Welcome back to another round of responses. This week’s question:
Do you have a daily routine? Why have you set it up this way?
I’ve experimented with a few daily routines over time and I’ve settled into a general outline of my day rather than a strict regiment. Things happen in a set order, but the length of each will vary. I find this gives me the flexibility to fit my needs for the day without freaking out about needing to get something done in an exact time slot. At the same time, I keep the general outline consistent so I don’t waste time and energy thinking about what to do next.
The first thing I need to do after waking up is eat (I’m not a coffee person so this is my engine starter). After that I take a short walk to get some fresh air, clear my mind, and think about the one or two things I want to accomplish that morning. Once I get back, I dive into a dedicated block of creative work. I try to guard my morning creative time the best I can as it’s important for me to work on this while my brain is working on full power. Once I feel the gears starting to slow I’ll take a lunch break (whenever that may be), listen to some music or a podcast, and then go for another short walk to clear my mind and get my thoughts in order for the afternoon. The afternoon is my time for other work and engaging with other people (emails, meetings, lessons, consulting work, etc.).
Later I’ll try to get in a longer walk or exercise before cooking and eating dinner, then giving lessons, doing more creative work, or hanging out with my wife or friends. I try to get to bed at the same time each night during the week and leave a half hour or so to write my thoughts from the day and plans for the next day in a journal and then read a little before going to sleep (8-9 hours is vital for me to stay at my best without needing a “crash” day somewhere in the week).
A lot of times when people ask about one’s daily routine, they’re really wanting to know if you’re an early bird or a night owl. For me, I would say that I’m an “early owl.” Or, am I a “night bird?” Regardless of the correct term, what I’m meaning to say is that my creativity seems to have adapted to the nature of my creative spirit. I think this adaptability grew during my teenage years. During high school, I woke up at 4 am to throw newspapers with my family, went to school, and played sports or went to work at Sears. That busy schedule in high school helped train my brain to constantly be alert and thinking.
Now as a creative, I try to keep my brain engine going on all cylinders throughout the entire day. However, I’ve realized that I create my best work in the early hours of the morning, from 5 am to 11 am (sometimes starting at 4 am). Most times I don’t eat til lunch. Then, throughout the majority of the afternoon, I try to focus more on producing ideas and analyzing details that I’ve overlooked (more low-brain activities). At night, I eat and try to relax. There are nights (most nights during the week) that I’m so excited about a new idea that I’ll work on it until 1 am (while still trying to relax). I can typically run on a few hours of sleep. Crazy and unhealthy I know, but I’m an early owl / night bird / or whatever.
The last thing I will say about my routine is that I want my daily routine to balance nicely between structure and organic chaos. For example, I’m always afraid that I will run into a creative block. So, I’ve made sure that I’ve implemented ways that I can always jot notes down when I have multiple ideas. I want to bookmark every inspiration in an organized fashion. When I feel like I’m in a rut, I go to the notebook and start working on another idea. Or, I make sure that I never fully complete a project at the end of the day because unfinished projects motivate me to keep moving forward the next day. Essentially, I don’t want the routine to feel like a never-ending process.
Daily routines are important because they allow you to seize your most productive and creative hours. Mornings are the most important part of my routine. I prefer to wake up before 6:00 AM, have a cup of coffee, a proper breakfast, and create something before heading to my day job around 9:30 AM.
During this time, I typically start writing a blog post or freelance writing assignment. I also read articles, write copy, and schedule content for my blog’s social media channels. Social media drives a large amount of traffic to my website.
I tend to have less energy in the evenings, but a long walk after work helps me re-energize. After that, I eat dinner and write a bit more before going to bed. I’m happiest when I manage to fall asleep before 10:00 PM and can enjoy a full eight hours of sleep.
Though some days are similar to others, I don’t have a daily routine much past waking up and having coffee. When working for others, mostly Monday through Thursday, my days follow a more regular pace however even these days vary depending on what else I’d like to accomplish. Over the past few years I’ve come to realize that work for others can be interrupted by work for myself. I often stop and do what drives me at the moment, shoot some images, go into my darkroom, process film for myself…etc. During the weekends, which have become always reserved for my own work, there isn’t any routine. I understand how routines can be a good thing, even necessary, for some. For me, maybe because I’m disciplined to work as a freelancer, routines tend to constrict creativity.
I think my daily routine is very simple, but I always try to make things that lead me to creativity and motivation for my art. When I am not in a shoot and I have time for myself, the first thing that I can’t skip in the morning is my coffee and that keeps me awake all day long. Then I like to search for inspiration on the internet or in books. Almost everyday I read about art history and stay aware of what’s going on in the art world right now. Next I start matching ideas for creation and expression, then I pick one or two ideas and make sketches. I like to do it by hand instead of computer. Some days I go out for a walk to the beach or in the city searching for inspiration. I put everything in a journal and in a few hours or days I’ll feel ready to make a collage or an independent film.
I think this routine is natural for me. I feel that if I am not creating there is something missing. I really love art and I live for it, even if I don’t have a great idea, the research that I do every day helps me in the future. Even if I am in a shoot like an art director or making independent art, I need to have a good cultural background so this routine keeps me informed, inspired and learning new things.
I work full time as a web developer. I spend a lot of time on the weekends with my two daughters, who currently live with their mom. As such, I’m pulled in many directions.
I DO find time to work in sketchbooks every day. I have two going at all times, and I ALWAYS have one with me. I’m able to work out ideas at any time and then quickly execute things at night. I actually cut out the layers of my dioramas on the pages of the sketchbook before I do it for real. This identifies any compositional issues, and also creates a permanent record of every piece I make. I like to think about things during the morning shower and during my commute. I may research something during lunch, which I record in said sketchbooks, and then I’ll work on the ideas at night.
Chief Executive Artist
What do you think? Have you thought about the structure of your days?
Photo by Matt Hanna