Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Time Management for Creative Individuals

Following your creative passions can be tricky.

Creatives tend to be drawn by inspiration, which is not something you can assign to come visiting at seven am and let you retire by four in the afternoon. Creativity is a delicate beast that will wake you up just when you've drifted off with the PERFECT ending to the story that's been challenging you for weeks, the EXACT color and texture of your next series of paintings. It will reveal the steps for a dance that will push you to drag your toes over the carpet through the early hours of morning to get it right, trying so hard not to wake your neighbors as you sketch out the choreography across the floor of your tiny apartment kitchen.

Although I am all for following these moments of creative genius, you can't always be a slave to it. Sometimes you have limited time, limited energy, you need to work or sleep or take care of the kids. If you have a creative passion, you have to make the best of the time you have. With inspiration being fickle as it is, how do you balance creativity with the organization of the rest of your life?


When you are truly inspired to create something, it can be brilliant. You feel massive quantities of creative energy flowing through you, and every phrase or brushstroke seems effortless. Often you work at a faster pace, flying through your pursuit of choice because you can see exactly what you want to put out there and you are terrified to stop until it is finished, lest you lose this genius.

But this is inconvenient. If you are working a 9-5 until your creative side work takes off, working through the night on personal projects could have a negative effect on your paycheck in the long run. I can't exactly warn you away from this, as I am all too guilty of grabbing an idea at midnight and running with it until the sun comes up. I can, however, recommend that you try to keep these nights to  a minimum. Instead, learn to incorporate bursts of inspiration into your life. Keep a notepad or something with you at all times so you can jot down ideas about anything and everything. I use the simple typing app that came on my phone and just make tons of lists, including one where I blurt out story ideas in scrambled fragments and another where I challenge myself to describe the various unique people on the city bus. In this way you can relax and know that though you are not creating right this instant, you will have the tools you need by your side when you get a free moment.


Raise your hand if you've ever had this happen… You are building this great idea all week, taking notes on everything, and you FINALLY get a chance to sit down and play with it- maybe you have a whole DAY free- and you're so excited and then… Then your dog dies, your boyfriend breaks up with you, your mother gets sick. Something happens and all of a sudden you are not in the mood to create this fantastic piece of work. Or perhaps it's the opposite, maybe you've been working on this dark self-portrait in purples and reds and blacks, and suddenly your visa has been approved to move to France, you got a bonus at work, you've gotten engaged. And now you feel way too happy to get back to that old, sad painting.

Either way, you're stuck with a piece of work that came from the heart that suddenly feels less perfect. This is the challenge of being creative- if it is truly something you want to put out there, you need to finish it, no matter what mood you're in. Starting is easy. When you are following inspiration's excited path, it takes you by the hand and leads you into wondrous forests, deep valleys and beautiful mountain ranges. But this is like inspiration got tired of it all, sat down and stomped it's feet a little. Now it's saying, after having gotten you all the way here, "I'm tired. I'm not going any further."

Are you going to sit down next to it and give up?

The thing to do in these cases is to use your emotions to your advantage. If you're a creative I'm guessing you, like me, tend to have a million different projects going on at the same time. Some might be pushed back months or even years as other, more exciting things rise to the surface, but if you really love them you tend to keep them. Now is when you have to start using your changing moods to your advantage. If you're upset, find your saddest piece of work- your most dramatic and sorrow-filled dance, your most tragic script. Work on that. Use everything you're experiencing and connect it with the project that needs it most. If you're happier, work on that uplifting song, that bright and shiny poetry. Whatever emotions you are going through might be inconvenient for your current project, but they can always be utilized for something!


I've always found my creativity is more abundant when I am incredibly busy and, in theory, have way less time to do anything. I think this is because when most of your waking hours are filled with scheduled activity, it really forces you to focus your creative time. You don't have the option to fool around with mindless Instagram scrolling (though, man is there some gorgeousness on Instagram these days) if you want to tackle your dreams.

It also helps get rid of the fear of imperfection, which is crippling to so many creative types. Instead of worrying about what's perfect, you just worry about getting everything out. You don't have the time to critique yourself, so you end up getting the raw ideas into a great place to be edited, and in turn your editing becomes that much more direct and ruthless.


Get yourself out into the world and open up to new experiences. Sitting at home staring at the wall, while occasionally productive for deep thinking, isn't usually the best way to find influences for your work. Keep your eyes and ears open and let everything inspire you. Even if you're not consciously connecting every color on the subway or each changing leaf to a work of art you're going to bring forth, having a constant awareness increases the encyclopedia of things your mind has to call on in the future.


Finally, make it clear to the important people in your life, the friends and family you so often give time and energy to, that sometimes you need the time and space to work on your creative pursuits. Tell your friends not to call you for that one hour in the evening, ask your sister if she can take care of your daughter for an afternoon each week so you can focus on your sculptures (maybe you can take her out to lunch in return). Turn your train ride to work into a focused environment- wear noise canceling headphones and don't let yourself check your phone or anything, just work on that novel. There is always a way to create time and space for your creative calling- you just have to find it.

No comments:

Post a Comment