Monday, October 25, 2021

Finding Creative Freedom Where You’d Least Expect It



Artful Life

Tara O’Neill

Well, here we are at the end of an old [read: worn-out, done-in, used-up] year and ready to take on a shiny new one. (Mmmm, don’t you just love that new calendar smell?) I’m not one to make resolutions, but I do try to set new goals each New Year, and assess my previous ones.

Oh, I know, many of you will put your best scoffs on: it’s just a date; a day like any other; it’s arbitrary! it’s imaginary! To you I say an artful life is filled with imagination and much else that can appear arbitrary [read: creative]. So what’s your point?

A tried and true way to obtain your goals is to actually set some, and most will involve a timeline. The changing of the calendar year is a way to be on the same page (literally) as friends and family, clients and associates, purveyors and personal trainers; let’s not forget seasonal deadlines. January 1st can be thought of as a gift: if you are to set a year’s worth of goals, why not use the handy-dandy date already in fine working order and utilized by billions?

So the two questions are, what will be accomplished this year? and, what will it take to accomplish it? If you have a goal for the first three months, will you need to set a time each day, or a day of each week, to grasp success. If your goal is year-long, are there things you need to do the first and third week of every month to assure the track remains under your wheels? And how do you format such a plan? A journal could be helpful – but I’m no journal keeper, and don’t think I haven’t tried.

Instead, I have fallen madly in love with [read: dependent on] my desk calendar. It’s all there; the hour I set aside each morning to check e-mails, the hours each week that I must devote to painting, the day each month that I must update my website (okay, those who know me or my website are allowed a smile), write my column, write my newsletter, maintain my public exhibitions, and the true ogre: bookwork [read: blecch!]

Does the structure of such a layout seem anathema to the artistic soul? Where’s the free spirit? where’s the spontaneity? It’s precisely because of this structure that creative time can blossom unchecked. I am not a slave to my calendar, but freed by it. When it is time to create, my mind has full focus because I’m not wondering if I paid the mortgage or returned a call or failed to place an order or forgot the cat‘s flea preventative.

While second nature to many, this practice does not come easy to the creative mind – those whose successes come from thinking outside the box. It didn’t come easy to me, I had to learn it (my husband gave me my first desk calendar six years ago). That whole artistic-free-wheely-thing had me spinning free wheelies in all directions and getting nary a step closer to realizing my goals. I bucked and balked and had fits of schedulaphobia, but in the end decided there would be no death sentence in trying the organized experience.

And there wasn’t. Go figure.

I haven’t achieved calendar nirvana quite yet, but I’m getting closer. So in regards to those two questions: I plan to spend more time at the easel and less at the computer; I plan to focus on work while at work, and focus on friends and family while with them. How I plan to accomplish this has a lot to do with showing my calendar how much I appreciate it.

Happy New Year.

Tara O’Neill, a lifelong artist, has been an area resident since 1967. She holds Bachelors Degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida, and currently has a studio gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. Contact her through

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