One of the things I hear from gifted people is that being creative sure sounds good, but who has time for that kind of stuff?
I hear ya. Most people have jobs, they have families, they have responsibilities. There’s a claim on every one of those 168 hours in a week.
Everyone has the same time allocation per day and per week; none of us are special enough to get an extension.
It’s so easy to fill up your plate, and if you don’t others will gladly fill it for you.
I’ve known outrageously talented musicians who gave it up after they got married, and amazing writers who stuck their gift in the junk drawer after taking on a new job. After growing up.
Too busy, priorities changed, things like that.
A tiger in your tank
When I took a job driving a taxi some years ago, I fell in love with the freedom of being my own boss, liked the money, and worked a lot of 60-hour weeks. Writing? Who’s got time for that foolishness?
Come to realize later that I had to write. Needed to. Was going all dysfuntional without it. Learned that when you have a gift and you don’t use it, it’ll rip you to shreds. Like the old Esso gasoline commercial goes, it’s like having a tiger in your tank.
Here’s the deal. I have that gift that claws me from the inside. I also like to eat. And have a life. And improve my mind. And help folks who have that creative itch. And keep up with all the news, trends and gossip. And find time to read, hang out with friends, and go hiking every so often. So what’s a guy to do?
Everybody’s got time constraints
I’m not going to go all efficiency-expert on you and suggest ways to maximize those hours. Not here anyway. But everything that goes on your plate got there either by active choice, or as the byproduct of another active choice.
Like sleeping. I must have my straight eight, though I can get by on seven. Much less than that, I can feel the dropoff.
Or work. Most of us have that every day, at 40-50 a week. That’s not real negotiable either. Or a spouse and young’uns. That’s job one, so it’s also not real negotiable. Leaving them completely out of the picture means some hopelessly screwed-up priorities.
OK. All those things are a given. If you spend a third of your life asleep and a third of it working, it’s that final third that gets interesting.
Now here’s the trick. It really doesn’t take much time or equipment to exercise your Muse, and if you’re consistent about it the Muse shows up when you do.
A few minutes with the Muse
My best weapon is be those odd between-times that eat up so much of my day. Standing in line. Browsing the produce section at StuffMart. Slow periods on the job (watch it). Taking the bus to work. Those times where you don’t need to be actively engaged.
Since writing is my main gift, it’s probably a little easier. I always carry the following tools everywhere I go, even (seriously) to the head:
• Packet of index cards
• Composition book
That’s all. The index cards are there to capture and develop an idea. The smartphone becomes an all-purpose tool and occasional time waster. The cool thing is I can write on it, and everything ends up on my computer. But the real work is done in my 99-cent composition book.
The other day I needed to take a bus downtown, an hour-long ride. Rather than complain about that colossal waste of time, I had that composition book out. Knocked out about 1,000 words. That’s about four pages, a good output. Time well spent.
See, I’m getting better at identifying those times where active engagement isn’t required and am getting better about using them.
The important vs. the merely urgent
It’s not such a good thing to borrow from, say, quality time with the spouse and/or kids. Forget about cutting into your family dinner hour. But there’s nothing wrong with having your notebook out while you’re sitting with the horde during your communal TV time. You’re there, close enough for the family unit to touch but getting your work done.
John Grisham had a fairly busy life. He was a lawyer who also served as a state legislator. Time was at a premium for him, but nearly all artists can claim that unless there’s a trust fund somewhere.
Can’t find time? Now might be a real good time to audit your day. What are your big commitments? Which ones are important? Which ones are merely urgent, and who made them so?
From there, again, it breaks down to choices. Priorities. Some things belong at the top of the list, like family and making a living. Others, not so much.
If the latest episode of CSI is more important than developing and using your gift, you’re at the wrong website.
If chatting with your Facebook buddies is more important than putting together a few paragraphs, sketching out a few ideas or developing a marketing plan for your Next Big Thing, go ahead and do so. But please don’t tell me you don’t have enough time.
Grisham decided he needed to write. He had a story that needed to be told. Maybe it was that tiger thing again. Busy as he was, he spent a few minutes when he could, writing his first draft for A Time To Kill on a legal pad in his desk. A few minutes at a time.
Do the math here. A novel takes up about 70,000-100,000 words. If we split that down the middle, called it 85,000 and decided to do the first draft in a year, that’s what — 233 words a day? Less than a page. So it’s doable.
Now understand that’s just a first draft and it’ll probably stink out the joint. Mine always do, and every writer will tell you the same thing. But that’s OK.
You’ll have it down.
You’ll have something to work with.
You’ll have started and completed something.
Now, wasn’t that better than CSI?