Beyond Business: Making Quality Creative Time
One of the things that is so hard for creatives to do—despite their talents—is simply to create.
For people who have turned their passion into a full-fledged creative business, they can be so caught up in administrative tasks, completing projects and meeting deadlines, that their creativity depletes fast. Even though writers and artists may seem to be living the dream, they often feel exhausted and helpless.
I recently listened to a podcast in which Kimberly Wilson interviewed Sarah Susanka. They talked about Sarah’s series of books, especially her title, The Not So Big Life. The book focuses on how to make room for what matters in life. (The podcast focuses on tranquil living and yoga, so if you’re not into that, you’ll probably still find this episode useful.)
This got me thinking about my career, because even though I am a copywriter, author and journalist, I rarely seem to make time to work on the types of projects that bring me the most happiness. I then thought about all of the creative people out there who have established their businesses—but still seem to let “business” get in the way. Or all of those other things in life that detract from our creative time.
And by creative time, I mean the time that you can really enjoy yourself, not just work. Perhaps you have a side project you enjoy. Perhaps you have a project you can’t seem to make time for. Even though I write most of the day, only a fraction of that includes work that is my passion and counts as quality “creative time.” (Many of you know that I want more time to devote to my books and magazine writing projects–something that doesn’t pay immediately, but I know will have a huge payoff if I can juuuust maaake moooore tiiiime for.)
Susanka addressed some of these concepts in the podcast, which I encourage you to listen to. A few takeaways include:
Become an observer.
Susanka says that even if you do not know what your dream is, you only have to observe your life. In the same sense, creative professionals should take time out to observe their patterns. What are you doing that you only do because you’ve simply always done it? What are the things you want to accomplish? What things “come up” and get in the way? What do you make time for? How can you make more time to follow your innate creative dreams?
So many of us may not think we need this valuable time because we have creative careers, but I think we need it even more to constantly reignite our spark and keep thriving. Observing before you try to do anything can be super helpful. Get outside of yourself for a while.
When I listened to the podcast, one of the things I really identified with was when the host was talking about how she starts her day checking emails and then—poof—hours have “evaporated” and she has to rush off to get to work or handle other business. That time for many people is opportune creative time. Sometimes the thought of going without email for even a day can seem maddening. I’m going to try not checking email in the morning for one day this week and then use that time to devote to my pet projects or creative time. (Obviously I won’t do this on a day when I have a huge deadline.)
In the podcast, they discuss how many people should create first thing in the morning. Or take that time. For example, if you’re a designer and your passion is painting or even working on a book about design, do that first thing. Some people aren’t morning people, so I think even night owls can use their opportune time to create first. I tend not to do this because I always want to get what I “have to do” done first, which is what many time management experts tell us to do. The reality is that you don’t have to have this valuable creative time everyday, but I think I want to make more time to just focus on my passions. For me, this means working on my books first thing in the morning. Or a magazine query or article. Even though some of these things aren’t “paying” right away, switching my timing at least one day a week will probably help me immensely.
So regardless when you work best, make your “creative time” activities—whether they “pay” or not—first. Maybe not everyday, but pencil in maybe a morning or an evening where that is what you are doing. Tune out the “shoulda’s” and try to go for it.
By simply being mindful of what you want to do, you can come up with ways that work with you to achieve them. But keep one thing in mind…just because you can proudly say that you are a writer, designer or artist doesn’t mean that you’re doing work you love 100% of the time—and that’s okay. Just make some time to creatively recharge however you see fit.