Your Creative Time: Wasted or Guarded?

“I Want to Write, But Can’t Find Time!”

This is a common sentiment. In fact, if there is one thing more plentiful than writers, it’s would-be writers. Nothing wrong with that, but sorry to say, it’s unlikely that Time is going to find you.

Sure, you might get lucky and get laid off, but eventually the unemployment checks will run out. Then you’ll have to learn to find Time, just like the rest of us. So let’s get started.

The Pitfalls of Trying to Please

I came across an interesting excerpt on Maud Newton’s blog (A young Bertrand Russell guards his time). It’s a letter the writer wrote to his future wife (and ex-wife), explaining why he couldn’t be expected to engage in socializing or practical affairs, and cautioning against the intoxication of cheap success. “Casual experience of life is of very little use to a specialist, such as I aspire to be; good manners are absolutely useless.”

Useless! Whatever could he have meant? These days, for the professional (or aspiring professional) good manners must be extended not only to those we know personally, but in all of our interactions in cyberspace.

Perhaps by good manners Russell meant, not common courtesy, but doing what is expected, lock-stepping through the suffocating, daily rounds of social ritual in order not to make waves. If that is the case, I wholeheartedly agree. No soul-satisfaction there.

Review Commitments…with Extreme Prejudice

But then there is that bit about avoiding practical affairs. Few of us have that luxury. Yet, there are many choices about the ways we spend our time that we neglect to consider: we become caught up in the expectations of family and friends, co-workers, and even acquaintances; we get distracted by TV, Internet, and the acquisition of things.

Even otherwise fruitful hobbies and practices can take more than their share. Do we have to check email every hour instead of once a day? Do we really need to spend hours cooking dinner when a simple meal would do? Do the house and yard have to look perfect? Must we exercise two hours a day when one will keep us healthy? I’ve struggled with all of these and more.

Your distractions may be different – it doesn’t matter; the first step is to identify them. The second step is to start eliminating.

It’s too bad that we have to make these kinds of choices, but as Russell recognized, it is a reality.

This is where we start to get down to the bone, where we separate the men from the boys and the mujeres from the chicas.

What Are You Willing to Give Up for Your Dream?

Are you willing to give up the pointless and wasteful, even if it goes against the flow of societal norms? Are you willing to give up or defer enjoyable but expendable activities? Are you willing to forgo “the intoxication of cheap success,” studying and practicing in obscurity, patiently, until you’ve gained maturity in thinking, and a mastery of your craft?

If the honest answers to these questions are “no,” it just means that either you’re not ready, or that your path lies elsewhere. I had many seemingly bright, shiny ideas along the way that, when put to this kind of test, evaporated like morning fog.

The best way I know to find the right dream is to start trying them on. If it’s no bueno, move along to the next. No shame. It’s your life – experiment all you want!

The right dream, when you find it, might be so huge you feel embarrassed to admit you want it, or so small or unusual that others don’t even recognize its importance. Doesn’t matter. Your true gift, whatever it is, is precious in ways you can’t even imagine at the outset. It will lead you where you need to go.

One clue that it’s right is when you find yourself willing to give up all those other distractions to cultivate it. And the doing of it, however hard or demanding it may be (and it probably will be, because you’ll want to push the envelope), aside from any possibility of acclaim or fortune, fills you with joy and energy.

If you really want to write; if you know it’s right for you, then stop waiting to find time and start learning to make time. Eliminate distractions with extreme prejudice! If you still aren’t writing, your problem is not a lack of time, but something else.

What are some ways that you’ve made time for your creative projects? Did you feel the changes or sacrifices you made were worth it?

One Response to “Your Creative Time: Wasted or Guarded?”

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  1. I’ve noticed that, for me, anything that is not in the top three things on my list rarely get done. Lesson: put that creative project at the top of the list!

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