Sustainably Creative

Find Time for Art

How do you find time for art when you are ill, pressed in, tired or harried? Or just a busy mother?

A year ago I got concussion, which it turned out, led to a 7-month tussle with Post-Concussive Syndrome. Yet curiously during that time I was the most faithful I've ever been finding time for art and consistently writing this blog! How can that be?

During the initial recovery I thought about how I would use the precious moments available to me in my constrained state. If in every hour I had 20 minutes of activity possible around the edge of resting, those minutes needed to be purposeful and used for what I most wanted to be doing.

Then, as I recovered from the initial injury, I was able to return to the basic expectations of daily life. But the busyness had gone. Even though I was still homeschooling several children, we stripped away any unnecessary activity (and the world didn't end!). There were times when friends brought meals. My children were a huge help. And we said goodbye to the speech and debate tournament season, an activity that had truthfully been bulldozing through our lives for the previous few years. 

All these helped.

And then I found this interview between Danny Gregory, co-founder of Sketchbook Skool, and Michael Nobbs who, despite a 20-year battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ran the website Sustainably Creative, wrote books, made art, and mentored people.

All in really small bite-sized pieces of time.

It's a brief video about finding time for creativity especially in the midst of constraint or illness. (I'm not embedding it but linking to the original.) Danny Gregory chats from NYC with Michael Nobbs in Wales, both sipping cups of tea, about how Michael finds time for art despite his draining and ongoing health issue.

Michael was about to teach a week at Sketchbook Skool. But you can connect with him any time via his new site Go Gently. There you'll find his gentle four-days-a-week podcast encouraging you to have a 20-minute work session that day. It's deceptively simple. You can accumulate work even in such small increments.

Artwork by Michael Nobbs. Used with permission.

Artwork by Michael Nobbs. Used with permission.

Fast Forward

Now that I've recovered from concussion, I still listen frequently to Michael's podcast and am inspired to keep fitting art in despite the speed of life cranking higher.

It's college application season and that is involving hours of my time, quite rightly. I'm teaching two weekly group classes to teens, one about starting their own blogs, another on the history of photography. A joy, but something to plan and oversee. My husband and I took an unexpected trip across country one weekend. It all adds up.

But this week I have bronchitis. I was at the Urgent Care Clinic and ended up having to have an x-ray to see if I had pneumonia. (Thankfully I did not.)

I had brought some humble art supplies with me for the wait. I used a brush pen, a simple tin of 12 Blick pencil crayons, a verse from my phone, and the numb downtime between the faceless medical professionals sliding open the exam room door, to do some lettering. I forgot to bring a pencil sharpener. When one color became blunt, I moved on to another. Most definitely not about great lettering or art. More about concentrating, taking a moment to reflect, not 'finish it later' but 'do it now' and 'use this time.' 

On the plane home from the cross country trip, I did the same. The point: not perfect, but present, at that moment, engaged in something however unpolished. It made a difference to a turbulent flight and an anxious doctor's office wait.

I am not aiming to be a professional artist. But I am aiming to have a rich life, not one lived at the mercy of the present moment pushing and pulling me at will in its incessant tide of do this and react to that.

Michael Nobbs has not allowed a near-debilitating illness of several decades stop him. He mentors others, creates products literally in 20-minute increments, and is an inspiration to many. As well as being a jolly good tea maker.

Last winter in the midst of long-term recovery, I survived with a Friday afternoon downtime ritual. Returning home through notorious Boston traffic from the one outside commitment of the week, my youngest and I would make tea, light a lovely candle and listen to the week's episode of Shakespeare for Children on the BBC iplayer. A mere 15-minute production. But all the noise of traffic and hubbub of the day would melt away. And out came lettering supplies: huge paper pad, watercolor brush filled with Noodler's Apache Sunset ink, and time disappeared with the quiet sunset, until the candle was blown out and it was time to rise and make dinner. There was time for such a weekly break after all.

Want More?

The new site Michael is working on: