Making Time for Creativity: The Make Time Clock

Time is essential for creativity. Creativity is essential for generating ideas and innovation. And ideas and innovation are what will drive future economies. This relationship is something that, as a professor in a conservatory program, I think about a lot. Each semester we have fourteen weeks to take students on a journey of knowledge, self-discovery, and expanded creativity. This is the process of training artists - complete saturation. What happens though, when these people leave school and enter the workplace? Recent reports indicate that just ten percent of art school graduates go on to make their fulltime living as artists. So how do the other ninety percent of degree-holding artists find time to practice their craft while work non-arts jobs? How can trained creatives continue to create? And if these individuals don't find that time, what may be lost in terms of art and innovation?

I've been fascinated by projects that leverage time to produce a product. For example National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo) is a movement and organization that supports writers, during the month of November, to start and complete an entire novel in one month's time. Since its inception in 1999, over 250 books written using the NaNoWrMo process, have been published by traditional publishing companies. 24Magazine is another project that gathered artists from multiple disciplines, hosted a 24-hour gathering and at the end of those 24 hours the material generated by the artists, went to print. These are finite amounts of time allocated to specific products, but what of support for on-going creative practice?

A new product is in development that has taken the connection between time and creativity as it's central focus. Created by Chap Ambrose, a product designer - turned software designer, in partnership with Fractured Atlas, the Make Time Clock "gives you clear visual representation of the work you've put into your passion project and helps you discover your creative rhythm." Essentially Make Time Clock helps to chronicle your progress in time, while sending positive affirmations, through an app, to help to fuel your commitment and creativity.

Intrigued to learn more, I spoke with Ambrose and asked what they had learned from beta testing this product. His first tester and co-conspirator was his wife, a designer / quilt-maker who is also a mom. The couple began with a simple toggle system that helped her to track the time she spent creating. A key discovery here was that it is essential to track time spent being creative as distinctly different from other tasks of creative work - like taking orders, collaborating with other makers, packaging and shipping products.

Another beta tester revealed how Make Time Clock can impact others. An Austin-based play write tested the clock and found that she needed to explain what this new object (the Make Time Clock) was to her roommates. The clock had a dramatic effect on everyone. As her roommates became more aware of where she was in her writing process, they began changing their behavior. They brought food home for her rather than inviting her to go out when they knew that she was not as far along in her project as she wanted to be. Make Time Clock provided a way for everyone to experience her process in a tangible way. It created the space and context for everyone to value her work.

Yet a third tester, discovered that the clock helped her to value her own work. A photographer in West Virginia, this tester found it hard to justify being an artist in a community where she was in the vast minority of workers. By understanding the relationship between the time she put into her work - being able to 'clock in' - and the resulting product, helped her to reframe her relationship with her art practice.

To learn more about this project, visit their Kickstarter page. This project has been funded, but you can still put in an order for your clock and get involved.