What could be
more satisfying than working where you live? Imagine...no commute, no
need to dress up, working at your own pace in an environment you've
OUT A PLACE FOR WORK:
Set aside a distinct area for your studio. If at all possible, adapt an
entire room to your purposes: a) when you enter this room it will
indicate to you and your housemates that you are At Work; they can aid
& abet by saving themselves up for when you emerge, b) the Tax
Man lets you deduct a portion of your rent & utilities if the
entire room is designated Biz Only.
Whether your workspace is a kitchen corner or an entire converted barn,
it should be adequately heated, lit and ventilated, and as comfortably
adapted to the kind of work you do as possible. Pay special attention
to the Ventilation Factor if you work entails sawdust, ceramics, spray
paints, and/or any toxic substance that can get airborne. Too many
artists who laughed off the fumes permeating their studios when they
were in their 20's and 30's are finding themselves involuntarily
retired from the work they love by the time they hit their 40's. VENTILATE.
Opening the window ain't enough: get fans, a dust collection system,
whatever it takes to safeguard your health and livelihood.
a Post Office Box:
a) provide your clientele with a stable mailing address in case you
move across town, b) save the expense of printing new stationery every
time you move, c) cut down the incidence of unexpected drop-ins by
people you're better off meeting Elsewhere.
Procrastination Demons are the universal tormentors of artists,
writers, and other self-employed folk. Even for those peculiar folk who
can discipline themselves to sit down at 9AM and paint til 6PM,
creativity isn't something you can turn on & off at will; the
Creative Cycle has peaks and lulls that differ for each artist. The
constant battle is to overcome the inherent urge to futz around, and
create in the circumstances that most likely Invoke the Muse. For me,
this means dragging myself by the scruff to the studio and putting on
music, from rock to classical as long as it puts me in the mood.
I never entirely catch up with the Procrastination Demons. I have,
however, come to a Truce of sorts with them: if toward the end of a
conventional workday I see I haven't really done diddly, I'll say
"Well, I do believe there's a chunk of worktime with my name on it
after dinner; been awhile since I pulled an All-nighter." Then again, I
may be disgusted to the point of dropping art for the day to do
something reprehensible, like house work. And I take on as many show
deadlines as I can to kickstart the creative juices.
an answering machine,
and only peek at break times; it'll pay for itself within a month by
keeping you focussed on the creation at hand. Set aside regular chunks
of time for working on art (working around school, the Day Job,
housemate schedules, and the time of day or night when your creative
juices are at peak) and chunks of time for business (working around
standard hours for businesses you deal with, evening contact times with
clients, and times you feel most businessish). Any time you feel
creatively blocked, switch over to business and you'll be raring for
the easel in no time.
Partners, offspring, and/or other two-or-four-legged animals sharing
your breathing space are going to affect how you work. Ideally, they'll
wear blinkers as you perform the involved petty rituals preparatory to
Booting Yourself into the Studio; setting a work discipline is YOUR
responsibility, not theirs. You'll need all your diplomatic skills to
condition your housemates, friends & neighbors to understand
that just because you work at home doesn't mean you're free to drop
everything. Rather, you can, but at a cost to your creative
productivity. Buy a copy of Judith Martin's Miss Manner's Guide to
Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, and learn to say, "Lovely thought, but
it's just not possible right now. How about next week?"
are a special case: Artistic Parenthood deserves a chapter of its own.
If you've trained your kids to cooperate with your production routine
& schedule, great. If you find yourself torn trying to balance
parenting with creating enough to feed your family, seriously consider
day care for the working hours you would otherwise spend in an office,
tapering off as your kids develop the maturity to respect your work
requirements. By linking up with other artist parents, you may be able
to rotate a clump of kids between you as a day-care co-op.
A PROFESSIONAL VENEER:
You are a business professional as well as an artist, and you have a
responsibility to make a professional impression every time someone
calls or visits your studio. Rightly or wrongly, business folk will
drop you several pegs if they hear Rock 'n' Roll, howling children and
other dead giveaways that this is a family home, not the Hallowed
Studio of an Undiscovered Master. They'll question your professional
habits and ability if you can't keep your own kids from interrupting or
drowning out your conversation entirely. So enlist the cooperation of
ALL your housemates (and any guests) in this Conspiracy of Silence:
When the phone rings, the nearest person turns Volume all the way down
on the TV and/or stereo; by the third ring, the artist's voice is the
only audible sound as she greets the caller, who can devote full
attention to conducting business instead of trying to discern what
sub-species of hyena is being vivisected in the next room. Even
4-year-olds easily learn "Three-Ring Circus", if immediate praise is
dished out for successful muting (or a fifteen-minute confinement to
quarters for Deliberate Violations). Upon hearing that even
preschoolers can do it, older kids usually loftily comply as a point of
ALERT: THE CLIENT VISIT
Sooner or later, you've got to expose your home to a client or business
type who's already succumbed to the serene, competent professional
facade you have brilliantly constructed via the above-described blue
smoke & mirrors. Paradoxically, visitors are likely to have two
opposing preconceived notions about the Exotic Experience awaiting them.
Bohemian Charm Our home is in the style of Early Charles Addams; some
affect Gauzy Nostalgic Victoriana, and Post-Apocalyptic Appliance
Rackage is hot in San Francisco's SOMA District. Those who have
foregone the risks entailed in making a living from art and taken
conventional careers that make it possible to afford art (Bless them)
see us as their Road Not Taken. They envy us our precarious livelihood,
and attribute us with all that they've reluctantly forsaken. Scratch
the surface of a corporate executive, and you'll find a pipe dream of
Chucking It All and setting up as a craftsperson. We artists are a
bruised fantasy they gin up in routine days as Paycheck Slaves: we owe
them a little Theatre.
The common denominator is a reflection in one's home of the
individuality of one's work. Instead of working at normalizing your
home to the point where it looks disappointingly like the one your
Visitor just left, concentrate on tidying everything from the front
door to your studio (and all the sightlines on the way); upgrade from
Creative Ferment to Charmingly Eclectic.
Include a side channel to a bathroom free of Health Code Violations.
The Efficient Office We wait until we've set a reliable track record
with business contacts before allowing a rare peek at our Nerve Center,
a 12-foot cubed hamster cage of ceiling-high mounds of paperwork, with
the occasional file cabinet, desk, chair and computer interspersed
among the rubble. As we don't expect others to automatically embrace
our Archaeological Dig system of filing, usually we restrict business
& social visits to the studio itself. So keep a reassuringly
tidy office, or close the door.
Our son Guido has achieved puberty and, alas, seems bent upon provoking
us to Infanticide. Any creative suggestions on Disposing of the Body?
Beleaguered Kings and Queens of Yore devised a brilliant Disposal
Method, which for Political Correctness was disguised as a Hostage
Exchange. To maintain a truce, neighboring kingdoms switched
Firstborns, to be raised Honourably so long as nobody went setting up
catapults by dark of night. They soon realized that Youth of a certain
age respect non-parents to a far greater degree than true parents;
they're far more willing to comply with the wishes of an aunt, uncle or
neighbor than to those of their own folk, and behave far more
charmingly in their presence. Furthermore, they're easier to discipline
by non-parents, since rarely do they have knowledge of these people's
Guilt Buttons (although THEIR offspring do).
Meet with a few friends to discuss the Signal Joys of Parenthood, and
experiment with swapping kids for a day, a week, a decade. The kid who
gags at cleaning out the garage is a willing slave when given the
chance to lodge with a blacksmith's family; the smith's kid, bored to
tears in the presence of a forge, might be fascinated to have access to
the tools and materials found in a woodworker's household. If baseball
clubs can swap humans like chattel, why can't you?