My friend and fellow artist Joe Blodgett devised a system he calls “The 14 Golden Stations.” At the time he was concerned with procrastination and time wasting — conditions that attack some artists. It works this way: You need a clock or a watch with an hourly chime. On the hour changes — generally from 8am to 9pm — you make a one-word note in a journal accounting for what you catch yourself doing. For yesterday mine looked like this: Walking, emailing, painting, painting, varnishing, driving, dreaming, planning, painting, painting, reading, snoozing, painting, painting. My friend Mary Smart, a confirmed Blodgettite, gave me this list from last Saturday: Loving, loving, exercising, eating, assembling, collageing, walking, reading, visiting, visiting, cooking, wrapping, dining, dancing.
What, you might ask, does this do for you? As I’ve often said — there’s a brotherhood and sisterhood out there. Mary says, “It’s a joy to pause on the hour, find the little journal, and realize that others are doing the same.” I rather like to think of the Golden Stations as an inventory of passions. A small moment of cosmic consciousness, a small buzz of reality, a small zone of accountability in an otherwise free state.
Blodgettism shows no signs of taking its place among the world’s religions. However, its value becomes clear with often disarming surprise when you have a day, as I did recently, where every entry except two could only be classified as dreaming. It’s definitely useful for accomplishment oriented self-starters who may be falling off the wagon. And when the “T” words like telephoning, TVing and talking show up regularly you may decide to make some changes.
PS: “The way to foresee and control your future is to monitor and regulate your present.” (Joe Blodgett)
Esoterica: One of the most successful self-control systems is the Twelve Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Co-founded by Bill S. and Bob W. on June 10, 1935 — their first day of permanent sobriety — AA has helped millions to kick a bad habit. The organization has over 2,000,000 current members and 30,000 chapters worldwide.
(RG note) I’d like to thank all of the creative people who wrote in response to this letter. Some were so creative in reporting their Golden Stations that they are unprintable. That aside, not a few who hadn’t heard of the system tried it and reported after one or two days. As I write this more are coming in so we will see what we can do about posting more in a future clickback.
The “me” factor
Awesome! I LOVE it. It has that special quality that all of your best letters include: the ME factor. In other words, I, as the reader, get to think of ME while I’m reading it, and apply it to ME when I think of it. It has ripples of ME-ness after the fact. I get to entertain the idea of trying the Golden Stations, and going over in my head how I spend my hours. Not just an anecdote, more than feel-good art speak.
Sleep, Bach, Dog Kiss, Priming, Cheerios, Dog Park, Pastel, Titles, Dog Kiss, Grass, Breadmaking, Richard, Brainstorm, Cut and Paste, Dog Kiss
Stepping out of the box
by Arla J Swift, Harrison Lake, BC, Canada
As a professional Innkeeper — I find it would be quite possible to spend every day totally absorbed in mundane, repetitive chores — fill dishwasher, empty dishwasher, fill washing machine, empty washing machine, fill dryer, empty dryer, iron small linens, run off confirmation letters, stuff envelopes (as a matter of fact — am currently stuffing 700 of those — this year’s Christmas letter !!!) — so — I must make a conscious and sometimes difficult decision to step outside of the box.
Often I hear the phrase — “Stepping out of the box” — the other day it was a mathematician using this phrase to describe the work of Albert Einstein — and how it was only the work of scientists and mathematicians (of course) that could be described as exhibiting “genius” — as their theories had to withstand the test of proof. After mentioning such unremarkables as Mozart, my reply was — “Heck, artists not only step out of the box — they decorate it!”
by Paula Sue Butts, Folsom, California, USA
I do think that we all have The 14 Golden Stations. Probably called procrastination to some and dreaming to others and thinking of a new ideas. I think maybe capturing these moments on paper could be a wonderful way of developing and broadening my creative bank. I will do this immediately.
I think I will look at it this way. I will take a special journal and start writing these different stages down in my day. Plus, I will try and capture those wonderful fleeting moments that cross my consciousness. I will call these my hummingbird moments. The motion of a hummingbird wing has always been so intriguing to me. Its like you can see them but you never get a clear picture of them. They fly into view unannounced and savor the flower nectar for a second or two then they fly off before you are fully satisfied with seeing them.
So, if I can capture the nectar from some of those fleeting moments, I too can be a Hummingbird. Oh how wonderful it would be to have hummingbird wings.
by Radha Namaste, New York, USA
What comes to mind regarding this technique of noting what we are doing is very much about becoming mindful which is the practice of Zen Buddhists. It is an awareness developed by meditating, which many other spiritually minded groups use too, yogis, etc… It is certainly something that takes practice, this becoming conscious. You can do anything in a meditatively aware state. It is incredibly rewarding as we become free from living unconsciously, and begin to let go of being just habitual. This is important for artists because it leads to vitality and originality.
by Tania Viesulas
I found it difficult to relate to this letter. Rather than hearing about how not to waste time, I ‘d like to learn how to stretch the minutes and hours. Do some people (o.k. I don’t mean people, I mean artists — oxymoron?) ever have enough surplus time/leisure to deliberately squander it? I don’t mean very occasionally, as per the human condition. Rather, consistently enough that they need “controls” to monitor their minutes.
Time should be a bankable commodity… minutes saved/shaved “here,” should be accessible “there,” when desperately needed.
by Tom Blais
I don’t seem to require any monitoring to keep at the job. I have tried something like it and it delays me. I just press on with my work—one thing after the other — muddling through more than anything under a fair degree of pressure from outside and within. Pressure helps. My role-model is Napoleon. He slept little, micromanaged his army, campaigns — even designing flags and articles of clothing. Historian Frederic Maude wrote; “One is forced to the conclusion that there existed in Napoleon’s brain a dual capacity—one the normal and reasoning one, developing only the ideas and conceptions of his contemporaries, the other intuitive and capable only of work under pressure.” The last one was the brilliant one.
A day in the life
A selection of Golden Stations reported:
Sleeping, sleeping, running, telephoning, having coffee, shopping, getting stone, fixing grinder, fixing grinder, fixing grinder, drawing on stone, resting, eating, watching TV.
Painting, Painting, Painting, Painting, Painting, Painting, Painting, Painting, Banking, Shopping, Painting, Painting, Painting, Painting.
Kids to school, shopping, writing, eating, reading, reading, TV, kids from school, ballet, ballet, grandpa, eating, helping with homework, writing.
Writing, writing, reading manuscript, rewriting, dining, walking, resting, telephoning, visiting, visiting, dining with Flo, bingo, bingo, bingo.
Commuting, meeting, meeting, firing someone, lunching, lunching, meeting, meeting, bookwork, day-dreaming, commuting, eating, resting, painting.
On the bus, at foundation class, at figure drawing (life class), at figure drawing, hanging out, hanging out with W., at printmaking class lecture, engraving plate, engraving plate, pulling proofs, hanging out in cafeteria, going to preview show opening at Ardy’s, having coffee with W., on the bus.
Smiling at sunrise, loving the way I feel, drawing joyously, holding onto the spirit of color, honoring my pure gifts, giving thanks for all life, breathing the wind, listening to my heartbeat, feeling my friend’s love, living in my body, sharing beautiful laughter, floating in music, dancing with myself, drifting peacefully.
by Albert Reck, Ngwenya, Swaziland
I never in my life as an artist have been trying to beat foes. And I only have to defeat that one foe Reck.
Durer told us about the “most beautiful”: “Was Du aus der Natur kannst herausreissen, das ist das Schoenste.” (Roughly translated: what you are able to tear or to pull out of nature, that becomes the “most beautiful”.) “Natural painting” means for me positive living and thinking. But if you start to pull out of nature, you are already in the comparative. Here the artist is getting in a somehow hovering state. His position is between positive and superlative. In this position you may find a lot of so called contemporary modern artists. (Non-figurative and all the other hoverings.) They are happy to remain there. But how to reach the superlative? For to explain this I have to talk in pictures or a parable. To tell you this, I will do it in the next letter, because this one may become to long.
P.S. Oh yes, I am stronger than nature. But with nature behind me, I am able to move mountains.
You may be interested to know that artists from 70 countries have visited these sites since October 31, 2000.
That includes Barbara Kerr from I’m not sure where: “My stations are narrowed down to five. Before falling asleep every night I count five accomplishments and five things of beauty I saw that day,” she says, “I sleep well.”