People often ask me how I find time. Time to make art for exhibitions, time to write a book, time to make stuff. As though there could be some special, secret, time bending trick I might have discovered. I wish!
I guess there is a secret of sorts, and it’s deceptively simple. You see, it’s not about finding time. No matter how hard any of us look, no matter how tight we try to squeeze, each of us get exactly 168 hours in a week. In those 168 hours we must sleep, care for our bodies, minds and souls, care for our families, friends and pets, care for our homes, earn our living and attend to the enormous list of responsibilities each of us has.
With all that going on, we’re never going to find time. It’s about making time. Ordinary words, big, extraordinary difference.
Finding implies something has appeared to you that wasn’t available before. (Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the meaning of find: to discover (something or someone) without planning or trying to : to discover (something or someone) by chance). Making, on the other hand, implies you are involved – hands on – in bringing something to be.
That’s the kicker, right there. You have to choose to make time.
5 ways to make time for a creative life
1. Don’t wait till you have a free afternoon.
Or morning, or day, or weekend, or whatever chunk of time you feel is necessary to immerse yourself in a creative puddle of happiness. If I waited for that chunk of time, I’d never have made a damn thing! Have a look at your schedule – is there a ten minute window somewhere in your day? Ten minutes is long enough to put down a background on a canvas or write a hundred words. That’s 500 words in a work week, or enough writing for a whole book in a little over a year. Ten minutes a day at an easel or sketch book will add up to many completed paintings and drawings over the course of many months.
There can be an unexpected benefit to starting with ten minutes. Often, once you begin, you find you can in fact spend half an hour creating, without the wheels spinning off the chariot that is your life.
2. Turn off the Television.
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book “Big Magic”, asks “What are you watching on TV?” then advises to turn the TV off… there’s an hour, right there, suddenly freed up for your creative use. (By the way, Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear is full of wonderful anecdotes to get you fired up for creativity).
3. Social media is a time thief.
Ask me how I know… I often have to ask myself do I want to be creating something new and having a great time, or sitting here, looking at other people trying to convince the world they are having great time? (Hell, for all I know they ARE having a great time, but if I’m sitting with my head stuck in a screen – am I?)
4. Look at creating as central to taking care of yourself.
I have experiential evidence that spending time immersed in creative projects makes me happier, healthier and nicer to live with (just ask my husband!). I know I get cranky and kind of ugly to be around if I’ve neglected to give myself a little time making something in the past week. Self care is critical to our own happiness and contentment, and if we are happy, the people around us can only benefit from that. If viewing some creative time as important to your self care doesn’t make it easier for you to make the time – then look at it as a service to others! (I go into this in more detail in When Your Superpower Becomes Your Kryptonite – there’s an entire chapter devoted to the value of creativity).
5. Create first.
Put making something at the top of your list, and set aside time for that first. Make an appointment with yourself for half an hour (or however long you can manage), write it in your planner, and keep it, with the same respect you’d keep an appointment with your bank manager. All your other jobs will still get done – because you know you have to do them. It’s amazing how much you can power through when you’ve given yourself a little treat of time in a creative zone first.
Putting creativity first has been the way I have made time for creating most effectively in my own schedule, but it’s also the most challenging. I have to choose it, over and over again. It’s so easy to slide into attending to all the other demands of my day and telling myself I’ll get to it ‘later’. Leaving it till ‘later’ can mean weeks go by with scarcely a creative crumb being enjoyed.
So, will you join me in choosing to make time for creativity? The only thing I know for sure is that if we don’t make time, we’re certainly never going to find it.