How to Make Time To Draw!

One of the most common questions I get asked is how to make time to draw.

Or, how do you maintain momentum with your drawing? You know. That situation where you get excited, rush out and buy your materials, get going but then run out of steam because you can’t find the time to actually keep going? You then, ironically resent the fact that you cannot complete what you were so excited to start.

Sound familiar?

Lacking enough time has become our cultural mantra that we chant over and over to ourselves. Being a creative too it can sometimes feel as if time is against you.

What frustratingly compounds this issue further when it comes to drawing or creativity is our cultural conditioning. Art and drawing is a hobby. A hobby is what we do when we have the spare time not as part of our day to day activity.

And it is “spare” time we lack.

We then enter a vicious spiral where believing we lack the time we bury our creative potential deeper than it should ever go within ourselves.

What if there was a way though? What if you could circumnavigate your approach and learn how to make the time to draw?

“The bad news is that time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot!” Michael Althsuler

What a great quote. If I were to pilot my time how would I do it?

There are two things at play behind how to make the time to draw. The first revolves around our mindset and relationship with time itself and how we use it to serve us rather than the other way round. The second is around the practical steps you can put in place to make room for what you value.

The Question of Value!

Let’s take a look at personal values.

Making more time to draw is deeply rooted in how much you value being creative. If you value something deeply enough the urgency to prioritise it kicks in. I’m not going to foray into what your sense of purpose is but I know that connecting to your creativity will absolutely serve you in discovering it.

The problem is that many of us don’t define in enough detail the value of creativity. If we weren’t so obsessed with the premise that we have to always reach a destination (such as a productive outcome) perhaps we would appreciate the journey we are on and what we learn from it more.

The conundrum kicks in when we realise that part of why we value our creativity is the ability to produce something beautiful and unique – a piece of art work that will hang on a wall. The immense satisfaction we feel when we accomplish a “thing” feeds our cultural frenzy and sense of worth via achievement.

Let me ask you. What does being able to draw mean to you? Think about why you are attracted to it in the first place? If you are new to it you may be intrigued and curious as to what you can produce. If you are more familiar with being creative what motivates you to focus on it?

In my case, I came to value what sketching brought me. My well being and mental health. In the beginning I could only realistically dedicate 20 minutes of my day to it. But make the time I did because of what it produced for me other than just a set of pretty pictures. (Which were actually awful in the beginning!)

The benefits it has brought to me now are indescribable, including the gift of a business!

But….I had to reshuffle and change my pre-conditioned mindset to accommodate where I am now.

The value of time.

The second type of value to consider is our relationship with time itself.

James Clear the author of Atomic Habits cites that “good habits make time your ally, bad habits make time your enemy.”

I love this quote as much as being the “pilot” of my own time.

We should be in a position where we use time to our advantage and not the other way around which is so often the case. The challenge comes when we have so many commitments and time absorbing activities to take care of that it becomes impossible to do anything else. This is particularly true for women as well as the new “squeezed middle” generation. There will be something you are prioritising over and above yourself that you have come to value more – not because you necessarily love it more, but because you feel compelled to do so.

You may even be focusing too much attention on something you know you should not be!

A few months ago I was on a live session drawing and was messaged by a lady who was 83. She asked me “is it too late to learn to draw? It’s been my burning ambition for the last 50 years and I’m worried it’s too late.” When pressed as to why now, she stated that all her family and work commitments had been completed. Her grief to have felt that she had somehow missed her chance now that illness was starting to set in was palpable. And no…for the record it’s never too late. Heed the warning though. Its not necessary to wait to get on with it either!

You don’t need anywhere near as much time as you think to pursue a creative habit!

How do you, therefore, re-profile your relationship with time to ensure you manage it to your creative advantage?

The more you value something the higher it gets pushed up the priority list of stuff to get done. If I say to you that all you need is 20 minutes of time a day – maybe even less, could you really, if you wanted to, go away and find it? Of course you could. We spend on average almost 5 times the amount on our phones daily!

The more you realise the positive impact a habit like drawing can bring to you, the faster you will be able to get used to drawing daily.

My days look horrible for time. Even now when I run Emily’s Notebook full time. I’m a single parent, have a mound of tasks and chores to get done and juggle a busy lifestyle. It was the same when I was a corporate professional.

So…my question to you is what value has drawing or sketching got for you? What do you need it to do for you? Are you a closet creative? Do you need something to balance out your mental health? What is going to motivate you enough to realise that this is something you want to pursue. Do you want to produce art? Do you know you’re good at it? What? (Let me know, I’m genuinely interested.)

Work out why and how you value drawing (or being creative.) What does it bring to you and why should it be placed on a priority list?

Then appraise what you need to pursue it.

The Problem of Productivity

Fast on the heels of identifying why you should value something enough to make time to draw it, comes the mindset issue of productivity. 

A few months ago, I wrote about the subject of whether practice makes perfect. In the article I touched upon how, as a culture, we are constantly output and performance driven. 

It is very hard when approaching drawing to not also sometimes apply the same “output” focused mindset. If we fail at the output we want to produce we are cast into a zone of doom! As a result of fearing we are not going to produce anything of any value we can then easily slide into procrastination. 

We value being creative because it is an expression of who we truly are. What an irony that we then try and apply the same approach we take to everything else we do in our day to day living and strive to expect a perfect outcome. 

If we can somehow segregate ourselves from the challenge of needing to produce something, anything, we take the pressure off our shoulders to really enjoy and draw value from this sacred craft. 

So…go back to why and how you value this ability to draw and then start to value the process more than the output. Taking the pressure from ourselves will immediately cast us into the zone of enjoying what we do, feeding ourselves as opposed to bashing ourselves over the head with a set of standards. 

And yes….you can still learn an immense amount and find yourself progressing without really realising you do so. 

When we enjoy something and can extract the value we are far more likely to want to spend time doing it, thereby finding it easier to push to the top of what we choose to do with our time. 

How to Make Time to Draw

Some Practical Steps. 

What are the practical steps needed, therefore to make time to draw? In the following paragraphs I am sharing links to various articles that delve deep into some top tips and techniques that you will find useful. 

Be realistic about the point of time you are in right now. We have all been guilty of rushing out and biting off more than we can chew with regards to enthusiasm and then falling short when we are unable to fulfil it.  Assess how much time you have daily to draw.  Set time aside daily. You don’t need much. Read more about how you can plan to be good at artwork in an earlier blog post. 

Set aside 5 – 10 minutes of time a day. Yes. Just this amount of time drawing per day can see massive improvement over time. Be flexible too. I used to break my drawing page into sections and take 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there depending on where I was. More on how to actually achieve a 5 – 10 minute drawing here! 

Keep it small. I carry a small square sketchbook with me everywhere I go. This is such a great practical tool to building your confidence if you are just getting started. Small means it can fit in a handbag and be used on the go, you can actually finish something (yay!), and over time create lots of great drawings to look back upon. Check out my list of small drawings you can implement this week should you so wish! 

Aim to build a drawing habit. As James Clear again cites “your habits are the compound interest of self improvement.” Did you know that the deposits of time you invest in yourself behave like compound interest? Over time they reap massive rewards! Its up to you to put the work in though! Just like you would start a diet or learn an instrument, get focused on creating a plan of action with your drawing. It may fly in the face of your creative spirit but trust me when I say setting some very small achievable things to work towards with your drawing can move you forward.  I love exploring how I can improve my daily drawing habits. I have 8 proven ways in which you can build a sketchbook habit. 

Get yourself a sketchbook. What a wonderful thing this is! I keep one daily as well as have a range of them for a variety of different activities. No pressure. Your own book of drawings. A touchstone during your day to return to and record your impressions, thoughts, images and activities. No one needs to see it, it can house all your mistakes, and may in time form the foundation of bigger projects and ideas. Just getting started here’s what you need! 

Go learn. Sign up to a course. I’m naturally biast about my own Back to Basics Learn to Draw in 30 Days course which encourages you to explore your mindset issues alongside learning some basic methodology. Get practical too. Incorporate an artist’s date in your routine. This creates momentum and inspiration. Feed yourself creative inspiration.  

Slowly ingratiate drawing into your day. What you think you will find yourself doing!

Drawing As A Time Creator! 

In finding the time to draw, I believe other things around you will start to change. 

I can only speak from personal experience. Picking up that sketchbook in a bit of a miserable state and looking out of a back window all those years ago, I found that focusing on getting an image down on paper, transported me outside of dwelling too much on myself. Of course, you may have a different approach to me. 

The action of focusing on something else does something to me psychologically each day. When you draw you do not necessarily always or consciously apply logic of method to creating on your page. Your brain undergoes an almost subconscious process. Especially when you are not obsessed with an outcome! You just draw for the sake of drawing. 

I started to notice the impact this began to make in other areas of my life. You may relate or you may not, but the point of sharing this with you is to enforce the importance of consciously recognising what happens to you when you start to make the time to draw. 

My blood pressure dropped and stress levels dipped. For 20 minutes of my day I allowed myself to become obsessed about transcribing what I could see in front of me. My eye became fully absorbed on the lines and shapes in front of me. I put aside whatever I was stressing about, surrounded myself with my sketchbook, pencil case, and colours. Grabbed a cup of tea. I deconstructed what I saw in front of me and rebuilt it line by line on my page. 

The other thing also was that drawing was completely mine to control. No one could affect it or change it or interfere with this growing passion for drawing that I was developing. It became a touchstone on a daily basis. Whatever else was happening around me I had my creativity to consistently fall back upon. 

I noticed that when I’d completed my 20 minutes I returned back to the list of “to dos” with renewed enthusiasm. I also noticed that I started to approach challenges in a different way. I’d deconstruct an issue in the same psychological way I would approach breaking down an image in front of me, into many different parts that would then get built back up as a whole. 

My point to all of this. 

When you allow a habit like drawing into your daily routine you may very well find yourself approaching the way you run your life and do things changing for the better and evolving slightly differently.

Over to You!

If you feel you never have enough time to do what you want, at what point will you stop to address how to change it? Only you can change the narrative that compels you to moan about never having enough time. How much do you really want to?

As proved, incorporating a creative habit like drawing is not difficult. Small deposits of time with a focus as I did will suffice in the beginning.

Create compound interest that will build into a creative wealth over time!

And if you need to start somewhere start by joining the Emily’s Notebook community.