By: Rebecca Pitts
My New Yorker friend, an artist with a day job, was talking the other day about a new relationship. After recently relocating to Manhattan for work, she made a commitment to court one of her all-time loves, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With just a park between her apartment and the Met, she wisely recognizes that she may not be in New York forever, and she may never again have this proximity to Art with a capital ‘A.’
She knows that her weekly visits to an internationally recognized art museum will push her to new and better places as an artist. Her personal life will not suffer if she passes on yet another group dinner—but her creative life might fester entirely without this dose of inspiration she is making a point to commit to.
She is embracing where she is right now, as a busy professional in a huge, frenetic city, while still honoring her commitment to herself as an artist.
I love the example she sets for us because she makes it so simple, really.
She is making a choice to skip out on the third night of happy hour drinks in a row to slip into Free Fridays at the art museum instead. And she is telling her friend (me) about it to make it a real thing. Not just a ‘should’ or a nice thought.
Perhaps your Free Fridays is something else, but you get the idea, right? Maybe you need two hours of solitude in your studio each week, apart from your family, or you need to carve out time for research to figure out how to finally prototype a design you’ve been toying around with for far too long. Perhaps it will take just 10 minutes each morning of freehand journaling to clear your head, because you know that the exercise makes you feel better throughout the day as a human being and an artist.
Whatever it is, you can make it a non-negotiable part of your life by simply making the commitment to doing it. And then actually doing the thing. Here’s how:
If you don’t transfer your to-do list to your calendar, it probably won’t get done. What is the first thing you do when you respond to an invitation to a party, a dinner, or an event? You put it right into your calendar. Respect your commitments to yourself in the same way. Schedule them.
Approach other obligations with a minimalist mindset. (Or, more simply: say no.)
Productivity hacks, essentialism, The One Thing—whatever you call it, it’s a big idea right now. And rightfully so. Like an over-scheduled 4-year-old who is shuttled from one activity, class, playdate, and party to the next—there is a point where our commitments to others begin to detract from our well-being, our own needs, and our agenda. Most 4-year-olds prefer–and are probably better off with–uninterrupted stretches of time left for their work (that is, their play). The same goes for us.
Make it easy on yourself.
Approach your scheduled time for your ‘thing’—your museum visits, your research, your painting—refreshed, ready-to-go, and without guilt. Keep a decent bedtime and allow for a few 20-minute walks for a week leading up to your ‘ date.’ Give it light and make it an actual part of your life by chatting with your spouse or a friend about your commitment. By nourishing yourself and your idea, you’ll advance your big creative vision with real, iterative progress.
Rebecca Pitts is a writer, maker, and founder of Hudson + Daughter, a blog and shop that celebrates the handmade, crafting for the young at heart, and a purposeful approach to living a life of creativity and curiosity with kids.