5 Tips for Fitting Creativity into a Busy Schedule

Austin Kleon says in his (completely awesome) book Steal Like An Artist that all advice is autobiographical: when people share their wisdom with you, they’re really sharing it with their past selves. That makes so much sense to me, and it’s absolutely true. Whenever I share tips on anything, I’m really sharing them with myself. This one is particularly close to my heart. In the past ten years, I’ve learned way more than I ever wanted to about making time for the things I love in the midst of a busy schedule. I have been thinking about it an awful lot lately, since it’s been such a hectic summer, so I wanted to put these things in writing, to remind myself, and in case any of it might be of use to someone else. These are some things I scribbled in my journal on a rushed afternoon, and that, I think, is as good of an illustration of the principles at hand as there can be. But, here are my bullet points nonetheless.

1. Make every moment count. I spatialize time, and I always have. A week stretches out before me in five long columns, a weekend in two. Any obligations I have take up chunks of those columns, and then I start to feel…boxed in. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and I certainly have felt that way. What gives me great hope, though, is just how much can happen in a ten-minute span of waiting for the bus, or a spin through an empty hallway on the way to a meeting, or even something beautiful glimpsed out of my car window or an exciting idea that pops into my head, out of the blue. These things are everyday magic, and I’m so grateful for them. These little moments are my way of staying engaged, of keeping a line open for inspiration to speak to me. One of the most beautiful things I ever saw was a pattern of dust and footfalls on a staircase, and I saw it right when I was late for a class and aggravated with financial aid. It totally transported me. Moments like that just set me reeling, feeling all throughout my body, how good it is to be alive.

2. Write it down. I have oodles of notecards, receipts, magazine leaflets, napkins and much more full of scribbles, detailing ideas that came to me at some time when I couldn’t give them all of my attention. I am so glad I did not let them pass me by. When I feel stuck, I flip through these little records of inspiration, and they help me get going when I’ve actually got some time for creative things.

3. Celebrate the small things. I try not to get discouraged by small increments of time. Even if I know I only have time to knit one row, I knit it. If I only have time to paint one line on a painting, I paint it. Or at least I try to. If I only have ten minutes of waiting at a doctor’s office, I try to spend it thinking, really thinking, about things that are important to me. This one is one I could stand to reminded of every single day.

4. Never give up. It is so easy to get discouraged when you don’t have a big chunk of time to devote to your quilt or your writing or photography or music. And that’s totally okay. I try to be gentle with myself when I feel that way, and then remind myself that sometimes limitations–on our time, our resources, our inspiration–can really lead us to majestic places.

5. Take yourself on a greatest hits tour. If you are feeling down, remember all the things you’ve created that have made you proud, the things you remember feeling pure joy working on, the things have moved other people, even if it was only your mom or your wife. Those things, they’re why we do what we do. So keep on doing.

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