One of my art teachers back in college told us that people are jealous of artists because artists have the freedom to say, “I don’t want to work today. I want to sit under a tree”. I can understand that and to some extent I have that freedom but not really. Maybe if I were richer I’d have that freedom but who knows? I also like to work (on my own art) more than I like to sit around doing nothing. Of course my old teacher was a lot older then than I am now so maybe when I’m up to his age then I’ll want more tree time.

Contemplating all that brings me to the question that dominates my artistic life, “What am I going to do today?”. That’s not a question that most people ask themselves. Most people have a nine to five job so there is no question what they’re going to do that day. They’re going to go to work. If someone is out of work that question can dominate their lives but in a bad way. Most people, if they have no job to go to, have nothing to do. That can be a ugly scene. People with no purpose are often unhappy.

My, “What am I going to do today?”, is different. I don’t have a nine to five job to go to but I do have freelance work that pays my bills. I know I’m going to do that in a timely manner so it’s not even a worry. I’m not a procrastinator so when I have paying work I get it done as soon as I can so that I will have the maximum amount of time possible to work on my own artwork. That is where the question applies. My own artwork.

I like to mix things up art-wise. I like to paint in oil, acrylic, and gouache. I like to draw in pencil, ink, marker, and even a little charcoal. I like to take photos and manipulate them and my art on the computer. I have a web comic. None of this makes me much money. Why do I do it you ask? “Because I like to”, is the only answer I have for you. It’s my calling if you will. If any one of these things made me money then I would probably do that thing the most. At least I think I would. That seems to be what other artists do but I don’t really know for sure.

Since I don’t get paid for my art I have to be self-motivated rather than money motivated. That means that I have to see value in the work I spend my time making. That’s not easy but it has to be done if I want the happiness and satisfaction that comes with doing one’s own work. I’ve found that the key to being self-motivated is knowing the answer to the question, “What am I going to do today?”.

Knowing the answer to that question is all about making decisions. Another teacher of mine once said that there are no answers only decisions. That means to make a choice. There are often no right or wrong answers. Instead there are choices between A and B. Neither is right and neither is wrong but still a decision has to be made between the two. Pick whichever one you want and go with it. Make a decision. Don’t worry about being wrong because that’s not what it’s about.

I like to have decided “What am I going to do today?” the night before. I prefer to go to bed and wake up knowing what’s on my plate for the coming day. That’s not unusual but it’s something most people take for granted. Some people are even trapped by it but that’s another story. A lot of times I don’t even have to think about it much. If I start a painting that’s going to take me a week or so then I know for a week what I’ll be doing that day. It’s when that week is over that things get tricky at times. What do I start next? A decision has to be made.

Sometimes even if I know what I want to do I can’t do it. Things can go badly or energy can be low. A decision can be made that I can’t follow through on for whatever reason. That’s when another decision has to be made. Sometimes two or three. The key is not looking at them as “Wrong answers”. Like my teacher said, “There are no answers”. Put aside whatever isn’t working and pick something else up. I can’t be afraid to change what I am doing on any given day.

This topic comes up because as I write this I find myself in one of those transition days. I recently finished a big thing and took care of some small things and now find myself wondering what to start next. I actually thought about it last night and made a decision on what to to today. The decision must have been made late in the day though because when I woke up this morning I discovered that I had no idea what I was going to do. I completely forgot what I decided on. Weird. I can’t remember at all even after some effort. So I decided to write this.

Usually I’m an evening or night time writer. Maybe I’m more comfortable writing then or maybe it’s because I need the daylight for making art. Or it could be because I have a hard time getting into making art if I’m interrupted in the morining. If I don’t start on some piece early in the morning I won’t be getting started at all. I’ll stand there and awkwardly stare at it. All my timing will be thrown off. Sometimes I can start again after lunch but not always.

In order to be self-motivated you really have to make habit work for you. I get up early and start working by eight. I have the most energy in the morning so that’s when I do my most creative work. A schedule is important and no one is there to make you stick to the schedule so it takes a bit of work to make yourself stick to it. When the schedule goes ka-blooey is when things get difficult and sometimes my energy leaves me. I might lose a lot of the day because of something unexpectedly throwing my morning schedule off. Throw off the afternoon schedule and it doesn’t matter. I can get right back to work when the opportunity arises. I don’t know why.

Anyway you look at it it’s not usual for me to write in the morning. I also need quiet to write yet noise to do artwork by. I listen to the Howard Stern show, music, or documentaries in the morning as I work. Once again habit is important because once I turn something on I don’t want to turn it off. It keeps me going. I don’t like to pause what I’m listening to in order to write. I prefer to write during a time of day when I’m tired of listening to things. Yet here I am writing this in the morning. All because I forgot the answer to the question, “What am I going to do today?”.