The studio sits inanimate, ready, waiting, and in the back on my mind. It’s being paid for so it needs to be used. My attendance has been sporadic over the last few months, necessity forces me to be working in the office at home. Looking for a change of gear, a change of environment and with a concerted effort I decided on a 5 day attendance last week Monday to Friday but rather than set the bar too high I settle on half days. Rather than state the intention here beforehand, in case I failed to live up to my own ambitions, I share the process now its been completed. Practice comes easier for me during the first half of the day and the 30 minute walk in the morning helps to focus my mind. Sights are seen and subtly inform thinking. On arrival works starts promptly, at the start of the week some writing on the computer, repetitive apature cutting from the mid to end of the week. Spending about 3 or so hours at the studio each day is liberating and motivating. After the 30 minute walk home, lunch, it’s then I turn to the business of running of my art practice, emails, phone calls, invoices, accounts, proposals. The afternoons don’t feel half as productive as the mornings, but then the physicality of making things, cutting things, drawing feels infinitely more satisfying than the repeated addressing of the familiar email alert this inbox is soon going to exceed its capacity which necessitates quick decisions making about what to keep and what to bin. I have as many emails and I have drawings, sitting in folders, sitting in draws, waiting for decisions.
The studio is other, familiar yet different. The computer comes with me for music and on the odd occasion for application writing which flows in a different direction within the space of making. The internet sparsely available on my phone is largely and enjoyably ignored. There are lots of notes as I do my practice. The lists, built up over the course of mornings have crossings out and orderings, the feeling of constantly being behind. Reflection replaces the perceived need to catch up with one which is more sympathetic and understanding that many of the things on the list are ambitions, things to explore, move forward or eventually push aside.
A recent Guardian article Familiarity breeds content: embracing routine can make you happier at work explores the benefits of routine. The routine is in effect a boundary, a circumference around a section of the day, a method of delineating between work and home. The article doesn’t discuss the self employed, perhaps as a group we are too unwieldy. The boundaries of time can be tricky to manage when there are no work colleagues expecting you in, no time clock to mark arrival and departure. In setting this morning slot in the studio I am attempting a routine, to see if it leads to greater productively as well as greater contentment. I pitch up regardless, sometimes knowing what I will do or sometimes not. In a current research and development project I am working on Postures of Making with Dr Valerie Woods, ergonomist, alongside the analysis of the physical effects of art making on the body we are exploring the psychological factors of work. How do things such as lone working, managing a portfolio career, time management effect our experience, dare I say enjoyment of work. And there in that word enjoyment is a nut to be cracked open, its connotations to be picked over; the enjoyment of work, the pleasure of working. I am left wondering about how many people see work as something to survive and emerge from at the end of the day. This approach has its benefits, work is contained, work is work and the remaining of the time is leisure, rest, domestics. For the self employed, for the artist, it takes diligence to delineate work from leisure and visa versa.
My Guardian reading yesterday brought William Boyd describing ‘My Working Day’, his way of working, his rhythm and routine. He opts for dealing with the “mundane business of living – emails, admin, going for a walk, shopping, phoning, posting letters” in the morning, he settles to writing after lunch when ‘the days work really begins’. He writes for around 3 hours and reflects on how effective he can be within that time. It’s a common experience that tasks expand to fit the time available and so with Boyd’s thousand or so words, 3 hours can be an incredible productive time frame in which to operate within.
When I left the studio on Friday around 1pm I thought about the coming week. I’m working away on Wednesday and so it will be only 4 mornings next week at the studio. This small deviation in attendance is necessary and will provide a wealth of research material to take to the studio on Thursday. Reading about Boyd’s routine and reflecting on my own, I wonder if most of creative practice is just about turning up, putting in the time, taking what emerges and doing something with it.