I’ve been asked, “How should I structure my time in order to build momentum and keep it going?” She has in mind concentrating for the summer. The fact that she mentioned structure and momentum indicates she understands the main problems. Here’s what I suggested:
Make plans to cut back on socializing, restaurants, Ultimate Frisbee and visiting relatives. Think of your project as an internal adventure but make sure your library card is up to date. Get lots of art materials in advance, particularly supports. You may plan on a format or a set, but be prepared to change your mind and to go out and get something different. Look at a calendar and note carefully the beginning and end dates. (Two weeks is not enough — two or more months is better) You can live with anything if you know the time-frame. The idea is to achieve a self-managed productivity zone that gets your creative beehive buzzing.
As in quitting smoking, the first few days are the most difficult. Don’t talk a lot or tell your friends what you’re going to do — let your produce do the talking. Eat lightly. Sleep well. Awake rested, without guilt, and start working before Cheerios. See the clock tick and hum and realize that time is gold and wisdom has always respected it. Measure time by signature accomplishments. Have no venue in mind but gradually fill your own space. Alternate days — inside, outside, or other stimuli — in order to cross-pollinate and speed up the metabolism of ideas and motifs. Walk the tightrope of originality and influence and kite your own spirits. Act as if your greatness always was there, and it will be. Sweat a lot. Make a lot of stuff. Quickly get rid of stuff that is sub-standard. Always ask, “What could be?” Believe in miracles.
Esoterica: The muse moves in strange ways. Last summer a young woman wrote to say that her stellar success was due to the fact that she went four months without putting on makeup.
This letter was originally published as “Time travel” on June 29, 2001.
“One works because I suppose it is the most interesting thing one knows to do. The days one works are the best days. On the other days one is hurrying through the other things one imagines one has to do to keep one’s life going… (Georgia O’Keeffe)