3 Things I learned about Working Deeply

Abstract art for the home by Margaret Lipsey

I recently finished Deep Work by Cal Newport which, from the title you probably already know, discusses going deeper into your work.  Part of what he talks about is focusing your time. Not just setting aside a couple of hours in the studio to work but getting rid of the distractions that keep my mind in shallow thinking mode. He talks about not turning to the internet for entertainment but rather spending your time online in an intentional way, setting aside 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon for email for example. This more intentional mindset really appeals to me and over the last two weeks here are some of the things that came up.

Abstract Art by Margaret Lipsey

First, Social Media is a key part of my marketing and it does in fact drive traffic to my website. I have always thought that it was an important part of showing my work but taking time away really helped me see that it is all still working for me.  This was huge for me because that soul drain tends to happen at least once a year, seeing the numbers affected pushed me to reconsider HOW I use social media rather than IF I should use social media. 

I decided I needed to move away from the "how did they like my work" mentality to a "here's what I'm doing" mentality. That shift moves me away from analyzing the responses and lessens my need to be online everyday.

Abstract Mixed Media Art by Margaret Lipsey

The second thing I realized was that I was spending too much time in the studio "making art." {What are you talking about Margaret? You are an artist, isn't that what you are supposed to do in the studio?!?} 

When I started painting, it wasn't to sell or even to show. I wanted to figure it out, to explore, to play. Somehow becoming an Artist {with a capital A} meant creating Art and while I still had no trouble painting over works or throwing out pieces that went too far in the wrong direction, I had stopped including play in my daily practice. Bringing that time to just move my paint brush or my palette knife over the paper and see what happened brought life back into the studio.

The last, and most obvious, thing I learned was that I was wasting a lot of time. Posting and then checking and even replying to social media took over my day. But so did popping into to my email every hour and so did going into the studio multiple times a day.

Having a loose schedule of my work day focused me in a way I knew was possible but I hadn't been able to reach.  Getting all of the social media and email checks out of the way first, I can focus on writing emails, blogging, and marketing. Knowing that I have two large blocks of studio time during the day, I can focus one completely on playing and exploring. Does that mean I don't create art for half my day in the studio? Sometimes yes, other times that play time is where I create my favorite pieces. But the intention is to work on discovering, pushing myself, and making myself less comfortable so I can move and develop my work more deeply.

It makes me smile to recognize that the only way I will develop my painting, to go deeper into the work, is to play more often.  There is a hard working part of me that puts up a lot of resistance to "just having fun with it" and yet my own history as an artist has shown me that the best of myself comes out in the work I did while playing.  Funny enough "hard working" Margaret is really happy with the schedule I put in place, so maybe she will leave the rest of it to Margaret the Artist.

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