In Make Your Art No Matter What, Beth Pickens writes, “The most frequent issue with time for artists is the belief they don’t have enough time for their art practice or as much time as they would like to devote to it.”
Artists with all sorts of different schedules, habits, commitments, family expectations, all report this, which leads Pickens to believe, “This specific time issue isn’t correlated solely to reality; it’s also linked to perception.”
When I was writing my book about creative work, I knew I wanted to interview artist Michael Saviello, also known as Big Mike who worked as a manager at Astor Place Hairstylists for decades.
I learned that one random day, in April 2017, Big Mike was talking to his friend author Rafael Hines, who had just self-published his book Bishop’s War (writing from midnight to 3 a.m., sleeping until 6 a.m., and going to his full-time job) to great success.
That day in April, Big Mike decided he was going to paint. He kept his job, and life didn’t stop happening. For example, he painted to support his wife, who was diagnosed with cancer and has since recovered.
Big Mike went on to do gallery shows, but it all happened because of the same practice. Every day, for years now, Big Mike goes to work and paints for 45 minutes during his lunch hour.
I’m still unpacking my obsession with this aspect of creativity; but namely, I think a large part of it is wrestling with the perception of not having enough time. I think Big Mike’s story resonates because many readers can all relate to him in a way; but also, as readers, we aspire to make a simple change like he does. I’m lucky to have had a chance to interview him for Creative Doing, and I really appreciate how simple he keeps it.
Author and coach Jessica Abel wrote a really great post about this, and I particularly liked this quote:
If you don’t save a bit of your time for you, now, out of every week, there is no moment in the future when you’ll magically be done with everything and have loads of free time.
There will never be enough time, so start doing it daily. Today! I’ve written about the 20 second creative challenge—a scoped down version of your creative process that you can do any day, in which you can never say you don’t have enough time. If you’re really stuck, try these exercises you can do in 60 seconds.
You may find, of course, that even though you have made enough time, something else emerges. It might be a fear of failure, perfectionism, or a different expectation or need. We all learn to deal with these in our own ways, but at the end of it, the question is: What did you make?
It’s never too late to start. Big Mike also summarizes for Washington Square News:
I’m going to be 60-years-old in a couple of weeks. All my life, I wanted to paint, but I never went to school for it. When I went to college, I studied business. Almost four years ago, I started painting for myself. I painted my wife. Some guys here at the shop told me to paint Biggie, so I painted Biggie.
That’s the main point of the story, of course. But then, all this other awesome stuff starts happening:
New York Nico started seeing my paintings. He really liked them so he ended up making a movie about me called Big Mike Takes Lunch. It was his first movie. It’s about 12 minutes long, a legit short film. He put it out on Vimeo on Saturday. By Sunday, it was a staff pick. I’m off Mondays, but they told me to come in on Monday. Channel 4 News, VICE News and NBC all came in to do a story about me and Nico. Next thing you know, I did a show here. 200 people came. The Mayor came. A guy who owned a gallery also came here so then I had shows in Soho and Chelsea.
None of that would’ve mattered, of course, if Big Mike didn’t make the decision to first start painting. He elaborates to Humans of New York (emphasis added):
And things keep getting bigger. I get my own solo show at a gallery. Not everyone is thrilled about it. Some people were like: ‘This ain’t even art.’ But I didn’t listen to em. I just keep painting. One hour a day, on my lunchbreak. It’s not like I can afford to quit work or anything. But my daughter has got me on the Instagram, and I’m getting a lot of commissions. Even Robert DeNiro has one of my paintings. But you know the best part about the whole shandooble? My entire life, I’d been saying: ‘I can do that.’ I always knew it. But I finally did it. So now other people know it too.”
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