A Day in the Life: Of a Free Creative

What will we be doing in 2050?

Bill Gates predicted the following things for the year 2050:

  • Fewer humans (because of bio-terrorism and pandemic)
  • Most jobs lost to automation
  • Africa self sufficient in food
  • Poverty and Polio beaten
  • Clean energy powering the world

And mobile banking will transform our lives.

En plein air painting location

So now I am going to imagine a day in my life 30 years from now:

I will paint; travel the world to relevant and interesting locations; weave a story around my paintings; make videos; put these up online; write articles. I will become a master of my art; polish off lessons; go into my online course to talk to my peers and students; and have no fear that it will all end soon and I’ll have to go back to a job.

On this perfect day there will be no other list of things to do. No more things to get done to make this day possible. No more saving up or working towards this day. No more investing in the future so that I can have this day, or delaying gratification until this day arrives. This day will finally become the first day of the rest of my life. The life I really want to live.

Then I wondered—how quickly can I make this day happen? I don’t want to wait 33 years. I may not be alive in 33 years. But looking at my current to do list, it might take me forever, because my to do list is always full; and mainly of stuff I really do not want to do. 

Bill Gates said “most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

So I wondered—what would happen if I just started living my perfect day—today? If I scrapped my to do list and just started painting and writing? 

I realized that I would stop getting paid. And then how would I afford to live?

This got me thinking seriously, for the first time in my life, about the way I live, the cost of my lifestyle and the many possible ways I might be able to fund my perfect life without having to ever go to a job again.

It all came down to: I could live my perfect life now if I owned my own house and could get a small annual income from investments.

Climbing out of the hole (Physical Freedom)

I couldn’t just make this happen instantly, but I began to see ways to work rapidly towards it. When I brainstormed ways, dozens of great ideas came to mind. [I could sell my house, pay off my mortgage, buy something smaller, then invest the remaining in an index fund. Or I could rent my house out, move to a smaller house and pay a lot less in rent to quickly pay off my mortgage. Or I could tighten the belt completely, take on extra contracts and put all my money into paying off my mortgage.] 

So many options started to occur to me.

And it began to look like I actually could make my dream happen in less than 10 years, possibly even as soon as 1 year.

Just the possibility of being free like this energized me. I started seeing myself climbing out of a hole.

Putting my art practice first (Mental Freedom)

But I did not want to put my artistic practice on hold. So I knew, whatever effort I made to become free now would also have to include becoming a master at my art. In fact from this point onwards, I committed to putting my art practice first. Literally.

First principle: I get my art done each day and worry about everything else after that. Even if it means I have to get up at 5 am and spend the first two hours painting, drawing, writing, creating.

This commitment solved the dilemma of delayed gratification. And as soon as I put it into practice I felt happier about getting on with the paid work. That sense of being trapped in a job that was taking me away from my art disappeared.

As a contractor I started to pick up work because it paid well, not because it might be “satisfying”. I was getting enough satisfaction from my daily artistic endeavours. My preference now is for short term, highly paid gigs. In and out. Rather than full time permanent positions. In my field (design) there is plenty of work like this. The shorter the contract the higher the pay, as a rule. 

Hitting the ground running (Economic Practice)

This was going against the mainstream, because most people want permanency. And hitting the ground running is a specialized skill that most people don’t have because it takes practice.

In and out. You can put up with a lot when you know you are not hanging around. For example, you are not affected by workplace politics or the stressful undercurrents caused by restructures. You are either working in an environment where contractors are needed to fill vacancies during a restructure or because this is the way everyone works in that place. So people are nice to you because they know you are not competing with them for their jobs. Your work is usually well organised, because a business case was required to afford to bring you in. And you are generally performing an urgent and important function, otherwise why have you there on a short contract?

As an artist, I enjoy finding creative ways to hit the ground running. I have designed first day practices to get to know the lay of the land. I like meeting new people, finding new cafes, travelling to new, interesting locations. All of this even inspires my creative projects. I feel like I am moving around and getting new experiences; in my hometown. Which is good practice for when I am actually travelling around the world later.

I have also enjoyed finding creative ways to save money. Although I am earning more now than ever before, I do not want to delay my dream so I have designed clever but cheap workwear, commuting hacks, bringing my own meals, my little tea cup ceremony, mindfulness meditations interspersed everywhere and walking as a fitness treat. 

I am pouring all my money into my portfolio (that is how I view my possessions, investments, assets and education) now with a sense of achievement rather than denial. And I can see the top of the hole. I have a very definite dollar figure for what it will take to be completely out of that hole. To pay off my mortgage and have an investment to fund my much reduced cost of living. 

But the interesting thing is, I don’t feel as vehement about escaping from the workforce. I feel like I already have. Don’t get me wrong, I now have concrete and realistic plans to move to live in Europe in two years from now, so I am not going to be hanging around. If you had asked me one year ago if any of this was on my horizon I would have said “sure, in my long term dreams”.

How to devise a daily routine

Use the Creative Freedom Model to consider potential artistic, economic and strategic practices you could put into place. What can be done on a daily basis?

Incorporating all three practices into each day leads to mastery.

The most effective daily routine would look like the diagram below. Your artistic practices (A) are supported by your economic (E) and strategic practices (S). And there is a synergy between the three.

Daily practice synergy

In my case my daily routine includes:

  • Artistic: painting, drawing, writing
  • Economic: living frugally and investing
  • Strategic: sharpening the saw: learning, thinking, reflecting. 

The real challenge is to keep these three sets of practices in balance. Not to let one completely take over and dominate. I do this by continually asking: 

  • What should be in and what should be out?
  • What practices are not helping me to become and stay a free creative?

At first it may feel like you are spending a lot of time on strategic and economic practices. But then they become second nature and the amount of time and energy you get to spend on your art increases.

The freedom not to create

Finally, let’s allow ourselves some down time. When we do not have to be creative. When we are free to just BE. In building our perfect practices we do not want to create a new master. There is a tyranny in self-discipline. There will be days when you just need a rest. A break from all this thinking and effort. On a day like that, let yourself switch off. Be gentle on yourself. Be free to be free.

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