How to Use Time Fully

Always try to understand, that you are your own best enemy. Be nice to yourself when tackling the unknown. Realize that you are going to fail a lot before you are going to succeed. ALLOW TIME FOR THIS FAILING TO HAPPEN.

Creative work is not mechanical. It deals with your subconscious, your view of yourself and your emotions. If you’re at odds with your boy or girlfriend, and you are depressed—DON’T DO CREATIVE WORK. Do mechanical, non-reasoning, unemotional work, such as: Cleaning-up and reorganizing your bench (it probably needs it!). Getting your materials ready to work with (rolling metal to a proper gauge, annealing it, pickling and cleaning it), Don’t start cutting into precious metals or working on a n aspect of a piece where critical alignment or difficult solder joints are the task when you are tired or under emotional stress.

UNDERSTAND WHAT IS STRESSFUL TO YOU IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS AND IN THE MECHANICAL PROCESS AND DO THESE THINGS WHEN YOU ARE FEELING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF, FEELING RESTED AND THINGS ARE NATURALLY GOING WELL.

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How to Use Time Fully

At the beginning of each day organize your thoughts; write them down if that helps:

  1. All the things you want to do.
  2. All the things you MUST to.
  3. What needs to be done first. (Don’t start on things that don’t need to be done now or possibly ever.)
  4. Begin working on that project. If that project is so big that it will take you more than a few hours to complete, break up the project into its individual aspects and try to finish one of the necessary steps on it. Don’t try to do more than is physically and mentally possible in the time you have available to you. Don’t put off working on projects that demand a lot of creative thinking until late in the day or night: You’ll be tired. Attack such problems and creative thinking when you are fresh and rested.
Marion Pinton, Ring, gold, rubies
Photo courtesy Galerie Mattar, Cologne

A “key” word in the work process is FOCUS. Learn to focus on what you are doing. A helpful beginning to the process of focusing is organizing your work space. Sit down in that space and think about all the multifaceted things you will do there. Realize that these work activities must overlap, so arrange them according to which ones you’ll do most often, down to least often. As you begin working in that space continue to improve its efficiency. Moving the torch rest 2” might improve your comfort and give you more benchtop space. Study yourself: how you work best; height of chat; best places to hang tools of importance, etc. (If tools naturally go back onto their racks or into their drawers you’ve organized them correctly. If tools end up lost under piles of everything else, and it take unnecessary time to find them, you need to reorganize. Losing and finding tools and parts for creative work can frustrate and tire you out: It can ruin your day.

Learn to FOCUS on your work. Try to block out other thoughts on other things when working “Will he ask you out this weekend?” or “Will she go to the party with me?” are probably foremost on your mind, but the key to productivity is to develop the means and systematic methods to put things into their places, and tend to them when they occur, and not just wish your time away. LEARN TO COMPARTMENTALIZE!

One way to deal with this is to write down in a journal what you might say to him or her when and if the great moment happens. ANY THOUGHTS THAT KEEP NAGGING AT YOU — WRITE DOWN! Stop work completely and WRITE them completely. The same is true of creative thoughts. Get them into some kind of journal (sketchbook), whatever. This means words, simple line diagrams or any aspect of what is going through your mind about your work. It’s important to show more than one view of even the smallest detail. This will help you get the confusion out of your head into some visible form. It also gets it out of your head! Where it’s been bothering you.

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Set-up a personal timetable for the semester and understand it! Break up the semester down to days, weeks, months. You’ll be surprised just how little time there is to work. DO IT NOW! Don’t put it off until the semester is almost over.

SET ASIDE TIME FOR YOURSELF! Make sure you get time to rest and play. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY WILL DESTROY YOU!

Drum into your mind that THINGS ARE BOUND TO GO WRONG, at least at some point, and prepare yourself mentally for how you will handle it.

When things do start going wrong . . . assess the situation and yourself:

Are they going wrong because:

  1. I’m too tied?
  2. I’m dealing with techniques or material that are new to me, and I haven’t developed enough skill yet to do them successfully?
  3. I’m rushing too fast and trying to accomplish too much in too short a time?
  4. I’m upset, angry, nervous about something that is making me make mistakes? . . . .

In your assessment of why things are going wrong; get away from your workbench or where you are working to a quiet spot for a few moments by yourself to think. Do not try to assess your situation in the midst of the disaster. Just looking at the mistake you’ve made will depress you more and heighten your anxiety and make you more likely to make further mistakes.

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In this quiet spot consider:

  1. Should I try to finish what I’ve just failed at?
  2. Should I start to finish another thing or aspect of the work I know I can do without problems?
  3. Should I quit and start again tomorrow?

AND FINALLY remember through it all:

  1. “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” —Dr. Edwin Land (inventor of Polaroid)
  2. This IS hard work: There IS NOT some trick to just make it suddenly all fall together like magic!
  3. This is NOT end of the world!
  4. Tomorrow will be different. Maybe not better, but different.
  5. You DO have people around you who CARE, who are also struggling are INTERESTED, and are there to TRY to help!

J. Fred Woell is a metalsmith living on Deer Isle, Maine who teaches at the Swain School of Design.

By J. Fred Woell
Metalsmith Magazine - 1987 Summer
In association with SNAG's
Metalsmith magazine, founded in 1980, is an award winning publication and the only magazine in America devoted to the metal arts.
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