Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. ~Stephen King.
Jessica Abel is a prolific comic book author, a writer, a cartoonist, and the chair of the illustration program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I became aware of her through her excellent blog. When I discovered she wrote a book about creative focus, I knew I wanted to learn from her.
Abel conducts workshops in creative focus, so her approach is very hands-on. The book is very hands-on, too. Each chapter has homework that applies the skills she talks about in the text, practical activities that will help you implement a different way of preparing, thinking, and working. I confess I haven’t done the exercises—yet—but I see how readers don’t fully benefit from just reading the book (you’ll just forget and work the way you always have); if you want to increase your focus (and productivity), you have to change the way you operate. The exercises enable you to implement successful creative strategies.
Growing Gills is subtitled How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life. It’s not a quick read. Transforming your creative life takes time.
The 19 chapters cover topics such as identifying passions and obstacles, idea debt, open loops, self-compassion, prioritizing, and breaking down a project into manageable tasks.
The book is divided into four parts.
In Part 1, So, What’s Stopping You, Abel identifies and defines what prevents creatives from finishing projects.
Part 2, Build your Custom-Powered Exoskeleton, covers goal-setting and creating a system to schedule your tasks and track your progress.
Part 3, Aligning your Today with your Tomorrow, helps you build a creative routine with enough flexibility that you don’t ignore your other life responsibilities.
Part 4, Falling Down & Getting Up, tells how to get going again when you get stuck.
Growing Gills is well-written by an established artist and writer, who understands the challenges of a being a creative, and has helped others overcome hurdles to productivity. It is well worth your time to read it, but do the associated activities to actually grow your own gills.
The end of 2017 is approaching at the speed of light. So, how are you doing on your creative goals for this year? Have you accomplished what you expected to? Time for the final sprint.
I’m bogged down with my blog in that I am working only six days ahead as of this writing (though I have posts scheduled here and there through next Thanksgiving). I prefer to be completely scheduled at least four weeks in advance. Sigh.
I’ve made progress on the two major writing projects I hoped to finish this year, The Unicornologist and The God of Paradox, though it’s safe to say they won’t be finished by December 31. Maybe by mid-2018. At least one of them.
I’m also getting ready to submit a bunch of my poems to a chapbook contest.
And I made a bunch of small pieces of art. Some I posted on the blog; others will make it into a post closer to Christmas.
I’m still working on the last pages of The Sweet Pipes Recorder Book 1 and I’m up to page 60 in Essential Elements for Guitar. I’m practicing piano about four times a week. In December my tradition is to spend my piano practice time playing carols.
I danced once this month. I don’t think I’ll be dancing again soon. Arthritis in my hip is giving me a lot of grief. I start new medical insurance today, so I’m planning to make appointments with a new PCP and my orthopedist to see if I need a hip replacement.
Sadly, the other two women who usually lead our folk dances are also having hip and leg issues. Jo-Ann is having hip replacement surgery on the 13th. We’re hoping some of our accomplished dancers in the club will step out of their comfort zone to lead in the meantime.
Now it’s your turn. How are you doing with your goals? Don’t be shy! If you’re keeping accountable on your blog, paste a link into the comments below. Or if you don’t have a blog, just tell us your successes and your challenges this past month. The final check-in of our challenge will be January 1, 2018.
I created the hashtag #ALCGC2017 for ARHtistic License Creative Goals Challenge for 2017. Feel free to use it to tweet about your goals and your progress.
A dozen after-turkey articles to motivate you to create during this holiday weekend. (By the way, I’m thankful for all the people who read Creative Juice.)
- The Other Art Fair.
- What if life really is just the dress rehearsal? I never thought of eternity in quite this way before.
- Can you determine whether a poem was written by a human or a computer? (I missed two out of three.)
- Rituals and memories.
- Why a painting by Manet shocked his contemporary audience.
- Need some inexpensive gift ideas? Be sure to watch the video of the grown-up fidget spinner.
- Here’s an alternative advent calendar you create yourself.
- Christmas decorations you can make yourself with paper.
- Beautiful quilting. Be sure to click on each image for the enlargement.
- Why it’s good to try your hand at different arts.
- Marvelous photographs by Cig Harvey.
- Psychologist Dean Simonton writes: “On average, creative geniuses aren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers, they simply produce a greater volume of work which gives them more variation and a higher chance of originality.” Author Thomas Oppong says, “If you want to be prolific, stop judging yourself.” (I don’t totally believe that—you have to judge yourself somewhat if you want to put out excellent work. But this article gives creatives much to think about.)