I hear from people all the time, “I want to be more creative, I just don’t know how.” Or, more commonly, “I don’t have time!” There’s no time for all the writing, painting, sculpting, gardening, or whatever other creative endeavor you want to pursue.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: That’s nonsense. There’s plenty of time. The trick is to use what time you do have wisely. Now, I’ll admit that it’s not as easy for someone with a full-time job, kids, and a houseful of responsibility. I know. That pretty much describes my life. (Well, insert aging relatives for kids.)
But even with all that going on, there’s a simple formula that will help guide you to more creative output:
Spend more hours per day making stuff than you do doing other things.
Okay, if taken literally this might not be possible, so bear with me while I break this down. Most people sleep 8-ish hours a day. Then you have to add in at least eight hours of work. You’re already at 16 out of 24 hours right there. Not to mention things like eating, chores, kid care, etc. It’s likely not literally possible to spend 12+ hours per day on your creative stuff.
What time do you have left over? Two hours? Three? Can you make a little more time by getting up earlier or staying up later? Dropping less important activities? Once you know how many hours you have left in a day, here’s your challenge:
Spend more of them on your creative stuff than you do on other stuff.
This means that if you have two hours per day left after everything else is done, spend 1+ of them on your creative work. Shunt the TV, phone surfing, YouTubing, other hobbies, etc. into the “lesser” time.
(Also, if your “real” job is to be creative and make stuff (you’re a freelance writer, graphic designer, full time author, etc.) make sure you spend more of your workday on the creative stuff than you do on the other crap. Don’t get confused and think that social media, managing your website, billing, etc. are part of your creative work. Yes, they may be necessary chores, but they aren’t likely as important as your creative output. Put these things off to the side and do them in your “lesser” hours.)
If this seems unreasonable, and like somehow you’ll be missing out on “life,” then it may be time to question just how much you value your creative pursuits. In order to make progress, you have to make sustained effort. Just doing it in dribs and drabs once a week, or once a month isn’t going to get stuff done.
Sure, it might make a nice hobby at that pace, and if that’s what you want then there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to turn your creative pursuits into a vocation, or at least into something that grows and improves substantially with time, you need to devote time to them.
And the only way to get that time is to make your creative stuff a priority over other things. You have to say to yourself, “This is the most important use of my time right now, more important than catching up on the latest TV show or video game.”
When the majority of your free/available hours are used for your creative stuff, you’ll start to see progress. You’ll get better and more efficient at what you do. Your product will improve and you’ll start to get positive feedback. The great thing about this is, when it all starts to gel, your motivation to get better skyrockets and you start finding even more hours in your day as other things become less interesting and important. There’s a crossover point, but most people never reach it because they don’t make creating a priority.
There’s no magic wand to wave that will give your creative pursuits the boost they need. No one will come down from the sky and suddenly make you great without practice. And no one is going to suddenly tell you that there’s an extra eight hours in every day, either. You have to make the effort and the time.
The good news is that you don’t have to resort to some convoluted, complicated formula to find the time. It’s not difficult math. Just make sure that your creative pursuits get the majority of your “free” hours in a day.
(Photo courtesy of Skyangel)