Let me be blunt this time. Too many todo lists may be dangerous to your art. There--I've said it. I know that most art consultants recommend that you create these detailed lists to maximize your studio time. My quilting friend Lisa Call in one of her blogs stated that having the list allowed her the space to create art. SAQA even has a whole group devoted to setting visioning goals for an entire year. Lisa and I have been having a discussion about lists and systems on our blogs--here is one of my posts--you just need to have a system. Her blog site is http://blog.lisacall.com
Now if it works for you--fine. Isn't there a saying, if it works don't fix it. Pretty good advice, don't you think? And I would never say you shouldn't have goals--of course you should. To achieve them, you may need a plan of action--those steps you need to take to get from one place to the other. Think of the plan as a recipe--to cook the delicious Moroccan squash and chick pea stew I made for Thanksgiving, I had to write down the ingredients and figure out the important steps in the recipe. Without the curry powder, the recipe would just not have worked. But there is also room for improvisation--I forgot to get the spinach, I added frozen peas. Still tasted great.
No, the problem I have with lists is they can be overwhelming and distract you from the quilts that you want to make--the art you want to produce. Let me explain.
Take my friend--I'll call her Mary. Now Mary quit her successful job so she could fulfill her lifelong dream to become an "artist." More power to her I say. She does have talent at design. She has a studio, a considerate husband. And a lot of lists. She goes up to the studio and starts to tackle her lists--clean studio, done. Do bookkeeping, done. Take out stitches on quilt 23, done. Soon she has spent her time in the studio. She rewrites her todo list--notes all the things she has yet to finish and feels discouraged. Though she has made the space for her art, she has not made her art and her list is just as long if not longer.
I read an article on becoming your own personal coach. Great advice. Chris Brogan says we all have our own inner critic that tells us everything we do wrong, every failure. Just count the times during the day when you criticize yourself--he got up to 37 times a day. However, there is a solution-- we can train ourselves to have our inner coach. We need to visualize this coach and keep telling ourselves that we are doing things right. Great point. Isn't the list becoming part of the inner discouragement--can one ever get to the end of a todo list.
Lisa sends me a link to her blog post discussing a Zen approach to making art. Forget those lists
Zen Habits advocates. Just do something, make something, surprise yourself. Yes, Lisa is right, I like parts of this post. Why get bogged down with too many lists? After all, if I don't create the art that I want to make, why do I even worry about getting things done to allow me time to create art.
Now I will be the first to admit that I can't just follow this Zen approach. I am also in business. I need to get work shipped off to shows. I need to finish orders, buy fabric, send postcards. Check the colors of placemats. So many little things I need to organize.
Right now I am in one of those between seasons--in between shows, waiting for the Connecticut couple to purchase placemats. Wondering if I will get the order that I promised before Christmas--I will give the customer one more day and then move on--she knows that time is of the essence.
These are the between times--in March it is called mud season around here--winter has ended but spring has not yet come. There is the waiting. Bed and breakfasts have specials just for mud season. Same thing for the week or so after Thanksgiving--not quite time for most holiday parties, too soon for winter sports, but not much work in the garden left. For me, the times when I can do the little endless things that will give me the space to work.
I also have these down times throughout the day--when I am puzzled about a quilt, when I am tired of sewing, when I am waiting for a customer. That is when I prepare the postcards for mailing, do the bookwork, pay the bills, check out the applications. Why spend good creative time scratching things off an endless to do list? This is the filler time.
And the Moroccan squash recipe--it came from Cook's Illustrated and is very simple.
1. Saute 2 diced onions with 1 TBSP curry powder and 2 tsps cumin in oil until onions are soft.
2. Add 6-8 minced cloves of garlic. Stir quickly. Add a diced jalepeno pepper--or other hot spice.
3. Add 3 cups roughly diced yellow squash or sweet potatoes. Cook for a few minutes. I also diced a bell pepper. Mushrooms or white potatoes could also be added.
4. Stir in one large can tomatoes--could be diced or use whole tomatoes and cut them up a bit. Cook until the squash is soft. (It takes a while--at this point there may be a bit of harshness from the curry powder--don't panic--I did.) Drain one or two cans chick peas and add to the stew.
5. Open a can of coconut milk and reduce it by half--it does sweeten the flavor. Interesting.
6. I added about a cup of frozen peas, Cook's suggested some spinach. I also added the coconut milk and the flavors came together.
7. I used some of the leftovers with chicken over rice--also delish!!!
What do you think? Should you kill that todo list?