How to Carve Out the Time for Creative Work

Susan DeFCreative Writing, ReflectionsLeave a Comment

I’ve been busy this spring. Maybe you have too. I’ve had a few weeks where I didn’t feel like I had the space in my life for creative work. Maybe you’ve had a few weeks (or longer) like that too.

I’m all for letting the creative fields lie fallow after a big push on a story, for holding open the space that refills the cup and allows new ideas to percolate up from the subconscious.

That said, while in the midst of drafting or revision, I’ve found it’s best not to lose momentum.

But how do you do that, when life has thrown a series of flaming chainsaws at you? (Or, in my case, a class? Which I myself threw at myself, let’s be clear.) Many of my clients over the years have struggled with the question of how to carve out the time for creative work.

Many of my book-coaching colleagues have struggled with the question of how to make the time to do the same, when they spend all day helping others with their creative work. And all I can share is what I have discovered over and over again in my life, most recently just today: Everything changes when you make writing a non-negotiable, and do it first thing in the day.

Like, what if you just accepted that:
– You might not get back to each and every student with their feedback on their work by X date (that’s me right now—though I suspect I’ll still find a way, because I’m bullheaded like that)
– You might have to order in dinner, instead of cooking
– You might not be the perfect parent or spouse today
– You might not get that errand run, or those dishes done, or X, Y, or Z, because…
…you took the time to write today.

I’m not saying these are easy choices. I hate disappointing people, and when I make a commitment, I generally do everything in my power to keep it. But there’s something I learned from an early boyfriend of mine, an artist who was irresponsible in myriad ways but always put the time in for his art.

What I learned from him was this: Art is the magic thing. No one will believe you can do it until you have done it—and no one will ever give you permission to do it, or be disappointed when you fail to do it. But when you have finished a work of art, and caused it to live in the world, people will be astonished. They will ask you how you did it.

At which point you can decide for yourself whether to tell them the truth: You did it by disappointing others at times—but not yourself.

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