Saturday, October 24, 2009

Finding Time for Creativity

How do you squeeze weaving (or whatever creative pursuit you love) into your life?

I'm curious about how other weavers and creative people fit their creativity into their life. I'd love to hear about it!!! (In comments, in email, in your blog)

Here's what I do.....(Seriously, I go on at length in this one - but only about how I fit weaving and knitting into my week. As always, feel free to skim, or skip this post entirely if it's not your cup of tea!)

5 hours a week last fall

Last fall I was frustrated having tons of weaving ideas, but seeing few through to fruition. I was envious of another local weaver who always seemed to be producing new work. She gifted our weaving circle with a bamboo sample - in the accompanying write-up it said she averages 5 weaving hours a week. I decided to see if I could get myself to my studio 5 hours a week.

I treated it a bit like I treat running. I have a running goal for the week, and I don't let not being prepared, or not being in the mood at the moment interfere with that goal. I make sure I have workable running shoes, clean running clothes, and that my eating is supporting my running. I was surprised at how similar the discipline of running frequently and the discipline of being in my studio ended up being.

I did spend 5 hours a week in my studio from fall to spring, and I definitely got more done. I worked through issues that would have previously left me stuck and unmotivated. I scheduled those 5 hours in three weekly pieces. 2 afternoons a week I spent 2 hours in my studio and on a third afternoon I spent just 1 hour.

I did find that projects which were going well got me enthused and I'd sneak back up to weave or work on them during other hours also.

Summer break

This summer, as my blog well documents, I flitted from topic to topic, project to project, without a commitment to do anything but enjoy and utilize our too brief season of warm weather. I had fun, but I didn't touch either of my big looms. I knitted 2 lobsters and 1 scarf, and wove 2 rigid heddle scarves in that time. The summer reminds me of how I approached weaving before I tried the 5 hour a week schedule. No wonder I felt dissatisfied with the amount of work I was producing.

Rethinking on vacation

One great thing for me about vacation is that it lets me step back from my life and contemplate what's next. On our trip to Colorado this fall, all that time in nature encouraged me to think about how to set up my fall and winter.

I decided I wanted to step up my commitment to weaving. So I thought about how I might squeeze weaving into my life in a bigger way this season.

I decided on 3 basic rules:

  • 5 mornings a week, within half an hour of awakening, I'll spend an hour as a production weaver in my studio
  • 2 afternoons a week, I'll spend 2.5 hours in my studio
  • Sitting and knitting does not count toward these goals. Knitting has to squeeze itself into my life somewhere else.

I've been home from vacation for two and a half weeks, and so far so good.

Early morning productivity

I find that the early morning studio time is great for things like cranking out those huck towels that had been languishing on my loom since spring. That time of day fits in well with my household because I'm the only one up. (Seriously, even Bailey likes to sleep later than I do.)

For me, when I first wake up, I'm still in a bit of a dream state, so it's great for reptitive tasks that don't require a ton of thinking or figuring. Those tasks also might seem boring to me later in the day when I'm more fully awake, but first thing they feel great.

I also really enjoy just weaving. I put myself in the mindset of a studio assistant in the mornings, and just work on doing good, accurate work. I don't worry about how long it will take to finish a particular warp. I just focus on steadily moving forward with my current project.

More weaving, less thinking......sometimes that's a good discipline for me to follow!

I've found that the two days I take off from heading to my studio right away are a good break for me, but that by the end of the weekend, I'm itching to get back up to the studio first thing.

Afternoon Design Sessions

Afternoons in the studio I focus first on keeping my morning production assistant busy. (OK - so I'm my own production assistant....but I pretend I've hired some one else to do that work.) So this month, coming home from vacation to one loom with a half woven project and one loom naked and without a reed, I've been scrambling a little bit.

I've designed a project for the Toika, I have the yarn, and have ordered two new reeds.

For the baby wolf, I'm designing a project for Jim with his input.

(You know that I'll be blogging in more detail about those projects - with my typical beginning, middle and end of project posts.)

My hope is to get to the point of having projects on both looms and projects designed and ready for both looms throughout the winter, so that the limiting factor will be weaving rather than designing. We'll see how this balances out.

In the past 2 weeks, I've found if I spend this much time in the studio, I think about my projects and problem solve when I'm doing other things. Plus my enthusiasm for my projects has increased as I spend more time on them. That's definitely allowed and encouraged, but the discipline of 10 hours a week in my studio is enough time. Anything over and above that is extra credit!!

Knitting Finds its Way In

Knitting has found its way back into my day very quickly. I am definitely a social knitter, so I knit in groups, or when I'm waiting for anything (doctor's appointments, repair shop, etc).

Plus, late in the afternoon I hit an energy slump most days. I've started taking an afternoon knitting break where I knit and watch part of a dancing show (Yes, I'm addicted to Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.) The shows are recorded on Tivo so I can knit and take a break during that slump in the afternoon.

So Far So Good

The balance of thinking and designing in the afternoons, with being productive in the mornings is working out well for me so far. In the morning I don't let myself go down any big rat holes of over-thinking, and I make myself just weave (or hem or warp). In the afternoon, I focus first on what I need to do to have both looms up and running so that I can just produce things in the mornings. Having the pressure of needing to keep those morning hours productive means I act more quickly rather than analyzing every project to within an inch of its life. Sometimes my enjoyment of planning and designing gets in the way of ever implementing anything. This dichotomy between my two studio sessions really helps me with that problem.

I'm not a woman who gets least not on a daily basis. Obsession will not carry me through even a single weaving project, let along progressing with my weaving skills. (I definitely know some obsessed weavers, and you probably do too. I envy people who can get obsessed and who enjoy going deep into a subject, but that's just not how I roll.)

I feel encouraged by how this schedule is going so far in terms of productivity in my studio, and I look forward to seeing how it unfolds over the winter.

The one downside so far is that weaving is squeezing out other things that are important to me or that I also enjoy. (Part of why I'm behind where I want to be on blogging and on responding to blog comments. And housework.) I'm hoping that as I get used to this schedule, other facets of my life will adjust to work more smoothly. I went through that last fall when I started 5 hours a week in my studio, and it worked out. I'm confident that it will work itself again this fall.

I'm curious about how other weavers and creative people fit their creativity into their life. I'd love to hear about it!!! (In comments, in email, in your blog)


Delighted Hands said...

Fit it in? It is as essential as eating and breathing! I like to rotate projects into each day, no set schedule, per se, but I tend to do a household chore and then reward with an hour of quilting/sewing or weaving. Then another chore, etc through the day. Knitting is for the evening in general, when tv is on and I can make a few hours progress. If I am in the car during the day, it is knitting that goes along for some bonus time. I like the new schedule/goals you have for yourself. It will be good to get the weaving back into your days!

Theresa said...

Hmm, there is a lot of food for thought there. No matter how hard I try if it is a creative pursuit it best be done in the morning. Knitting is for down time from all other stuff. As is creative thinking and planning, but the actual doing, mornings always.
My riding time suffered this year for weaving also. I didn't get much time in at all and next summer I will
certainly be looking at a better way to divide that time
or move a couple of the horses on down the road. It's silly to have them if they are neither ridden or worked with. No real ideas here, but I will be reading with interest about how others juggle their creative endeavors with other tasks and hobbies.

Life Looms Large said...

Delighted Hands - I definitely am better at making sure I eat than I am at making sure I weave!! If I schedule myself to do it, I do - but if I don't make room for it....then I get stalled easily.

Theresa, I think one of the ways that you and I are similar is that we have a lot of interests that pull on us - so we struggle with balancing them. Glad to know I'm not the only one!!

I'm interested to hear how other people find a balance they're happy with also!



charlotte said...

Thanks for sharing these very interresting thoughts! One thing I've discovered for sure is that I shouldn't do difficult stuff, or anything requiring deep concentration late in the evening or when the kids are around - it has a tendency to end up in disaster. So I've decided for myself to weave and machine knit during all the hours when the kids are in school, and to do the housework later when they come home and need help with homework, etc. I save finishing stuff like fringes, hemming, finishing machine knits for the TV evenings in the weekend. But I feel constantly that I should have more time to weave, and there are lots of ideas and projects I would like to start with!

Life Looms Large said...

Charlotte, I definitely relate to your thoughts on having so many projects that I want to try, but not being able to try them all. I guess that's the blessing of having many ideas...but sometimes it feels a little like a curse too!

Thanks for sharing how you structure your weaving day!!


Susan said...

Great questions!
I'm lucky to have lots of time by myself to do what I want, but it never fails to amaze me how I will still fritter time away!

Mornings are not my best time so I use it for computer work (blog etc) and then routine household chores. Right after lunch time I'm in the studio and rotate either weaving, doing finishing work, winding a warp (usually with laundry on going next door in the laundry room) I seem to get in the studio 4-5 days a week with some time off for shopping etc.

Evenings I play with my laptop and work out new designs on PCW ( for further work the next day under project planning) I also spin in the evenings and getting quite a bit done. Apparently I can't have idle hands!
I'll also knit small beaded amulet bags when the mood hits me. (Languishing and waiting in the wings is my kumihimo stand and my lace pillow.)

I think scheduling time is a good way to get back into the habit but in time, you'll be so excited about working and weaving, that it will come naturally to just go to the loom and weave. I find that if I take a break, then it seems harder to get back to it for some reason. I push myself to do it and hey, its fun again!

One more point: I try not to overload myself with too many types of fibre activities as that can actually work against you. You will have more sucess and finish stuff if you only have 2-3 things underway..
But it is okay to have those projects around the house so you have variety too!


Valerie said...

Good post. Recently I realized that I have very few finished projects in the past several months. So obviously, I'm not finding the time for creativity right now.

Your plan and schedule are inspiring and have triggered some thinking for me. Reading the comments helps too. When a plan gels for me, I'll do a blog post about it.

Thanks for lighing a "fire" under my lazy butt!

Sue Schwarz said...

Food for thought for sure. I too am a 'fritterer' I loved your blog entry and will see what I can do to enhance my creative time. I love the idea of morning time. I seem to plan, and then life gets in the way and it seems like everything else comes first. I really aim to make some time that is scheduled for me to be in the studio....Thanks for the nudge.

desiree said...

It seems like a very good idea!

I have a similar time schedule. Since I weave in a vävstuga, we have regular times for coffee breaks Mon-Wed at 10. Usually I'm there 10-12 Mon-Fri. Mon-Wed there are usually lots of talking, and maybe helping each other out with different tasks.

If I got the time (i e not doing the laundry, shopping...) I do some more weaving in the afternoon.

Karen said...

This was a very interesting read. I work 12 hr overnight schedules (crazy, I know!), so fitting in weaving and being AWAKE enough to do it well is always a struggle. I'm a relatively new weaver, but I find that either late morning (on days when I haven't worked the night before), after exercise and chores, works for me, or even early afternoon before me computer time and my afternoon break/knitting/coffee time. I find sleying and weaving known patterns are possible after 2-4 hrs of sleep without too many mistakes, but new patterns or threading the heddles takes more concentration. I try to be disciplined about it, knowing that even a half hour a day is better than nothing, and it has made a difference in my production time.

bspinner said...

Hum, you got me thinking.

One thing I seem to lack is self discipline. Everytime I think I have a working schedule all figured out something happens and thats the end of it.

I like to get my work, weaving or house done early in the day. The afternoons some times can drag on and I get a bit lazy. This time is usually spent reading blogs and other computer things.

After supper and before I'm snuggled in for the evening seems to be my favorite time for spinning

I agree about knitting in the evening. I don't sit around and watch tv without something in my hands be it a book or my knitting.

I like to keep busy but to so much that I drive myself crazy. After so many years of working it's time to do what I want when I want to.

Life Looms Large said...

I really appreciate all of your thoughts and comments and ideas!!

I'm glad to know what makes dedicated weavers tick....and how they think I might improve my schedule/number of projects, etc.

I'm also glad to know that I'm not alone in struggling to find balance or time for weaving. Even though I love it, I don't always make time for it.

In reading your replies, I'm realizing what an individual thing it is. The ways we structure our lives and our time so that we can pursue the blend of activities that are the most meaningful and important to us are as individual as we are.

I hope you are all enjoying your weekends!!! I appreciate your thoughts and comments.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for adding my site to your NH Blog Roll! I have reciprocated in kind.

lottiesloomroom said...

"More weaving, less thinking"... I completely agree with you! If you think too much about doing it, or not doing it, you're not getting any done so it's not productive. I'm always impressed with the productivity of other weavers out there, and feel a bit frustrated by my own slow progress. However at the end of the day you do it because you enjoy it, not because it "has" to be done - there's plenty of other things like cleaning the house that fall into that category. I like your idea of a schedule, I hope you reap the rewards!

Jennifer said...

You approach makes complete and perfect sense to me. I like the separation of studio assistant and designer. I like the two make sure that you don't over analyze. I love that you are attempting to balance your whole life. AND the energy level shows that this is really working for you and is not imposing any type of drudgery!

I find that creativity in my life requires periods of energy and rest (like running). Creativity to me is like a muscle that needs the stress of being used and rest to recooperate. Now how I apply it to my life??? Sadly, I am hindered by still having a full time job and having a new dog who needs training and high energy activities.

I am actually looking at classes as vacations. In fact, I'd say its nearly the best one I can take!

I work to be disciplined during the week thinking that every little bit helps. I honestly work for 1 hour of harp and 1 hour of weaving during the week and then the weekend is hit or miss. It's sad how little happens, but it's where I am right now. I have to be disciplined enough to not berate myself also!


I love that you asked this question because I too ask myself when will you weave? I knit a lot, when I watch tv, or listen to the radio, but weaving is more physical to for me. I need to warp, and plan and get materials together, for that I like uninterupted time. I want to set up evening time to weave and knit time at lunch break and club nites. That would help with getting more weaving into my routine, but most of all I just want to enjoy what I'm doing. Because once I "have to" do anything it becomes a chore.

Weaver said...

That sounds so structured. I've tried to work that way, but end up frustrated when the time is there but the inspiration isn't.

I've gone completely in the other direction, letting my inspiration dictate how much time I spend in what pursuit. Right now I am spinning and knitting more than weaving, because I need to let the ideas for the Misted Morning coat steep a bit longer. A lot of the yarn I'm spinning is going to go into the coat, so I am not really at a standstill on the project. I guess I need more yarn spun before I begin to sample the weaving.

Leigh said...

Very interesting post, Sue. I admire how you've worked through all of this, came up with a schedule, and have been sticking to it! My problem at the moment is that there is so much to do around here that I feel guilty if I'm not at it.

I am trying to think of my life as having seasons. There is a season for work, a season for creativity, etc. I think once we get some big things finished and established, I'll feel freer to go back to my fiber pursuits. I still love them, but I love what we're doing here too.

Life Looms Large said...

It's really interesting to hear how other creative people fit weaving (or whatever they love) into their lives.

People tend to see my scheduling and sticking to a schedule as me being disciplined. To me it doesn't feel that way at all....I feel like I'm really undisciplined and if I don't actually put time in my calendar to spend in my studio, I will certainly do something else. That doesn't mean I don't love the design process....but that's my version of being undisciplined I guess.

I do sometimes get discouraged by how productive some weavers are....especially people who effortlessly are in the routine of spending full days in their studio practically every day. But I'm just not a person who can devote myself to any one thing like that. (Hence my corporate refugee status!!)

Jennifer, it is really tough when you're working full time to fit in a lot of other things that you value. I remember when we were building our house and I had a demanding job. I was also taking a stained glass class. I would often spend the wee hours of the morning cutting and cracking the glass for the piece. It was really fun actually. But I don't miss having so much that I wanted to do and so little time to do it.

Weaver, A project like your coat would have to marinate for a good long time for me!!! I can't wait to see where you go with that!

Thanks for all of your thoughts!!! I really want to write a long reply to each of you - this is a topic that I struggle with so it's interesting to hear what other people do!!


Sharon said...

That certainly resonates with me and my struggle to schedule in weaving, though it appears it will fall into the after lunch category - at least for now. I've embarked on a deep cleaning frenzy after breakfast - probably a retirement nesting thang.

Anonymous said...

Darnit, I had a whole comment typed up and it got lost. In fewer words, I have no suggestions since I feel like a real slacker. I'm glad you brought this up and showed what you do. Thank you. I'm going to try to make a schedule for myself and see how it works out.

Won't be able to start it until next week though.