Tag Archives: art

Scheduling Time for Creativity

ClockI’m a big believer in the idea that professional writers — or professional artists of any style — don’t sit around and wait for inspiration to strike in order to be creative. Certainly, there’s a need for inspiration when you’re creating something from nothing, but inspiration comes from doing not from waiting. As Stephen King says in his book On Writing:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

But I admit, I’ve had a lot of trouble with that recently. And when I say “recently”, I mean “over the last 18 months”.

There’s a lot of reasons for this. Poor prioritising, perhaps. Or poor time management. Or, more likely, a lack of energy and focus. But in all fairness, it’s not easy to find energy and fairness when you’re the primary carer for an incredibly demanding child like 22 month old Little Brother.

For the last 18 months, he’s been waking me up anywhere between 3:45am and 4:30am. Every day. And every moment I’m not actively supervising him, he’s breaking something or emptying the contents of my cupboards all through the house.

By the time the boys are both in bed asleep (generally between 6:00pm and 7:00pm), I’m exhausted.

And so writing has happened when and if I could fit it in.

But this week, something amazing has happened.

When we were away on holidays last week, I didn’t have a cot in the hotel room. Little Brother is 91cm tall (3 foot) tall. He’s really too big for a fold-up cot. So I put a bedrail on a single bed, pushed it against the wall, and hoped for the best. And he was fine.

Next week, we’re visiting my parents for Christmas and have the same problem re: portable cots, so he’ll be sleeping in a single bed again.

It seemed silly to spend a week with him in a bed, then put him in a cot for a week and a half, and then back to a bed. So we decided to take the plunge and convert Little Brother’s cot into a junior bed.

Big Boy Bed!

Oh. My. Goodness.

All of a sudden, he’s not waking me up at 4:00 in the morning anymore. Yesterday, he slept until 6:45am. Today was 6:30am.

Do you have any idea how amazing it is to get to sleep in until 6:30 in the morning? Let me tell you: after months of 4:00am wake-ups, 6:30 is pure bliss.

Suddenly, I’m not so tired in the evenings.

Suddenly, I’ve got a chance to reclaim some time for myself.

My husband has his own projects that he’s working on, so we’ve decided to set aside time every evening for both of us to work on our own things, and then come back together to clean up, talk, and spend time together. To that end, I’m writing every night between 7:30 and 8:30. One hour a day. It doesn’t seem like much, when you think about it. But that’s seven hours every week. Thirty hours every month.

And since I can write 500 – 1000 words in an hour, that means I can theoretically finish my first draft within the next two months.

It feels good to have time scheduled for creativity. Thank you, Little Brother. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

How do you schedule time for writing into the rest of your life?

 

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The Last Day of School

Today was Big Brother’s last day of school for the year. Amazingly, it’s summer holidays. And I find myself asking: How did this happen? Where did the year go?

First and Last Day of School 2012

Big Brother on the first and last day of school.

It’s hard to believe my boy will be at school full-time next year. Already. It feels like only yesterday I was dropping him off for his first day, wondering whether he was going to be happy or sad, wondering whether he’d cry and latch on to me or if he’d walk away without a backward glance. And here we are at the end of the year, with him chattering on excitedly about everything he’s going to do next year and how much he’s going to look after the little kids.

In many ways, he’s still the same little boy he was at the start of the year. I feel like he hasn’t changed at all.

But he has.

He’s more confident. He’s more imaginative. He’s more inclined to do craft and tell stories and sing songs. He’s more eager to help around the house, and to ask if he can do jobs for me.

He’s more grown up.

At the end of year Festival this morning, we were given a bundle of his drawings, paintings, and craft work that he did throughout the year. (The teachers hold on to it rather than sending it home piecemeal.) We sat down as a family and looked through his pictures, starting with the ones he did in February and working through to the more complicated pictures done over the last couple of months. The progression is striking.

And then there’s the knitted turtle he made — he did the finger-knitting and his teacher attached it to the turtle shaped body. And the beautiful sewing project — he did all the stitching on a lovely little heart-shaped pillow. He’s so very, very proud of them. And I’m so very, very proud of him.

121206 - Tristan's Artwork

Do you get all gushy at the end of a school year, or is it just me?

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Filed under Life With Kids

Yes, you DO have time!

Ever feel guilty that you don’t have time to write/exercise/paint/fulfill your lifelong ambition of visiting every shoe store in the state?

Ever wish you had just one more hour every day?

Fear not! Your worries are over! For the low, introductory price of $19.95 (plus shipping and handling), I can show you everything you need to know about finding time to achieve your heart’s desire!

Yes, you DO have time!

I’m just kidding about the money. (Unless you want to send me some. I am a poor, struggling artist after all.) But I do have the answer to my your our problems.

You’ve probably heard it said before that we all have the same amount of time — 24 hours in every day. So why does it seem like some people can work 12 hour days, write a novel every month, look after seven children, start a small business, and still have time to go shopping, where I you other people barely have time to write a couple of blog posts every week?

Is there some kind of time-turner on the market that I haven’t discovered?

Do these time-savvy people have a DeLorean in their garage?

No. Well, maybe. I don’t actually know. But what I do know is that I have a non-time travel-intensive way for me you us to find the time to write/exercise/paint/shop to our heart’s content. And I’m willing to share it with you for the low price of $19.95 free.

Let’s call it the PAE system.

Hold on, I think that deserves larger type.

The PAE System

Step 1: prioritize

I know, I know, prioritising doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Isn’t that what you do when you’ve written a list of Very Important (Boring) Tasks?

This may (or may not) surprise you, but you spend all day prioritising. All. Day. Would you like an example? Excellent.

Shall I watch TV or cook dinner?

Internalized questions: Which is most important right now? Am I hungry? Do I have to cook dinner for other people, or just myself? Is there something I particularly want to watch on TV? Is there a way I can do both?

If you’re not hungry and you don’t have the responsibility of cooking for someone else, watching TV is a higher priority than cooking dinner.

If you are hungry and you don’t have the responsibility og cooking for someone else, making dinner is a slightly higher priority, but could be over-ruled by TV if there’s something on that you particularly want to watch.

If you need to cook dinner for a family, it becomes a priority. Unless you can find a way to do both at once.

In that scenario, there are a number of listed variables that determine whether dinner or TV will be a higher priority right now. But there is also another variable, and that variable is you. Every person will prioritize slightly differently.

Let me make one thing clear: You CHOOSE to do everything you do. You CHOOSE to prioritize the way you spend your time.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “I don’t want to go to work. I’d rather stay at home and write/exercise/paint/shop all day! I have to go to work.”

No, you don’t. You really don’t. Check your hands and shoulders. Any strings attached? Have you turned into a marionette overnight? No?

You CHOOSE to go to work.

You make that choice because if you don’t, you don’t get paid. If you don’t get paid, you can’t pay your bills and put food on the table.

Like most of us, you PRIORITIZE the need for food and shelter above your need to purchase shoes.

And you do this every day, without giving it a second thought.

What else do you do with your 168 hours every week?

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Travel
  • Spend time with your partner, kids, parents, friends, dogs, houseplants, etc
  • Watch TV
  • Play computer games
  • Facebook
  • Tweet
  • The list goes on and on and on

What you do with your time is completely up to you.

Hold on, let me say that again:

What you do with your time is completely up to you.

You have the power. You have the control. Now, you need to learn how to wield it. Now, you need to learn how to actively prioritize.

Spend a few minutes thinking about the things that are most important to you. Your job, your family, your friends, your sleep, your food, your housework, your relaxation time (don’t kid yourself and think that relaxing isn’t important — whether you meditate, watch TV, play computer games or read a book, make sure you include time to chill out), writing, exercise, painting, shopping, whatever.

I’m not going to ask you to rank them in order of importance. That’s a fool’s game. All of them are important. If they weren’t you wouldn’t have listed them.

But when you’re prioritising, you’re not trying to replace one thing with another. You’re trying to take control of your time, and work out a more effective way of using it.

Is it okay to come home from a 15 hour work day and collapse in front of the TV for 4 hours instead of writing? Yes. You’ve just prioritized relaxation over writing for one night. That’s not a bad thing.

Is it okay to come home every night and collapse in front of the TV instead of writing? Yes. Absolutely. You’ve just prioritized relaxation over writing on a permanent basis. Also not a bad thing. Just realise that your job (financial solvency) and relaxation is a higher priority than your writing career at the moment. And that’s also okay.

Step 2: Act On It

Now that you’re aware that you have the power, act on it. Own it. Embrace it.

If you want to do more writing/exercise/painting/shopping, make it a higher priority.

All I want to do is relax in front of the TV. Hang on, is that what I really want? Is that my priority? I also want to get some writing done. Which is most important to me right now?

Again, this scenario has multiple variables and options. If you’re exhausted, maybe relaxation is a higher priority. Likewise if there’s a program on that you really want to watch. Maybe you want a break, but still want to prioritize writing. I’ll watch TV for half an hour, and then go and write for an hour. Or the other way around. I’ll do half an hour of writing, and then relax for the evening.

Don’t cut out everything you enjoy. Don’t replace one hobby with another. Just be mindful of your decisions and act on your priorities.

Step 3: Enjoy!

You’ve done it. You’ve worked out your priority, made a decision, and acted on. Now enjoy it.

If you want to prioritize your family over your writing, don’t sit around feeling guilty that you haven’t made your daily word count. Relax and revel in the fact that you OWN that decision.

If you want to prioritize sleep over exercise, don’t feel bad that you missed your morning run. Sit down and enjoy your breakfast, knowing that you CHOSE to do so.

If you want to prioritize watching American Idol re-runs over painting, go for it. Enjoy it. Tweet about. And know that you took control of your life.

If you want to go out and buy shoes instead of working, do it. You may end up living under a bridge, but damn your feet will look hot. And no-one can take that power away from you.

What you do with your time is completely up to you.

It’s as easy as P.A.E.

Let me give you an example from my own life. (Because I know you like to read about me almost as much as I like to talk about me.)

I used to say that I wished I had more time for writing. But with two small boys, a shift-working husband, and a house to look after, I rarely found time to sit and concentrate for long. I’m awake with my youngest boy before 5:00am every morning, and am kept busy with kids and housework until my eldest goes to sleep at 8:00pm. That gives me around 8 hours each night to fit in time with my husband, sleep, and anything I want to do on my own (ie. write).

I spent a good deal of time feeling frustrated because I didn’t have enough time to write. Then I started to think about the choices I was making, and the real priorities I had.

I could put the boys in child-care one or two days a week, and use those days for writing. Or I could stick the boys in front of the TV for 5 or 6 hours a day (ah, free child-care) and use that time for writing. But I chose not to. Why? Because I made the CHOICE every day to prioritize time with my children over time spent writing or time spent doing paid work.

I could ignore the dirty bathrooms, do the dishes once a day, buy pre-packaged baby food and snacks, and save a lot of time by doing minimal housework. But I made the CHOICE every day to be as close to the ideal of the “perfect housewife” as I could manage.

These were both choices I was making. I was made the choice to prioritize my kids and my role as housewife over my writing career. And I really didn’t want to change that. I wanted it all.

So I acted on it. I asked my husband to help out. I asked if he would prioritize child-care for 20 hours a month. And he said yes. So for 2.8% of every month, I get to be a “fulltime novelist” and lock myself away to work on my book.

Would I like more than 20 hours a month to write? Absolutely. But also: Absolutely not. Because having more time put aside for writing would mean prioritising writing above something else that’s important to me. So instead of complaining, I relax and enjoy the writing time that I’ve got, as well as the time to spend doing everything else. 

And I know that I’m in control of my time, not the other way around.

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