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Claiming Your Right to Creative Time

Creating art can feel self-indulgent when there are bills to be paid, children clamouring for attention, ailing parents needing a visit, and food to get on the table.

One of my clients has completed a grad degree in writing and published a book, and yet she is still haunted by a voice that tells her writing is “just a hobby.” What a deflating accusation. A hobby doesn’t make any money. A hobby is something you do for pleasure, not because it’s useful. You muck around with a hobby but you’re just an amateur. A hobby comes far down on the priority list — relegated to the fringes of your day.

No wonder we find it challenging to make time for creativity when we devalue it so much.

In order to claim the right to pursue our art, we need to have a more accurate picture of its value, to ourselves and to the world.
Those of us who have the impulse to make books and paintings and songs find great meaning in creating, and that meaning keeps us happy and healthy. We have more energy to give elsewhere in our lives when we spend time alone in our studio.

And when our creations go out to find an audience, they communicate wonderful things: “I’ve felt this too — you’re not alone.” “Look how people can change.” “Isn’t life terrible and amazing?” “This should make you laugh!”

Because we often create alone, shutting ourselves in a quiet room, it seems like we are turning away from the people who need and love us. But really we are turning towards our audience, those whose hearts will be moved when they experience our finished work.

I realized recently that when someone wants me to do something — volunteer on a committee, take on a project, do them a favour — I often ask myself, “Should I do this? Is it my turn? Am I the best person for the job?” Those questions usually lead me to take on responsibilities that I resent and that cause me stress.

When I say yes to activities that take me away from writing, I’m saying no to my future readers and myself. When I say yes just so that people will approve of me and consider me responsible, isn’t that the selfish choice?

These days I try to ask myself, “Do I want to do this? Does it serve my highest good and those of others? Does it make the best use of my gifts and interests?”

I work full-time and have two young children, so my schedule is full to begin with. But I lay claim to the hour between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m., before everyone wakes up (in fact, the sun is rising as I write this post). I start my day writing and it gives me a sense of satisfaction that keeps me going through meetings and emergencies and my kids’ tantrums.

To get up that early, I go to bed by 10:00 p.m., meaning I watch less TV, neglect my email, and get behind on the laundry. Sometimes I feel selfish going to bed and leaving my husband up by himself. But then I remember that I am a better wife and mother when I take care of myself and my urge to write.

So I hereby encourage you to be self-indulgent. Bring more beauty into the world. Fill yourself with the joy and flow of creating. Connect with others through your stories, images, and sounds.

I’ve written a PDF workbook called Safeguarding Your Creative Time: A Workbook for Setting Boundaries, which walks you through the steps for deciding when to work, clearing space around your work, and protecting your work time.

To subscribe to my newsletter and get your copy of the workbook, click here.

Photo courtesy of papalars

2010

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