My Arts Diet (and Exercise) Plan

Of course, art is intimately tied to entertainment, and most of the art I enjoy is also entertaining; that doesn't mean it doesn't take discipline to maintain a solid intake of art and a solid creative output rate. Now, when I say "diet," I don't mean "the ways in which I am restricting myself artistically." In fact, I mean just the opposite: this is my artistic consumption and output, and I'm hoping the whole thing is sustainable long-term (I'll let you know in a couple of years). The biggest key is that this process has really helped me get my act together as far as continuing to write and power through the times when I feel like I've already had my final good idea. 


I probably watch a full-length movie every 1-2 weeks, and probably not more than that. I really enjoy movies, but I've found that 1. I very much enjoy watching movies with company, and 2. I usually watch movies I enjoyed multiple times. Watching.a movie more than once makes it easier to figure out what I liked about the story, what worked, what didn't, and what is actually being done from a technical or story perspective. In general, I'd say re-watching or re-reading material is the single best way to understand it more fully. This is in art because there are things that are missed on the first viewing, but it also gives me a chance to keep my eyes out for certain kinds of things (for example, I re-watched both Snow White and the Huntsman and Skyfall to understand what colors and framing were doing in the narrative). 

I probably finish between 5 and 10 different seasons of shows a year, not counting YouTube or shows I re-watch. As with movies, T.V. could be a brainless pursuit, but it doesn't have to be. Part of it is finding viewing partners or friends who enjoy talking about what happened. If it sounds like I'm saying you need nerdier friends, that's true. You need friends who enjoy the stories you like. 

I usually make it to museums and galleries 3-6 times a year. I'm a huge fan of Vladimir Kush. 

I spend time looking at good photos. That's kind of one of the things I do. Someday I might pick up a camera, but since I do some stage work and occasionally get to do a photoshoot, I like to make sure I'm aware of different ways visuals can tell a story or awaken emotion. 

My goal is to read 100 books every year (counting books I re-read), and I've only ever made it to about 85 or so. 
I try to read an academic book or two on my own every year. This isn't counting articles that I read for fun. Obviously, I get assigned academic books all the time, but I try to make sure to read at least a couple books on my own that improve my academic information. Self-help books come along and I read them. Technically, neither of those kinds of books are "art," but academic books help with keeping in conversation with current art, and it's easier to have time for art and things that are important to me when I've dealt with a practical problem (like money or housecleaning). I probably read 10 or so essay collections a year.
The vast majority of the other books I read in any given year are books of fiction. I probably read fewer than five separate books of poetry in a year. That doesn't mean I don't read plenty of poems; that just means that I only complete a full book of poetry every three months or so. Also, I re-read at least 30 books in a given year. I'm pretty convinced that a lot of books worth reading only start to give up their best secrets the second or third time around.

I listen to music in basically every genre, though I definitely skew toward the folk/rock side (which is also more like the music I write). Right now, I'm listening to music three or more hours a day. Yes, a lot of these are spent also doing other things. That's okay. When I'm listening to songs from soundtracks, I try to see how songs are used in their original context and what it's like to remove them from their visuals. If they're there, I pay attention to lyrics. This is in part so that I'm not listening to music blindly, but it also gives me a strong sense of the musicality of poetry. Lyricists are some of our best poets.


This one is tricky to master, and I'm still learning. The biggest thing I've learned is that I have to stick to my plan and not give myself excuses when the juices aren't flowing.
Practically speaking, I'm dong a lot of school work (some of it creative) so I've let myself maintain a pretty lenient creative output. I have a couple of writing gigs that pay me to write (which is awesome), and I have the Poem of the Week project  (which comes out on Mondays) and this blog, which is published on Fridays. Other than that, I don't have any one set output margin for each day.

Instead, I have three rules: 1) write something every day, even if it's not good. Write something. 2) have one piece ready to be submitted for publication (academic or creative - doesn't matter) every month. This might mean revising an old piece, or tinkering with something that got rejected, or writing up something entirely new. 3) have a passion project that is my number one priority. Right now, that's getting my Master's creative portfolio done (as well as all of my critical papers for my classes). The reason I only have two rules is so that I can trick myself into having "fun projects" that are "just for me." I These turn into passion projects, and it fuels my excitement for the next chance I have to "sneak off" and write something "for fun" that is "just for me." My upcoming EP was one for a while, and then it became my primary project, and now I get to promote it. I actually have a really cool "for me" project that is my next big thing after I graduate - I'm not saying anything else yet, but it's been a lot of fun to work on! I used to be almost incapable of fun writing projects; the 200 Poems Project cleared that right up. Now that I don't have a prescribed output, I still write basically every day. Musically, I try to play every day. Realistically, I probably play three times a week right now. I participate in one or two plays a year, but I suspect that will jump up quite a bit once I'm out of college. 

What I do might not work for everyone, and my regimen changes as my life does. How do you keep yourself artistically fueled?