productive but I can’t and I’m not. I try not to be too hard on myself about this, my mental health couldn’t take it if I was, because I value the quality of my life over my productivity. And, generally, the odd day off here and there make me more productive.
What kinds of art practice do you utilize? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂