Squeezing Creativity Into Your Life: A Few Tips

Thin trail in medium-height grass.Creativity makes us human – our evolutionary ancestors wouldn’t have moved past the African jungles without curiosity and creativity. Yet many people say that they have no time for creativity.

Being creative, as I’ve mentioned before, isn’t about waiting for inspiration to hit and then spending hours on your novel (that you’ll finish “some day”) or your painting (that will sit on its easel for months to come) or your new skirt (speaking of which, I should start mine before the season’s over). Creativity is about purposefully fitting time into each day to explore other ideas.

Here are a few tips you can use to fit creativity in to your daily life:

Write Out Your Weekly Schedule

You don’t have to track your week, but write out your general schedule for each day of the week. You should see pockets of time where you can squeeze in an activity. For example, I spend 15 minutes on the bus and 25 minutes over lunch reading a book that inspires me to write. That’s already 40 minutes x 4 days/week = 2 hours and 40 minutes of reading about my craft, which brings me to the next topic.

Study Your Craft

Keep some key websites bookmarked, or visit your library for a book or two on your craft or project. The more you learn about how others do what you’re trying to do, the faster your own skill will develop, because you’re not spending time making beginner mistakes. Instead, you’re playing in the intermediate or advanced area, which is where you’re more likely to find your voice.

Keep a Short List of Your Creative Aims With You

I tuck a very thin 2.5” x 4” Moleskine booklet into my pocket all the time. It helps filter my commitments: If something doesn’t fit those goals, then I usually don’t commit to it. (I say usually, because, well, I’m not perfect, and I like to help people where I can. But I also do say no.)

Figure out What You Can Do When

My husband and I often work opposing schedules. So when he’s at work, I look after the kids. I’ve learned through trial and error and lots of frustration that I can’t sit at the computer whiling looking after my kids. Even if they’re playing peacefully on a different floor in the house, they have computer antennae that inform them the moment I sit down at the computer to write. I can nap on the living room couch while they’re playing in front of me, but I can’t work at the computer.

However, I can brainstorm, read, garden, and sew while in charge of the kids. If they’re in a really strong “let’s keep talking to Mommy” mood, then I’ll do something that leaves my mind free to talk to them. I could, for example, bake an easy recipe.

Split Your Project Into Small Tasks

This needn’t be formal: it can be in your head or on paper. However, if you have an idea of the various tasks you can do as part of your creative exploration, then when you suddenly have a spare 15 minutes, you can actively do something instead of spending time deciding what to do.

Cut out TV and Your Devices

I’m not suggesting living like a luddite. Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father, scorned “technology” in his day when he and a friend tried to harvest several acres of farmland by hand instead of using oxen. But be mindful of your technology use. If your tv show is in a rerun phase during the season, turn off the tube and do something creative. Likewise, if your phone is constantly ringing, turn it off if it’s feasible. Turn off your email program, turn off your notifications, or use a program like Scrivener that can take over your screen and force you to focus. If you’re not convinced, read Cal Newport’s website. He gives excellent advice (and often research and his own experiences) on how to focus.

Is This Really Possible?

Everyone’s day is different from the next person’s. My typical day includes work (6-8 hours a day), looking after the kids, cooking many (but not all) meals, getting the kids to a few lessons, and spending time with my husband. And yet I manage to squeeze in an hour or two a day of creative time, because I always have a book on me, I do write later at night on the “for fun” projects, and I’ve learned what activities I can do for me but still be available for my kids.

It takes some experimenting, so take it a step at a time. Remember, though, to be flexible: as your family grows, your children will change. You want to do your best to find creative time no matter your daily grind, but stay open-minded about when that time is.

Do you have any tips on how to find creative for yourself despite family and life obligations?

2 thoughts on “Squeezing Creativity Into Your Life: A Few Tips

  1. I used to think that I could only create if I had a long interrupted period of time to work in. I was wrong. Even 10 minutes here and there over a day filled a page or two, and I could do that with pen and paper, so I didn’t have to be “away” from the action.

    • I used to be the same, too. You can imagine how much I used to get done: wait for long periods of time + inspiration = lots of first drafts 🙂 It’s amazing what we can accomplish in a few minutes. If it’s late at night and I still want to contribute something to a project, I’ll pick one paragraph and maybe work on the description for ten minutes or clean it up a bit. There’s a lot you can do in such little time.

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