The quiet joys and foibles of solo living.
I went to art school a lifetime ago. I enjoy writing. I like ‘making stuff’. But for years I didn’t do enough of this.
I worked my rather stressful day job, socialised to counter-balance that stress, and procrastinated due to mental weariness and ‘not having the right creative space’ while crammed into share-house living. There was a lot of ‘input’ however – seeing and doing things to inspire me. I went to a lot of art galleries. I travelled. I planned projects I was going to start. I made notes.
Now I’m in my 50s, I’m motivated by the passing of time. An increase in output is long overdue. It’s not enough to just keep surviving day-to day any more. I crave that marvellous flow from being deeply absorbed with an art. I want to steep myself in the process and explore ideas instead of needing a perfect time, place or outcome. I need to believe in myself more.
So now I have a number of things on the go, along with the challenge of finding time for them.
I’m trying oils, figuring out how they mix, how they spread, how they take longer to dry. Note to self: quite a while. Two weeks after working on my cup & saucer, it was on the sofa and I accidentally sat on it, and now have its imprint on a pair of black shorts.
With this series of small paintings, I am reinterpreting my favourite Instagram photos. (I have always used Instagram as a ‘Polaroid’ photo app rather than social media, and still mourn the loss of the original retro frames!)
Zines being small hand-made publications, they can cover writing, drawing, photos, cartooning, personal stuff, fiction, politics, whatever the author wishes. In my case, they are an extension of my travel writing (which you can also read on this blog). I draw short anecdotes in tiny booklets, to practise my cartooning layout skills. My ambition is to eventually collect them all together into a proper book.
In 2019, I took these to a zine fair, and sold them inside airline sick bags – yes I collect those – along with paper planes folded from copies of travel diary pages.
One thing I did get motivated on, in the past 10 years, was a children’s book that I wrote and illustrated for my three nephews. I then self-published and sold / gave away 200 copies. I got such continual, unsolicited great feedback from parents, that I have decided to improve the illustrations and see if I can get it onto Amazon. So that’s going slowly, with watercolour pencils. I’ll give away more details when it’s ready.
As I post this, it’s almost time to submit an autobiographical short story, or a poem on any subject, to a local writing competition which I’ve had success at in the past. I’m also working on a non-fiction piece called ‘The Break-Up Queen’, taking a witty (I hope!) and insightful look at the 14 relationship break-ups I’ve been through. And then there’s my unfinished novella The Curse – languishing in the middle of its fourth draft. Originally written for NaNoWriMo 2010, I must remember the incredible motivation that sprang from that time. Plus, of course, I am writing this blog. And planning an eventual travel blog. Phew!
Things I’d like to add to my list:
Pottery, bronze-casting, etching, sewing garments, costume design, embroidery, crochet, T-shirt design, greeting card design. OMG, who’s got time for a 9 to 5 job!! Any billionaires out there like to sponsor me?
It’s hard to find time for creativity when you come and go from a busy office workplace each day… but time must be found and really, since I have no family, my time outside work is all my own. However, for many years I felt that I couldn’t get into the creative flow unless I had three or four consecutive days to myself. But when does that ever happen? Sporadic holidays and long-weekends! I asked an emerging author her secret and she said there is no magic, no waiting for the right inspiration or the right time. You simply have to knuckle down and treat it like work as well, snatching time where you can. And that can be quite motivating. Small achievements; baby steps.
I realised that ‘not having time’ was an excuse. Yet full-time employment is essential for a single woman with a mortgage and no passive income. I’ve observed that when I get home of an evening, I’m spent, tired of being in front of my employer’s computer all day. Motivation for my own writing or drawing is severely depleted. I have tried, but with minimal success. The siren song of more passive distractions often has a greater power over my evening brain.
So what to do? Here’s my solution for 2020:
This night-owl is retiring earlier, getting up earlier. I put my alarm clock in the living room and, in best practice of habit-changing, when I go to turn it off, I must also open the curtains and stand there bathing in the sunrise, allowing it to wake me instead of slinking back to bed for “10” more minutes. Then, for an hour or even just even 20 minutes, I do some writing as I eat breakfast.
My weekends are now my own. I used to complain that the week days were so busy, with extracurricular activities after work (tango classes, Spanish classes, various online courses) and weekends were all about catching up, doing chores, housework, grocery shopping. Recovering from the week gone, and preparing for the week to come… no creative down-time.
Now… the working week is taken care of during the working week. I fit in housework, ‘home admin’ and grocery shopping after work and around any other activities. Each evening I get ready my lunch and an outfit for the following work day.
Now I awake luxuriously on Saturday morning – there’s no pile of dishes awaiting me, the fridge and pantry are full, and my sunny work desk awaits.
Now I have time. Let’s make this work.