You’ve heard that art joke: How do you carve an elephant? Take the biggest piece of marble you can find and chip away everything that isn’t elephant.
Turns out that works for carving out space for your creative life as well. And your non-creative life. In fact it works for just about anything you want to focus on. Figure out what you want and start cutting away everything that isn’t that.
No, I’ve not become a minimalist. I will not be throwing away all my clothes except for three t-shirts and one pair of jeans in this lifetime. But I’ve noticed that the more I get rid of in my life, the more time there is for the important things.
Maybe it’s that way for you too?
Lighten the Load
Becoming a semi-nomadic artist has made me focus on this a lot. There are only so many art supplies I can carry with me. And frankly, after I’ve loaded and unloaded my kit numerous times over the last 12 months, I’ve realised pretty quickly there’s a LOT more stuff I can actually do without.
So what’s the big deal? You’re probably not nomadic. Maybe you even have a huge studio and don’t need to worry if you NEVER throw away another dried up paint pot again.
Well let me tell you a little secret. When you let go of what’s not serving you, you make space for new ideas to grow. You knew that already didn’t you? So did I. But it’s amazing how easy it is to forget and fall into a holding pattern.
Humans are acquisitive creatures. We like shinies. We like owning stuff even though we don’t necessarily need it. You only have to look at the average supermarket trolley as you’re queuing at the checkout to find evidence. It looks like we’re holing up in a post-nuclear bunker for 40 years. We’re pack rats.
Digital Heaven or Digital Heavy?
It’s not just physical things we hold on to. (Maybe that dried up pot of white wood glue will come in handy one day after all.) Even digital stuff has its weight. A lot of weight.
Case in point: An app called Pocket - formerly, Read It Later. That last phrase says it all, doesn’t it? A place to hoard all those ‘must-read’ articles for the day when we have time to read them. But of course, we never will have that time.
That list of unread articles will just keep growing. And the space available on our devices will shrink inversely. Until we need to buy a new computer/tablet/phone because there’s no more space on the ones we own.
Last week I deleted Pocket, from all my devices. No, I don’t mean I deleted the contents. I zapped the app.
It quicker that way. And it means I can’t be tempted to start filling it back up with blogposts that, let’s face it, I never will ‘read later’.
The ‘pocket’ I really need, is a pocket of silence. Silence in which to think.
It doesn't take a lot of strength to hang on. It takes a lot of strength to let go.
Is this Serving me?
For months now, I’ve been unsubscribing from more ‘newsletters’ each week. Imagine how many I was subscribed to? I’m seeing the bottom of my inbox for the first time in a long, long while.
But more importantly, I’m hearing my own voice. All those ‘newsletters’ were there to ‘help’ me write better blogposts, market my art ‘more effectively’ or get more subscribers to my newsletter.
But really all they were doing was adding to the digital noise in my head.
(Of course, I’ve not deleted every subscription. There’s a few blogs I’m subscribed to that stand heads and shoulders above the rest. I’m ‘scratching with the masters’ when I read their content. But when I really look hard, those are in the minority.)
Every minute I DON’T spend opening, scanning and deleting one of these newsletters is another minute I can spend in the studio. Or coaching creatives like you to become their best artist-selves.
Or sleeping or cooking and eating something healthy.
Those minutes add up.
So you want to work harder on your art? It’s really quite simple.
Make some space.
Start looking at what you can delete or trash - physical and digital.
Let go of what’s not serving you.
Ask yourself, do I really need this?