How Do I Find Time To Make Art?
Not every artist has the luxury of making art whenever inspiration strikes. Most artists are juggling other jobs – sometimes full-time jobs – plus other responsibilities like taking care of children or elders. It can be hard to find time to make your work, or to justify spending time on your creative endeavors.
As a fiscal sponsor and artist membership organization, Fractured Atlas is dedicated to providing artists with tools and information to help you find more time and energy to do your artwork. We want more artists to make more work. Even when things are bad, we need art and we need artists. Plus, as artists ourselves, we feel the struggle between our creative work, our careers, and the rest of our lives!
Here, we’ll outline some of the reasons that it can be challenging to find time to make art, plus some suggestions to help you find the time to make the work that calls to you.
Why It's Hard to Find Time to Make Art
As an artist, you want to make art. But it can be a challenge to find the time and the energy. It doesn’t make you a bad artist or less of an artist if you struggle to find the time to make your work. There are valid reasons why artists often struggle to carve out time in their lives for work.
Most artists need to work either full time or part time. Jobs take up a huge amount of time and energy. If you work full time, you spend at least 40 hours working, plus additional time to commute if your job requires you to be there physically.
Not to mention that many offices (whether physical or remote) have a culture that praises coming in early and staying late, which might mean that in order to advance in your career, you could be working well above 40 hours. If you're awake for 16 hours a day, you easily spend 11 to 12 of those hours working.
You might also be expected to work even when you are off the clock. Does your boss expect you to respond to emails or calls during the evening or weekends? Networking events, travel, conferences, or sales calls also add to the time that working artists might be away from their studio.
Many artists work in the service industry. These kinds of jobs can offer flexible schedules and theoretically give you the mental space needed to create once you clock out.
The thought process might go that you can just go into your job, serve up lattes and cold brew for 8 hours without using too much brainpower, and then go home to do your real work. But, this doesn’t take into account how physically draining service industry jobs are, let alone the emotional labor of being friendly and accommodating in order to keep your job and earn tips.
No matter what kind of job you have, it’s likely that it takes up more time and more mental energy than is conducive to your creative practice.
Reproductive labor isn’t just the labor of having and raising children, although it does include those things. Coming from a tradition of Marxist feminist criticism, reproductive labor is the labor that’s required to sustain life but isn’t always recognized as such.
These include cooking, cleaning, caregiving for elderly parents or ill family members and friends, keeping track of grocery lists, and other chores. If something is called a “labor of love” and has been traditionally done by women, there’s a good chance that it’s reproductive labor.
Reproductive labor doesn’t just take up time, it also takes up mental and physical energy. You need to find the time to go grocery shopping, remember all the items you need to purchase, and then look for ways to save money on the final bill through coupons and sales.
Reproductive labor can take up a lot of your time and your mental capacity, keeping you from making time for your art or even being in the right headspace to create.
Great artists of history often had other people doing their reproductive labor for them - servants, wives, lovers, family members. Or even doing some of the creative labor! This means that you might have somewhat unrealistic expectations for how often we can actually find time to work on our own projects.
While living the simple life at Walden Pond, Thoreau’s mother and sister brought food and did his laundry. If he had had to do his own cooking and laundry, he might have had less time to write.
Of course, who does the brunt of reproductive labor tends to fall across gender lines, which can make it more challenging for women and non-binary artists to find time to create. Reproductive labor demands also vary across relationship status, living situation, size of household, and more.
Sometimes making art can feel indulgent. Why should you spend your time editing your video, drafting your play, or blowing glass when you should be doing the dishes or in the streets protesting police violence and affirming that Black Lives Matter? It can feel particularly challenging to justify artmaking during multiple, compounding apocalypses.
It's important to acknowledge these feelings of guilt. Next, you need to find ways to carve out time for your art anyway. You might just have to tell yourself, yes I am experiencing guilt or hesitation, and yet I am going to still find time to do the work that sustains me and sustains my community.
Even if the primary reason you make art is to bring you joy, that joy is enough of a reason to find time to create. Especially during uncertain, dangerous, and stressful times, we need joy to survive.
5 Strategies to Find More Time for Making Art
Without a concerted effort, it’s difficult to carve out time for your art. You need specific strategies to help you find the time. Here’s what we suggest:
1. Take Your Work More Seriously
It might not be your dream to become a full-time artist or find a gallery to represent your work. Art might be a passion project for you. Regardless of what your end goal with your art is, you need to take it seriously in order to find the time to do it.
Sometimes we stand in our own way by delegitimizing ourselves and our creative pursuits. Whether you are in your studio preparing for a local festival, to let off steam, or to find some time to exercise a different part of your mind, your artwork is valid. And we hope that you take it seriously.
There are simple ways of shifting your focus. It could be as simple as calling yourself an artist. For instance, if you take photographs, then start calling yourself a photographer. It doesn't matter if you sell your photographs or work in the field professionally. Taking photographs is what you do, which makes you a photographer.
When you make the decision to own the title of artist and to take your art more seriously, you'll find it easier to make time to create art.
2. Schedule Time to Work on Your Art
It’s hard to find time to do the things we want to if we don’t block out the time to do them. You already schedule errands, exercise, time to catch up with loved ones, and more. You're more likely to do these things because you've already set aside the time and made a note in your calendar or planner. We recommend doing the same for your creative practice.
Set aside blocks of time at recurring intervals to work on your art. For instance, you might decide to work on your art on Monday and Thursday evenings. Or every weekday morning for an hour. Once you start working on your art on this schedule, it'll become a habit and become easier to take the time for your art. Keeping a regular schedule is even more important if you are collaborating with other artists.
As time passes, the important people in your life will become used to you taking this time for your art. It will become a regular pattern that they can anticipate. Using a project management framework can help you schedule your time.
3. Create Your Own Specific Creative Space
Some artistic endeavors require their own dedicated space. You aren't likely to have the tools and space to do metalworking in your garage or record a full string section in your kitchen. If this is the case, you probably rent a studio space that can support these endeavors.
Having a dedicated studio space can make it easier to concentrate on your work because there are fewer distractions. Artists who don’t require or don’t have access to a studio face the challenge of making work in the same place that they live the rest of their life.
If you're doing your artwork from your home, a nearby cafe, or your garage, you may find it difficult to concentrate. If you’re physically home, the people you share a home with are probably more likely to interrupt you. It's a good idea to create a dedicated space in your home to work on your art if you can't afford to keep a space outside of it.
Choose a part of your home to designate as your studio space. Keep only art-related things there, and commit to doing your work in that space. It’ll be easier to get in the creative zone when you feel like you’re in the right physical space for it, even if it’s just a nook in your apartment. Plus, it’ll be easier for family and/or roommates to see that you’re in art-mode when you’re there.
4. Communicate Boundaries
When you start making time to create your art, you need to establish clear boundaries with your partner, children, parents, and friends. They might not understand how important it is to you to find time to work, especially if you aren’t a full time artist and don’t intend to become one. It’s important to help them understand.
Let your community know that when you’re working, you’ll need to give your art your full concentration. This might mean that and miss a phone call or a text, or can’t stay late at work. Let your community know that you are trying to find time to realize your vision, and not trying to avoid them or blow them off.
Plus, if you have set times when you are working on your art, your community will know when they should expect for you to be temporarily unreachable.
5. Find Your Creative Community
It's beneficial for an artist to spend time with other artists who share similar interests and challenges. From community figure drawing classes to writers’ groups, there are likely plenty of opportunities to connect with other artists to work together or to discuss your work, whether virtually or in-person.
Whether the meetings are weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, you can stay on track more easily since you're carving out time for your art with the meetings. Connecting regularly with other artists will help energize you and inspire you.
Find More Time to Make Art by Earning Money From Your Art
If your biggest challenge to finding time for your art is the time it takes away from money-earning work and a perception (both self-perception and a perception from the outside) that your art is just a hobby, you might look for ways to earn money with your art.
Unfortunately, within the context of capitalism, something that’s monetized is valued more highly than something that exists more outside of the boundaries of exchange value. It can be easier to convince yourself and your community that your art is valuable–that it deserves your time and attention–if you’re earning some money from it. This also might free up some of your work time.
At Fractured Atlas, we aim to provide artists with the practical tools you need to give yourself time and space to create the work that you are called to make. Figuring out how to fund your work is certainly a tool in that toolbox for many artists. Check out some of our suggestions for how to make money from your creative projects.
About Nina Berman
Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Associate Director, Communications and Content at Fractured Atlas. She holds an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. At Fractured Atlas, she shares tips and strategies for navigating the art world, interviews artists, and writes about creating a more equitable arts ecosystem. Before joining Fractured Atlas, she covered the book publishing industry for an audience of publishers at NetGalley. When she's not writing, she's making ceramics at Centerpoint Ceramics in Brooklyn.