The number one reason I hear for not doing creative things is not having enough time. This is a valid reason, and it's something that I've struggled with for years. It can be challenging to make time for creative work when you are being pulled in so many other directions. It often seems like there's always something more important to do. But since making a commitment to everyday creativity, I've learned a few things about why I don't seem to have enough time. I've learned that often what looks like "not enough time" is really a mental block tricking me into thinking I'm too busy. Sometimes I really am too busy, but most of the time, it's all in my head. Below I outline some of the mental blocks that have gotten in my way, and that may be holding you back, plus some ways that I've learned to dismantle, or at least work around, these blocks.
Mental Block #1: Creativity is your last priority
I used to do this so much. I figured, I'm a creative person, I enjoy making stuff, so I should be able to just find the time right? Wrong. If you don't make it a priority, creative time will always end up on the bottom of the list, after work, laundry, visiting your parents, and scrubbing the floor behind the toilet. In order for it to happen, creative time needs to be at the top of your list - no matter what urgent things are calling for your attention.
How to fix it:
- The first step for me was convincing myself that creative time was one of the most important things for me to do. This came from the realization that I didn't feel truly myself and I didn't enjoy my life when I wasn't doing creative things regularly. Having a hard time convincing yourself that creativity should be top of the list? Think about how good it makes you feel, and about how effective you are in other areas of your life when you feel that good.
- Put creative time in the schedule. Imagine you're having a dental emergency. Your tooth is in excruciating pain and you can't think about anything else. If you're like most people, you won't put off going to the dentist because you don't have time or it doesn't work with your schedule. When something goes wrong, you make time to fix it. If you have a deep craving to do creative work and you're not doing it, that means that something is wrong and it's time for you to treat the problem. Make an appointment with your creative self, put it in the calendar, and don't stand yourself up.
Mental Block #2: Fear/Avoidance
I don't know about you, but when I'm afraid of something I will often go out of my way to avoid doing it. If a project is stressing me out, you'll find me either tackling some awful household task, or lying on the couch watching Gilmore Girls and swearing that I just don't have the energy right now. Suddenly the day is over and I "didn't have time" do get anything done. The truth is, my fear led me to avoid my creative work.
How to fix it:
- Take a good look at how you're spending your time and at how certain activities make you feel. You'll probably notice that a lot of the time sucking activities that you use to "relax" or "blow off steam" don't even really feel that good. If you find that big chunks are taken up watching TV, playing Candy Crush (this used to be my primary method of avoidance), or scrolling through your Facebook news feed, chances are you're trying to avoid something. Think about what that might be, and what fears might be lurking under the surface.
- Don't assume that it's Facebook's fault that you're wasting time. I've seen a lot of people quit Facebook because it was taking up too much time, but I'd be willing to bet that if they don't look at what they're avoiding by being on there, they'll find another way to hide from it. I know that happens to me - I stop checking my email only to start looking for blogs to read. When that happens I know I need to get quiet and face my fears head on.
Mental Block #3: Overwhelm
If you've waited too long for your next appointment with your creative self, you might feel overwhelmed by all the things that you could do with a chunk of creative time. You tell yourself, if only I had a couple of extra hours, I could write about our trip to the coast, and try out those watercolours, and get back into knitting, and do some exercises from that book I got for my birthday! You get so excited about doing everything, that you end up doing nothing. Or you think that you need to schedule time for everything, and of course there isn't enough time, so you don't schedule anything.
How to Fix it:
- Choose one thing. Choosing doesn't mean you're cutting yourself off from doing everything else forever and ever, it just means that you're making a decision for right now. Start a project, finish it, and you'll find that the energy and satisfaction you get from it will give you momentum to jump into the next thing, and the next.
- If a certain project seems too huge to tackle, break it down into it's smallest parts, and write out a list of everything that needs to happen to get the project rolling. Do you need to clear a space to work on it? Maybe you need to discuss clearing a space with your partner before you even do that. Do you need to get a certain supply, or research which supply to get? The more minute you make these tasks the easier it will be to get started on them right away.
Mental Block #4: You really are too busy
If every second of every day is overloaded and crammed with activity, you won't be able to magically squeeze more time out of your day. A good indication that you're addicted to 'doing' is the tendency to go to bed much later than you would like because you always just have to finish one more thing. Creativity requires open space - if you don't even have time to breath, you won't have time to create.
How to Fix it:
- See where the demands on your time are coming from. Are you saying yes to everything that gets thrown your way? Are you taking more than your fair share of responsibilities? In order to say 'Yes' to creativity, you're going to have to say 'No' to something else. Remember that you need to take care of yourself first. If you feel a yearning for creativity you need to listen to it in order to be your best self. Follow that yearning. Cut things out of your schedule that make you feel resentful or excessively stressed. Create some breathing space.
- If you can't manage starting a big project, start small. Carry a journal and just start noticing the world around you, and how you feel about it. Take notes, draw quick little sketches (stick figures are totally allowed!), do whatever you need to do to start paying attention. Soon I think you'll find that you feel so energized by the creative sparks you're creating that you'll be more inclined to re-examine your schedule and move some things around.
For another great idea on how to make time for what's really important, check out this video by Marie Forleo: http://www.marieforleo.com/2015/01/prioritize/
What mental block gets in the way of your creativity? Or, how do you make time to let that essential part of you flourish?