Six hundred years ago when Oprah was still relevant, I happened to catch an episode with Susan “stop the insanity” Powter. Susan was on the show hawking her new weight loss plan while handing out advice like gift bags at a fashion show. At one point she mentioned eating at fast food joints was worse that shooting crack between your toes. One audience member got up and said while she was saying was great, sometimes we get desperate and have to eat at fast food places and what would she recommend? She answered by giving him a canned sound bite that sounded good but didn’t answer the question. The man stood there perplexed and mumbled “But you didn’t answer……” before Oprah grabbed the microphone and moved on to the next question.
The reason I bring this up is because I subscribe to many creativity newsletters for inspiration and topical articles. In a recent monthly edition of one particular newsletter, there was an “article” on how to find time to be creative when you lead a busy life. The author took three quarters of the article to reiterate that we are all very busy people, how we are busy and why we are busy. She never really gave advice on how to find this balance. I felt like the audience member who asked Susan Powter her advice on fast food and just got a sound bite when I finished reading.
Last week I was overwhelmed with tasks and my mile-long To Do List. I had articles to write, websites to build and assignments to finish. I was so overwhelmed that I found myself doing mindless things like surfing the internet and watching mindless TV instead of writing. A few times I inwardly whined to myself about not having enough time to do engage in my true passions. My mind wandered back to that soundbite article and I wondered if I was just wasting time or if I could find time in my busy life to be creative. After some mental inventory I realized I did have time, I was just wasting time on fluff. Here’s the steps I took to make time to be creative:
1. De-Cluttering my commitments. I was making too many promises to meet friends during the week for brainstorming sessions when I could have pushed them off to the weekend. I am involved in a couple of writing groups and a photography group in town and have been feeling like they just aren’t meeting my needs. I participate, I’m active and I’m not getting a return. So, I dumped them. I also unsubscribed from a bunch of newsletters (not this one, of course!) I never open and stopped reading the blogs of people who didn’t interest me anymore. By doing this I created more time to write instead of reading mindless fluff.
2. Unhook the internet. I am easily distracted by shiny things and when I’m writing I check my e-mail too many times, check a blog, check Facebook and forget I was writing until I notice the open tab on my computer. Last week I unhooked the wireless internet from my computer and gave the router to my husband until I was done writing. By doing this I was forced to focus on my work and finish my task. If I had to look something up, I waited until I was done and then filled in the blanks.
3. Henry Ford once said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Last week I helped a friend clean her house so she could put it up for sale. When I got to her house she had that thousand-yard stare of a person that has a pile of stuff to get done but no idea where to start. There was cleaning, there was organizing, there was packing to be done. To help her out, I grabbed a piece of paper and pen and had her write out everything that had to get done and when. We chunked up the list so she could see what needed to be done and turned the mountain into a mole-hill. It was a lot easier to focus on the task at hand rather than focusing on the mountain of other things that needed to be done. Plus, when more friends showed up to clean, we just gave them the list and told them start wherever they wanted.
4. Just Do It. No one is going to write that great American novel or make that work of art for you. Crafting anything can be a lonely process but you HAVE to get it done. As I write this Jem’s song It’s Amazing just came on Pandora. She sings about keeping going, not letting distractions or rejection get to you. Don’t take no for an answer. Nothing can compare to deserving your dream. Read the lyrics here: http://www.pandora.com/music/song/jem/its+amazing#lyrics. She has a point. Print the lyrics out and put them in your work space and inspire you.
5. If you really think you don’t have enough time, then either make time or stop whining. Science fiction writer John Scalzi wrote a great blog post on finding time to write which can be attributed towards any creative endeavor you’re afraid to start or feel you just don’t have enough time to do. http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/09/16/writing-find-the-time-or-dont/
6. Last, and most importantly, take time to play. If you don’t play or have downtime you’re not going to enjoy your work.If there’s a trick YOU use to get motivated and stay focused, drop me an line and let me know!