Some Is Better Than None – Skinny Artist

Some Is Better Than None

Do what you can today

We have an expression around our house that we tend to use on everything from solving tricky Algebra problems, to practicing instruments, to eating icky green vegetables — and that is the saying “Some is better than none”.

All or nothing…

Sometimes as creative artists we can get locked into this idea that if we can’t do everything we want to do when we want to do it, we may as well not do anything at all.

If we can’t quit our job and write our novel, then what’s the point.  If we can’t can’t move to Rome and dedicate ourselves to painting the great cathedrals 24/7, then we might as well just give it up.  We somehow convince ourselves that if we can’t dedicate ourselves full-time to our art, then we might as well go back to frothing lattes for a living.

It’s not just creating our art either, but this attitude often extends to the other aspects of our life as well.

If I can’t run everyday, then I might as well not run at all.  If I can’t stick to my diet everyday, then I might as well eat whatever the hell I want.  If I’m never going to play on stage, then there’s no reason for me to pick up that guitar to practice.  Come to think of it, these are all conversations/arguments that I’ve had with myself within the last week.


Getting partial credit

Fortunately for us, life is not generally an all-or-nothing proposition.  As my daughter’s Algebra teacher has pointed out, it is possible to get partial credit…. but only if you’re willing to put in the work and try.

You don’t have to have all of the right answers, but you do have to be willing to put your doubts aside and do what you can with what you have.  Maybe you’ll figure out as you go along, or maybe you won’t, it doesn’t really matter because you get credit for the attempt and not the final result. Partial credit is always better than none.

Doing “some” creates movement and momentum that will eventually lead you towards your next work.  Doing something has the ability to clear out the cobwebs, break through the creative blocks, and jostle your imagination.

Doing nothing on the other hand creates nothing but more excuses, regret, and perhaps a big stinky pile of self-pity.


20 minutes is something (unless you make it nothing)

In 20 minutes I know from experience that I can write 500 words, practice a dozen scales, or run farther than I probably should be running.  In twenty minutes I can create an outline, proofread a blog post, or edit a short video.

Don’t get the wrong idea here — Just because I could be doing all of these things, that doesn’t mean that I am.

In fact, if I find myself with 20 minutes to spare, I am just as likely to be sorting through my email, reading the last 50 tweets on Twitter, flipping through the pages of a magazine, or wandering aimlessly around Facebook.

The point here is not so much the fact that I suck at time management (which I do), but that it’s possible to live your life like a normal person and still have time to create your art.  But only if you’re willing to sacrifice your idea of what you thought being an artist/writer/musician would be like.


Do what you can with what you have

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. ―Stephen King

It turns out that life is not always filled with quiet French cafes and spacious (yet reasonably priced) studio loft apartments that we’ve seen in the movies.  Real life doesn’t always give us 6 hours of filtered indirect sunlight to paint, or an uninterrupted quiet space in which to write.  We often just have to do what we can with what we have.

The trick is to not dismiss these moments as trivial or waste them mindlessly.


Get your tools together and be ready

While we may not always be able to carry our laptops, sketchbooks, or DSLRs everywhere we go, we can still harvest those singular moments of inspiration by being prepared.

If you’re a writer or a visual artist make it a habit to take a small notebook with you wherever you go, and the next time you are standing in line resist the urge to pull out your phone and check your messages.  Instead, take a moment to write or sketch one those characters around you as they pass through your daily life. If you’re a photographer, make sure you have your smartphone nearby so that you’ll be able to capture one of life’s fleeting moments.

Look for inspiration everywhere and you might be surprised at what you’ll find.


Creating art is not about your talent or the tools you use

Instead it’s about your willingness to share whatever you have with your art.

Maybe your creative process will never be the way you imagined it would be.  Maybe you will never have that dedicated painting studio or that really awesome writing gazebo in the woods, but that’s okay because although those things may be nice to have, that doesn’t mean they are necessary.

The world is filled with writers and visual artists who have nothing but time and yet they have very little to show for it. Just as there will always be those who can scrounge together 15 minutes in the morning or an hour after the kids have gone to bed, but they are successful because they’re willing to dedicate those spare moments to their art.

After all, creating some art is always better than none.


What will you do to get partial credit today?


Image courtesy of dawolf cc


About the Author

Drew is a writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist creative community. You can also find him online at where he writes about fitness, nutrition, and his continuing battle with father time.

Wonderful article, Drew! Working full time outside the home (with a not-so-short commute) doesn’t always leave me a lot of spare time, so I try to grab every available moment I can to draw and paint. Frequently that means sharing the couch with the dog and setting up my sketchbox easel on the coffee table for half an hour or less, but no time spent creating art (or riding my bike or whatever brings joy into my life) is ever wasted, in my humble opinion.

    I think you’re right Tammy, if you wait around until things settle down, you probably aren’t going to be able to get much done. It’s not just from a productivity standpoint either. I think like you said, you want to do it not only for the practice but also for the joy that it brings into your life. Whether it’s exercising, making music, or creating art — you’ve got to find the time to nurture those little parts of yourself that are too often pushed onto the back burner when things get busy. So we do what we have to do, even if it means making the dog share the couch for a little while :)

Drew, this was a great post. I am guilty of wasting 20 minutes, when life is made up of a long line of 20 minutes. Life can go past and you look back and wonder where it went. Now I think I will quit reading blog posts and do something, even if it is wrong. :)

    Thanks Ronna for your kind words and you’re right that “life is made up of a long line of 20 minutes” that too often fritter away on the unimportant stuff. It reminds me of that famous quote by the writer Annie Dillard that says “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Everything adds up, and you don’t want to get to the end and kick yourself for spending all your time posting status updates and watching reality television — although I do believe that reading blog posts on websites that start with “Skinny” and end with “Artist” is perfectly acceptable ;)

Drew, I hadn’t heard that quote before, love it and I am adding it to my collection. That last line was well said, m’Lord!

This was such a great post! As an artist with a full-time day job, I can definitely relate to this. I’m grateful to have time to work during evenings and weekends, and am glad I haven’t waited until I can create art 24/7 to paint.

    Thanks Tiffany and you’re right that it can be frustrating because sometimes you feel (or at least I do) that you are either making no progress at all, or the progress is so slow that you might as well give it up. But that’s the trap. I know from experience as soon as I start saying “what’s the point”, it’s time to back up the self-pity bus and get back to work doing at least something. That way, even if it sucks, I know that I did what I could in that particular moment.


I agree with this. I would go months without painting or drawing and that would hit my happiness the most. As soon as I put a little time into it daily I felt a whole lot better. I am now studying fulltime in art to push where I want to go. These articles are essential for my development. Thanks.

Ridley Jack

Great post! As an artist just starting up i’ve been forced to learn how to balance my creative output with the overload of strategic planning and setting up (for example, social media, building relationships, and website). I enjoyed the comments in the discussion above when you were agreeing that “art is a series of 20 minutes compiled together to create a day, and then a day leading to multiple etc.” It reminded me, when facing multiple tasks at once, to focus on small increments and to dedicate your attention to one thing at a time. Also, to me, art isn’t simply producing material but searching for ways to alter to perspective on the everyday tasks you are used to. There are so many nuances in mundane things that, if looked at differently, the artist is creating a new mind of his own, which will eventually lead to the outlet of his choice….. You’re article mainly made me think that even tho many artists spend most of their time in day jobs, that doesn’t mean they have to not be creating during those periods of time. Thanks for the article Drew, I shall read more :)

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