Nearly Miraculous Daily Habit
“…Because you told me I was a stuntwoman and I believed you…” Painting by Lesley Perdomo
Allot Fifteen Minutes a Day to Your Project
If I could actually make you do stuff, the first thing I would get you to do is to spend fifteen minutes each and every day working on your project.
As it happens, you are the agent of change in your life, and I can’t really make you do anything.
But I strongly urge you to make this daily commitment to your project.
Do fifteen minutes every morning
— before you check your email, before you check your email, before you check your email…working on your project.
You will need an iron will to resist the siren call of the Internet, but it’s worth it.
Whatever’s out there can wait while you put yourself first for just a few minutes.
So get out your kitchen timer, or use the timer on your cell phone (in which case you can select an alert sound that you particularly enjoy), and even if you just sit still for fifteen minutes, you will profit.
I’ve heard from my students with attention deficit disorders that using a timer is an especially useful focusing ritual.
You will be amazed by how much work you can get done in fifteen minutes. You will be flat-out astonished by how much progress you make by putting in fifteen minutes a day, seven days a week, for a week, for a month, for three months, for a year.
Intellectually, this makes perfect sense. You know that if you practiced guitar every day for fifteen minutes, before long you’d be a better guitar player.
If you spend fifteen minutes a day writing a novel, eventually you will have written a novel.
If you spend fifteen minutes a day working on your abs, pretty soon you’ll have strengthened your core.
But emotionally this strategy doesn’t feel like it will work. It feels too small and too half-baked.
It may also trigger some feelings of rebellion, anger, despair, or fatigue. Sometimes those feelings show up right when you’re on the verge of a breakthrough.
You might want to think of this as your Daily Fifteen Minutes of Fame.
It ’s your chance to treat yourself like a famous artist for fifteen minutes every day.
After all, would a famous artist have any trouble claiming this small amount of time for herself ? Of course not.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, Sam, but how do I go about this fifteen-minute thing?” Here ’s what I recommend:
Your Daily Fifteen Minutes of Fame — the Why
Quickly — without pondering — close your eyes for a moment and ask yourself, “What does this project represent for me? What value of mine does it represent?” and just let the answer bubble up from inside.
Maybe your answer will be “freedom” or “joy” or “self- expression” or “love” or “escape from the cubicle” or “to prove everybody wrong” — whatever word or phrase brings a little smile to your face is the right one.
You might even make yourself a little sign with your word or phrase on it and post it on or near your timer. (You could even grab a paint pen and decorate your kitchen timer if you were so inclined — a bit of glitter and glue, anyone?)
Your Daily Fifteen Minutes of Fame — the What
Working swiftly, brainstorm a list of fifteen-minute tasks.
Include a wide variety, since some days you might wake up feeling bold and want to tackle something brave such as “entering poetry contest,” and on others you’ll feel quiet and shy and want to do something simple like doodling or daydreaming. With this list at hand, you can quickly select the task that matches your mood.
For example, if I were writing a play called Romeo and Juliet, my list of fifteen-minute tasks might look something like this:
• Write a quickie character sketch of the nurse.
• Research poisons and sleeping draughts.
• Work on the balcony scene.
• Call agent.
• Brainstorm titles (Capulet vs. Montague, Why Fifteen-Year-Old
Girls Should Not Be Allowed to Go Dancing Unchaperoned )
• Write an author’s bio for the back cover.
• Double-check penalties for dueling.
• Write a blog post about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.
• Research whether a rose by any other name really would
smell as sweet.
Your Daily Fifteen Minutes of Fame — the When
I usually suggest working in the morning, just because getting stuff out of the way first thing seems to work for a lot of people, including myself, but you might find that working after school works well (family homework time?) or just before bedtime.
Some people like to work in the middle of the night. Experiment.
My friend Emilie Beck is an award-winning playwright and theater director, and once she wrote a play (two plays, actually) in twenty-minute increments.
She had two small boys at home and a very demanding full-time job, and twenty minutes each day during her lunch hour was truly the only time she had.
It was not her preferred method of working, to be sure, but she made the best of it.
She found not only that she was able to do some great work but also that the action of writing every day helped remind her of her life goals, and kept her in touch with her artist-self, which was, I imagine, in danger of getting temporarily swallowed up by her mommy-self and her executive-self.
LESLEY’S STORY (In her own words)
I will be honest, I didn’t believe you at first. You were so adamant about how only fifteen minutes a day can help you complete a project. “Yeah, right,” kept sounding in my head. It was that same voice that always held me back from starting a project because I never knew where to start.
Whether I was starting a necklace or a painting, I always felt that if I started it, then I would have to finish it right then and there. That is a lot of pressure, so I would sometimes just shrug off some great ideas.
I figured I had nothing to lose by following your advice. I set the timer on my cell phone and started a neck- lace right away. It took me three fifteen-minute sessions to complete one, but by the end of the week, I had three more necklaces than I had anticipated.
I filled in my fifteen minutes with production, and I started to value what fifteen minutes can bring you in a day, a week, and a month! So I decided to transfer this wisdom to my paintings.
Sometimes I would feel inspired to go longer than fifteen minutes. However, if I had only fifteen minutes to give to a project, I was okay with it.
What I am sharing with you today is a painting that I started in February 2011 and finally completed it August 2011. This painting is very meaningful to me and expresses the journey that I have embarked on since starting the fifteen-minutes-a-day process.
The background is a tile collage of different tattoo images that I found in various tattoo magazines (during my fifteen minutes a day I would skim through magazines and cut out my favorite images). Soon I had collected enough to fill up the canvas (again, in different fifteen-minute segments, I glued them to every quadrant of that canvas).
Once the canvas was filled, I started painting the woman. (In those fifteen-minute segments I learned how to get the skin tones I liked, and I played with shadow.)
I will be honest: sometimes during my fifteen-minute segments I would just stare at the canvas and try to figure out what my next move would be. But those fifteen minutes of thought are what helped bring about the spiderweb, the filigree, and the crystals, all of which helped me complete this painting.
I call this painting the Stuntwoman, which is something you once called me. I have found balance in my life, in my career, by just appreciating fifteen minutes every day.
By the way, I gave Lesley the stuntwoman idea because once as she was talking to me about feeling overwhelmed by her schedule, I suggested that she consider the idea of being busy without buying into the story that busy equals being stressed out:
“Think about being busy in the same way that a surgeon is busy during an operation,” I told her. “Be busy like a trapeze artist flying through the air, or like a stuntwoman — just cleanly moving through each task with great clarity, concentration, and grace.”
There’s No Such Thing as a Single-Discipline Creative
I’ve never met a single-discipline creative.
Every creative person I know says things like, “Well, I’m a writer. But I also sing in a choir and play bass guitar and drums and embroider and do needlepoint, but I don’t do counted cross-stitch anymore, and of course everyone in my family loves to cook, and did I mention that I also clog dance?”
Like I said, you’re good at a lot of things.
And then there’s the artistry that you bring to your everyday life.
Take a look at the list of creative activities below. This list was created and then added to over the years by hundreds of students and clients. As you’ll see, some of the activities on the list are a bit outside-the-box.
Maybe you, too, have some skills that you never thought of as creative, or dare I say… artistic?
The A-B-C’s of Creative Endeavors
Baking, Bargain Hunting, Beadwork, Bear Hugging
Big-Picture Thinking, Biking, Bodhran (Irish Drum) Playing
Bomb-Diggity Smoothie Making, Boot Camp Sergeanting
Building Junk, Buying Presents
Cake Decorating, Calculated Risk Taking, Calligraphy
Camerawork, Caregiving, Cartooning
Chameleon-like Ability to Blend In, Choreography
Clothing Design, Coffee Making, Complimenting Others
Creative Listening, Creative Space-Making (for Others’ Art)
Dancing: Ballet, Dancing: Boogie-Oogie-Oogie, Dancing: Modern
Decoupage, Detail Designing (the devil is in the details), Doll Making, Doodling
Dream-Board Making.Driving in Los Angeles, Drumming
Editing, Emoting. Empathizing, Encouraging
Entrepreneurship, Event Planning, Expressing Myself Honestly without Being Cruel
Facebook, Fashionistaing, Faux Painting, Film Critiquing
Filmmaking, Finding Order in Chaos, Fixing Things
Flute Playing, Foley Working, Footwear Design, Furniture Making
Gardening, Gift Wrapping, Going to the Mat, Grant Writing
Graphic Design, Guitar Playing: Electric, Guitar Playing: Folk/Acoustic
Handmade Card Making, for Prisoners, Home Cooking, Home Decorating
Honesty about Self (with Wit, Sometimes), Horseback Riding
Idea Formation, Improvising, Information Sharing
Interior Design, Internet Marketing, Invoking
Jewelry Making, Joke Writing, Juggling
Kissing, Kite Making
Life Coaching, Lighting Design, Listening and Giving Advice
Logistics, Long Car Trips, Lovemaking, Lucid Dreaming
Makeup application, Making Others Comfortable with Themselves, Making Fairy Houses Marketing, Massage, Mediating, Mind-Body-Soul Coaching Motivational Speaking, Music Producing:Stage and Studio
Needlework: Crocheting, Needlework: Embroidering, Needlework: Hand Sewing, Needlework: Knitting, Needlework: needlepoint, Networking, Nursing
Ocarina Playing, Organizing Painting
Painting by Number, Party Throwing, Personal Training, Philosophy, Photography, Piano: Rudimentary, Playwriting,
Poetry: Limericks, Poetry of the Obscene,Poetry: Romantic Poetry: Memorizing
Poster making, Producing, Public Speaking
Pulling Business Concepts out of My Butt (a.k.a.Entrepreneurship?)
Raw Food Juicing, Reading, Reading Aloud, Reading to Oneself, Reciting
Recorder Playing, Recovery (12-Stepping), Rollerblading, Roller-Skating
Sales, Saying No, Scabbard Making, Scenic Design, Scrapbooking, Screenwriting, Script Coverage, Sculpey-Clay Bead-Making, Set Designing,Sewing, Shopping, Show Producing: Multiple Genres, Shrinky-Dink Making, Silk Screening, Singing, Singing: Classical Music, Singing: Gospel, Snowboarding, Soap Making, Social Media, Software Design, Spiritual Leadership, Stand-Up Comedy, Staying in Touch, Studying/Being a Student, Stunt Fighting/Stage Combat Stunts
T-Shirt Design, Talking to Animals, Teaching, Technological Geekery
Theater: Avant-Garde, Theater: Classical, Theater: Clowning,Theater:Directing
Theater: Improvisation, Theater: Industrial/Business, Theater: Mime,Theater: Musical Comedy
Theater: Shakespeare Theater: Sketch Comedy, Throwing Theme Parties, Tomboyishness
Toy Making, Traveling, Tree Hugging, Tweeting
Vegan Baking, Video Blogging, Video Gaming
Exercise: How Many Kinds of Artist Are You?
Take a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns.
In the first column, write down any of the skills or talents from the list above that you possess. Add to the list any additional skills you have mastered that you might think of as an art.
Gift giving? Coffee brewing? Comforting people when they’re upset? Daydreaming?
In the second column, make a note about how that talent might help you to solve a current issue in your life in a unique way.
For example, remembering how good you are at throwing parties might inspire you to make your next boring meeting more festive.
Calling to mind your puzzle-solving genius might suggest a fun, new way to approach your blog.
It drives me crazy when I hear an artist say, “Oh, I could never get a real job because I’m only good at one thing.”
Spending a lifetime in the arts helps you develop all kinds of valuable skill sets: listening, reading body language, using your keen intuition; a love of history; good rhythm; the ability to present in front of a group; a sense of shape, color, and design; the ability to accept criticism; a knack for collaboration and teamwork (we usually call it “ensemble”); and most of all, the ability to think of a new idea and work hard until it’s done.
I’m not saying that you have to get a real job if you don’t want one.
I just want you to notice how many skills and art forms you bring into every room you grace.
Whitewater River Guiding
Writing Love Notes
Once you are done noticing your own unusual art forms, you might want to take a moment to notice someone else’s.
People feel very seen and cared about when you take the time to praise the way they walk in the world.
A heartfelt compliment such as “I notice that you are always very considerate in your remarks when we have
these meetings — thank you for that” can do a lot for a strained work environment.
And I will tell you from experience that writing a kindly, observant thank-you note can win you a friend for life.
Select three of your special talents, and make a note about how these gifts might be useful to you in moving your project forward.
Would love to know what you came up with, leave a comment below if you feel like sharing.
Unusual Marketing for Creative People
Your work is you.
Your creative work is an expression of your soul, of your perspective, of your innermost self. It’s completely unique to you.
So there is no “template” you can follow, because no one has ever done what you’re doing before.
And any time you start to try to adopt someone else’s “six-figure” system, or try to abide by “conventional wisdom” you get all itchy.
And then you procrastinate and you tell yourself all kinds of stories about how no one would ever pay you to do this and how there’s no market for it and how you’re probably not that good at it anyway and how the technology sort of freaks you out and what if you succeed and someone steals your idea or what if someone calls you a fraud and then you start criticizing yourself about your low self-esteem and how you never finish anything and maybe you should just forget this crazy dream of making money from your creativity once and for all.
Like that’s gonna happen.
You can’t give up on your dreams because your dreams never give up on you.
They keep haunting you.
Pulling at your sleeve.
And then you see some no-talent-hack succeed and you think, “I could do that!”
And maybe this is your year to try.