Permission to Do Art

Most artists have problems getting to work from time to time. It just seems too much to pick up the pencil, sit at the computer, go to the quilting frame. And there is a pile of laundry. And you are working today till 6 anyway. The difference between successful artists and “wishing” artists is ritual.

Running in circles

Running in circles

If you work in an office, you have a morning routine. Whether you get up and shower or get up and exercise, have breakfast and then shower, you have a routine. And that routine is probably timed down to the exact second, either by time or by what’s on the TV or radio. It gets you out of the house and into the office on time.

Creating a ritual for art is exactly the same thing as a routine for work. A ritual legitimizes your effort, eliminates distractions and assigns a top priority to your artwork. As long as your artwork doesn’t have a priority higher than the laundry or watching TV, it won’t get done. And you set the priority every day of your life.

Your art work is powerful, but not powerful enough to overcome your resistance and drag you into your studio. You have to do the work. And that means shifting priorities. To art. Why is that worth it? Because art makes meaning in your life. It helps you understand yourself, your world, your journey. It’s also uncomfortable sometimes to face the meaning you make in art, so it’s easy to shove it aside.

The ritual doesn’t have to be complex. Decide ahead of time when you will do art. Choose a whole hour. Set a timer to ring 10 minutes beforehand to give yourself time to quit what you are doing. Make a cup of coffee or tea, grab the cup and head to the studio. No excuses. Once you get in the habit, it will first get much harder to meet your ritual. The phone will ring, the kids will demand your attention, a crisis will erupt. Keep to your schedule. In about a week, it will suddenly get easier.

Your morning routine works because your job brings in money and you have given it permission to take over your life. Give your art a chance, too. It brings meaning to your life. And as my mantra says, “you don’t find meaning in life, you make meaning in your life.” Give meaning a chance.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist and writer. She is a life- and creativity coach who helps people create meaning in their life.