Are you sacrificing your creative time? Here’s my strategy for taking back your lost passions.
How I Reclaimed My Creative Time (Plus, a free printable!)
I wasn’t supposed to listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast this morning. I was supposed to be hammering away at my keyboard, like the good little freelancer I am. But that’s not what happened.
It wasn’t my fault, I swear! It was the weather. The air was laced with spring dew and the smell of fresh grass, and the birds beckoned me out with their siren songs. So, I grabbed the dog, my youngest son, my Podcasts, and we spent the morning hunting for four-leaf clovers and soaking up Liz Gilbert’s creative wisdom.
Magic Lessons is an extension of Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic. It got me thinking about the place writing (and creativity, in general) has in my life. This morning’s furlough aside, I’ve become fiercely protective of my writing schedule and creative time.
But how do I juggle a family and find the time to write, or work on my blog, or (dream of dreams) kick back with a relaxing creative hobby?
By making it a priority, for starters.
Stop Giving Away Your Time
One thing Gilbert repeats in her podcasts is the idea of creating something for yourself. Yourself is where time gets tricky, especially for women.
We have a tendency to be time martyrs, believing that any time we devote purely to our passions is somehow stolen time—time we owe to other people.
When the boss needs someone to organize the company Christmas party, your hand went up (damn you, hand!). You stayed late to help a colleague meet a deadline. You organized the school bake sale, shuttled kids to sports, and organized the neighborhood meal train. It can often feel like our kids, partners, friends, or colleagues all have more legitimate rights to our time than we do.
So, how do we reclaim the time we’ve given away for so long?
Until a few months ago, I thought until ALL my family and community obligations were fulfilled, taking time for my own creative endeavors was selfish and indulgent. In part, it seemed like my penance for leaving my well-paying job to raise my kids. But writing had always been part of the plan. (THE PLAN: Stop deploying. Write from home). What happened to the plan?
Then it dawned on me: Until I started treating writing like my job, it would never be my job.
Maybe you’re there. You feel irritable, unsatisfied, and frustrated that you can’t make any progress toward your creative goals. Even if you aren’t trying to build a new career, the satisfaction you gain from your creative hobbies carries over to other parts of your life. I feel so strongly about this that I keep a little reminder in my bullet journal. You can substitute anything you like for “Writing”—journaling, doodling, coloring, blogging, reading, sewing—whatever your passion happens to be!
So, how can you protect your creative time without letting down the people who count on you?
- Lay the ground rules: Calmly explain the importance of your creative time to your inner circle (partners, friends, children, colleagues—anyone who makes demands on your time). Help them understand how they can help you fit it into your life.
- Set regular hours: schedule time daily to write, craft, create—whatever your project may be.Call it whatever you want. Writing time. Creative Time. Work hours. Office Hours. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s clear to you and the rest of the world that your time is spoken for. If your friend wants to pop by for a visit, tell her, “I have something scheduled then, but can we do it another time?” Be firm on this point.
- Avoid distractions. Close the door, switch off your phone, and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign (Oh, look at that! I just happen to have a printable one for you!). Make it the ideal work environment for yourself. Need silence? Wear earplugs. Need noise? Play some music. Be honest about how you work best and make the conditions match.
FREE PRINTABLE DOOR HANGAR!
- Express gratitude: When your family and friends respect the rules you’ve laid out, reward their efforts. You may not realize how difficult it is for them to stay away so you can work in peace. Thank them for their patience, and tell them how much satisfaction you feel from having written/drawn/created something. It’s a great way to reinforce your claim on your time in a positive way. Even if you never bring home a paycheck from your creative work, your loved ones will feel the benefits of your happiness.
- Be present with your loved ones: When work hours are over, be fully present with your family. They need to know that you value your time with them as much as your creative project. You’ll avoid a lot of resentment this way.
That’s it! 5 steps. No waiting.
Once you take back the time you’ve given away, you may find it difficult to be inspired. Take a look at this post for some ideas on how to get inspired. It’s more likely, however, that you’ll feel more satisfied with other areas of your life as your new productivity allows you to make steady progress toward your goals.
Don’t procrastinate this! Setting a time is the hardest part. Get out your calendar, pick a time, and start creating the next chapter of your life!
What are your creative goals? I’m always working to refine my creative process, and I’d love to hear how you work creativity into your everyday life. Comment below to share your spark!