…that is, after working all day and without pulling an all-nighter. 😛
Anyone who knows me personally knows how I’ve led a *double life*, i.e. working as a writer during the day and *arting* at night, for a really long time. For good or ill, it’s been the only way I’ve been able to keep the *painting factory* going.
Thing is, the older I get, the harder it is to keep it going this way. But I want to keep it going ~ and I think I can, too. It’s just, I’m having to find other ways, other things to help me do it.
I’d like to share these six things in the hopes that they may help anyone who’s got art or anything they’d like to work on but can’t during office hours. These six seem the most viable to me now that end-to-end all-nighters for months on end aren’t such a good idea anymore. 😅
I mean I hate to admit it, but I guess even jillamonsters need sleep like everybody else. 🤣
1. Schedule + Routine
You’ve probably read a lot about scheduling your day around your energy levels and probably already do, anyway. Some people are morning persons, others are night owls, that kind of thing. Only you know which times of day are best for the different things you need to do, whether that’s art or work-work or other *pesky necessaries* like taking out the trash or doing the washing up.
But I read here that you need to do it in order, and for me that’s been a big help. Like maybe you don’t do it at the exact same time every day? But what you do first, then second, then third and so on, is always in the same order. Then it becomes a routine, and then it ends up becoming easier to do rather than feeling like a slog x forcing yourself to do it.
Like maybe you did A, B and C at 9am, 10am and 11am on Monday. On Tuesday, you did it at 10am, 11am and 12nn ~ but it’s still A, B and C in that order. Just to share, my personal A, B and C after dinner are:
A. Set up my space (I paint in the same place I write and I have to clear it when I switch.)
B. Take a bath (A cold shower really wakes me up.)
C. Pray (What can I say? I’m a Salieri. 😆)
2. Short Bursts + Take Breaks
When I was a kid I used to be able to work straight. That meant sitting down, sticking my nose to the grindstone and not getting up until I got a chunk done.
But a bad habit I picked up at art school was working for a bit, then getting up, walking around, looking at everybody else’s stuff…then going back to work.
That was an urge I used to be able to fight when I was in my 30s but not anymore. 😅 But now I no longer beat myself up for it ~ now I see it as a sort of Pomodoro technique. 😜
Seriously though, I also see it as sort of pacing myself like, this is a marathon, not a sprint. I need to save my energy x make it last until ___, so I’m thinking this is actually more sustainable. Besides, it’s about quality not quantity, i.e. it’s not about how many hours I worked, but about what I did x was able to accomplish during those hours.
(I’m not… making excuses for my laziness right now am I? 😰)
Like maybe I’ll finish off a section then get up and stretch or take a break to get water ~ speaking of which…
3. Cold Water + Caffeine
Drinking super cold water is doing for me now what a cold can of Bull used to do to help me get through the night.
Obviously, it’s not going to give you wings and you won’t be climbin’ no Everests after you chug. But cold water might wake you up enough for you to get that little bit more done, and those bits do add up when done consistently.
I’d be lying, however, if I said I’ve given up caffeine. At the time of writing, I’ve finished off the last of the coffee in the jillahouse (although I have a single can lurking at the bottom of my fridge). And I’ve gone back to taking the caffeine pills shown above which I started trying out last year during Reverie.
Now this isn’t *product placement* by any means. If anything, I was about to say these pills actually haven’t worked for me at all. At least, not the way I was hoping they would for all the caution I’ve been, uh, cautioned as regards their use. (Or, I could be super immune to this stuff already at this point. 😆)
The most they’ve done was give me a headache, haha ~ so I wouldn’t actually recommend them, or anything. They just happen to be what I’m doing at the moment. And whether it’s just a placebo effect or the cold water I wash them down with, they sometimes do give me the tiniest of kicks, which is better than nothing. At least they don’t mess with my sleep afterwards like enerdrinks do. 😛
4. Music + Movies
I’ll bet you credits to navy beans I’m not the only artist who listens to music while working ~ heck I’ve mounted three shows (arguably four) because of it. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned loud music was also all I needed to *art at night* back in the day. It still can be pretty difficult for me to get through a session without it.
I remember mentioning in a reply I was making to someone on Instagram recently that I needed the music to sort of anchor me when I’m working. It’s like, my brains are *floating around out there* and I need to focus when I’m working. Without that anchor, I can’t ‘stay grounded’ enough to work.
But now a strange thing seems to be happening to me and I really can’t say why. Now, music isn’t enough ~ I have to layer it with something else, i.e. play something else at the same time. The something else is usually, but not always a movie. (Sometimes it’s cartoons, or anime, or an audiobook.)
I really don’t know why that is. It’s like, in the absence of serious caffeine I need double the stimulus from elsewhere. Or maybe, it’s just so much noisier in my head these days, I need two things to drown the noise out now instead of just one (the music). Like I need two anchors now to hold me down long enough to get the painting out.
Other times, it’s like I have to concentrate (usually when I’m doing tiny details) and I need absolute quiet. Like I need to be able to float around / can’t be tied down to let the painting out. It’s weird. I can’t explain it myself. 🤣
In any case, I also wouldn’t recommend this ‘layering’ thing ~ especially if you’re working where there are other people, the noise might drive them (or yourself) nuts. 😅 I think this might strictly be a jillamonster thing. 🤪
What I would recommend, however, are these few things that are helping to anchor me these days:
• Information Society The Remix 12”
• Corridors of Time
• ES Posthumus - Unearthed
5. Gel + ‘Gesic
Face it, with old age comes creaky fingers (among other things). 😓 I used to be Uruk Hai about this. (i.e. You do not know pain, you do not know fear.) (Nor do I know man flesh. 🤣) But I now find I’m having to do something about these little annoyances instead of just ignoring them if I’m going to work at night.
In the photo above, you’ll see the ‘other tube’ I have in the studio along with the tubes of paint. I don’t remember whether you need a prescription for Vi-Gel, though. It’s a habit I picked up when I had to get PT for the shoulder I tore hefting plywood for my paper. 😑
I also used to take painkillers but they say it’ll kill your kidneys or your liver or something in the long run. So now I just do Biogesic (Paracetamol) if I have to. 😆
In any case, I’m an artist not a doctor. 🤣 So if these aches and pains are hindering the production of your magnus opus, ‘all I can suggest, is that you’ ~ ‘Seek out (your own personal) McCoy, ask his advice, and if you find it sound, take it.’ 😆
6. Stop + Sleep!
Back in the day when my batteries would start to run out, I’d reach for a cold enerdrink and just keep going. This was my SOP especially when I knew I still had X hours to go.
Today, I don’t fight it anymore. I just freaking sleep. Mercifully, these days my head starts feeling like it’s underwater about the time I need to go to bed, anyway. That is, if I’m to get enough sleep to be of any real use during my next dayshift.
Although yeah if I start feeling a little sleepy and I’d only just started or something now I reach for a cold… water (and probably a caffeine pill). 🤪
I guess the only real challenge here is not feeling guilty about it, and to remind myself that this is a long-haul thing and not a one-off all-nighter. Hopefully, I’ll get there sooner rather than later, because I still feel sometimes like I’m being lazy or something. 🥲
But why paint at night at all?
Why not just paint on weekends?
Put simply, weekends alone aren’t enough for the kind of work many of us do. There’s no getting around the fact that art is also a full-time job, and you need to put in the hours.
I used to be able to put in those hours on top of the hours my other full-time job demanded. Operative phrase: used to 😆
I’ve actually tried painting during the day and writing at night. In fact, my first ever online job was exactly like that, and so were a couple of other jobs I’ve had in the past couple of years.
But it didn’t take me long to figure out that in spite of the natural light (which is best), painting at night was better for me, after all.
Nowadays it takes me quite a while to get going in the mornings without, say, a 6am job (or Mass) to get up for. I thought I would be more wakeful or energetic during the day, and I wanted to give my best hours to art. But now I know that those ‘best hours’ aren’t necessarily during the day.
Plus, the day is rife with distractions, 99% of which come by phone (even the deliveries call because my doorbell’s been disabled). And, I have to keep stopping to eat and to perform other such time wasters. 😝
It’s also quieter at night, which is wonderful for focus.
Anyways, just thought I’d share these means for *optimising* the limited time we have for art outside of the time required for other things (read: anything that isn’t art). I hope they’ll be as helpful for you as they’ve been for me.
I actually have a ‘secret’, special *thing* I do that I’ve personally found super effective in helping me make the most of these precious few nighttime hours. But this is something I’m only sharing with close jillafriends. 😉
If you’d like to become a jillafriend to find out what it is, subscribe to jillanews at the bottom of this page, or sign up here. (Don’t worry, you can unsubscribe as soon as you learn my secret. 🤪)
I have to go now because it’s time for me to put all these practices into, uh, practise. 😹 But please, if there’s anything you can share ~ a *thing* of your own, maybe, or something better than Vi-Gel (or stronger caffeine pills) ~ I’d be very much obliged. 🙏
* Interested in any of the pieces in this post?
Drop me a line to let me know
and I'll let you know if it's still available,
or how soon I can make something similar just for you.