Blessed are the List-makers

I am a list maker. I have found that if I don’t physically write it down, and then do it and cross it off, it just won’t happen.  Mental “to do” lists are not a thing for me. I swear, I will play Flow for two hours on my phone instead of doing anything in my studio that needs to be done if it’s just an “I should” thought in my head.  If I write it down, though, well, game on.

    I finally broke down and bought a planner last year.  I always wanted to be one of those people who had amazing bullet journals and organizers and calendars, and everything was synced and easy.  But I’m not. I’m one those people who writes lists on the backs of receipts, sketches ideas on torn off corners of scrap paper, and uses stick-tac to put random scraps of phrases and inspirations on the wall next to my computer, so that weeks later I can wonder why I wrote down “tempus, aevus, aeternitas” and what the hell it means…  I find sketches tucked in books, to-do lists in drawers, and endless little pieces of paper labeled “art idea” in really obscure places in my house. (My orderliness only looks neat on the surface. It’s really like crazy-land underneath.) Hence, the planner. And get this- IT WORKED.

I write down everything I want to do that day in ONE place.  I start with the bigger important things, or things that happen at a specific time. And when I say everything, I mean everything- not just art related stuff.  My list might have “9am dentist” and “mix more encaustic paint” next to “walk the dog” and “wash towels”. I sometimes write “eat” down, if I’m feeling particularly scattered, just so I have something to check off.  
    Something that has been on my list every day this year is “sketch”.  I feel like that’s an important exercise as an artist, and it’s one that I have not always been very good about keeping up with.  I have an idea for a series of new work that I would like to create that involves combining figurative elements in graphite with the painted encaustic surface.  I realized that I am waaay out of practice with drawing from life, and I needed to work on that. So sketching goes on the to-do list, as a way of reaching a longer term goal.

Some days “studio time” goes on my list without specifics, because there are times that I just need to hang out in the studio, even if I’m not sure what to do that day. Sometimes I clean, sometimes I pick up an unfinished piece and start to work on it again, sometimes I frame things (which I hate, btw).  Usually though, I try to be specific to a project with my list. So, I’ll write, “studio- carve textures in panel 1” or “lay in background on new painting”, or “mask off and prep surfaces”, because that’s what I’ve found that I NEED in order to get the work done.

I spent years thinking about working on ideas I’d had, or thinking about maybe carving out a space or a time to make something, but what helped me actually do it was the list.  It started with “go to attic, take out trash”. Ten giant bags of trash later I had a place to work, and a new to-do list.

So, at the end of a long day, I have a list with a bazillion things on it that I have crossed out.  I can see my list from yesterday, and begin my list for tomorrow because the lists are in one place where I can find them.  It’s super gratifying and super motivating for me, and I can then kick back at night knowing I DID something, and mix myself a congratulatory cocktail. Which I will then write on the list and cross off.