Updated: Jul 13, 2020
One of the many challenges I face is how to make time for creative projects with young children and a job, and it seems I am not alone...
Many people have asked me the same question, and when I polled Instagram for blog topics - this exact question came up. You may or may not have children, but other family, work or life commitments. So here are my top tips on how to make the time you need, they are meant to be a guide and not a list to be ticked off. As with all things creative, progress not perfection is a moto I stand by.
First, know yourself. When do you work best, are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you like to work on several things at once, or really focus on one thing at a time? What are your limitations? I know one of mine is wanting to do everything all at once, and so I have to set realistic and flexible boundaries. Write down your ideal way of working e.g. I love to work in peace and quiet, an hour at a time, focussing on one thing and early in the morning on a Saturday. This leads us to my second tip.
Be realistic - with yourself, your expectations and situation. Creative projects are good for our well-being and can provide a great way to relieve stress and connect with others. However, if we put too much pressure on ourselves to complete projects or be perfect in our creative pursuits we run the risk of overwhelm and guilt. Consider simple ways to include creative time in your week. Look at your weekly schedule, see where you can make time based on what you have written above, then put it in your diary/on your phone/family calender. Now the key is to stick to the time as if it were an appointment. It is always easier to start by planning in a small amount of time, say an hour each week and commiting to it, rather than taking on a whole day and having other things crop up that take away your time and focus.
Understand your creativity. By this I mean know what projects you are interested in pursuing and why. Does your project require you to work alone or with others - playing an instrument or signing in a choir; is your creativity large or small in the space it needs - large scale oil painting or cooking for your family; do you need to work inside or outdoors - interior design or gardening? Asking these and similar questions will help you to plan in your time and work with your creativity rather than against it.
Soft work or hard work? I divide my creative practice into two types of working - soft work: activities I can do alongside my children or husbandand; and hard work: activity that requires complete concentration. So, for instance, I can make lists, read an article or jot down ideas while I'm with my children and they are colouring or playing in the living room independently. However, the serious business of writing can only happen with my study door shut and with no interruptions - this may require my husband taking the children out for an hour, starting my writing before the children are out of bed or even putting on a Disney film if it's the afternoon!
Finally, be kind to your creativity. Creative activity is play, a gift to be enjoyed and shared. Keep this in your mind as you plan in your time to be creative. The pleasure from creating, in whatever form, is something to be treasured and given due time. This time can lead to a greater sense of fulfillment, an opportunity to share with others and definitely enriches our lives. Here is one of my favourite quotes by Elizabeth Gilbert from her excellent book Big Magic, which reminds me that creating something consistently, no matter how small, is always better than doing nothing at all.
"You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble human virtue of inquisitveness. And that should be more than enough for anyone to say they lived a rich and splendid life."