Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Skeleton in my Closet

I suppose my use of time could, euphemistically, be called flexible. Random, even. My time is pretty much my own and I have very few obligations or responsibilities. That means I can make up each day and each week as I go along.

That’s not as good as it sounds.

If I’m not careful it can lead to aimlessness, indecision and idleness.

I have a number of routines and disciplines that I try to stick with to give some external structure to my days. The folders I posted about previously are a part of an on-going effort to get and stay organised. Things like this are like the scaffolding, or temporary structures, that support what I do. That’s why I’m not embarrassed to be changing them frequently.

But there is also an underlying structure to what I do that has been working well for me for a number of years. I think of it as my ‘skeleton’ because it supports and enables what I do by providing shape and structure.

The skeleton is set up to support my work as an artist (sort of) and to facilitate my ‘professional development’. I know that might sound a bit grand, but this art thing is what I do now – it’s my latest career choice and I want to get good at it.

(I prefer to think of it as a skeleton rather than a framework because framework sounds static, whereas a skeleton suggests an organic form. It also reminds me of Superted.)

The structure is one that I came across years ago from the Fine Art degree course of a UK University (unfortunately, the link is no longer available). I printed out the syllabus of their course and I refer to it frequently. It breaks down into four areas:

Fine Art: Practice and Theory

Studio Practice

Art History

Curatorship and Professional Practice

I’ll post in more detail about each of these over the next few weeks (though not necessarily in that order).

From time to time I’ve tried developing a working weekly schedule that would work across each of these areas in a consistent and well-balanced way. At one time, my daughter even designed the equivalent of a school timetable for me – complete with double periods, breaks and nightly homework sessions.

I’m sure you can guess how that worked out.

Yep. Not even a week.

(The idea of a timetable came from Barbara Sher’s book “I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was”. A recommended read – check out http://www.barbarasher.com/)

I realise that by telling you this I might be destroying the mystique of me being a complete shambles. But in the midst of all the madness, there is a method.

I’ll let you in on a secret … I know what I’m doing.

People who know what they're doing often look like a shambles to people "on the outside". Following the rules and toeing the line are the enemy of true innovation or, as Robert Genn just said in his latest letter, "The enemy of growth is dogma". As for structuring time, it is important for us. I do so much better when I make the effort to stick to a schedule, though I'm often a lousy supervisor of myself. Yesterday I read a sentence in a magazine article that really resonated with me. It begins "After days of stressful inactivity..."
Ah yes, Andrea, I so relate to the stress of inactivity. I've been giving attention lately not to what I think I should be doing, but to what I am doing ... and how it works for me. Thanks for the interesting comment.
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