3 tips to find time for creativity

You don't notice Time until you're running short. We spend our days dashing from work to chores to weekend commitments, and it's back to another busy-bee week!

Create. Make. Explore. Whatever your preferred creative activity, there are dozens of ways to slow down time. And yet the irony is that we find it so hard to find the time to engage in things that nourish us greatly.

Here are my top three tips to find time for creativity in your life.

1) Be realistic and be kind

Did you know about the fresh start effect? Viv and I had first-hand experience of that in 2014 when we decided to attend a meditation centre, a ukulele group and a gym exercise class all in the first week of January. Every event was packed with people! The week after? Only the core attenders remain. The week after that? We stopped going. The phenomenon is that significant dates like new year, birthdays and anniversaries inspire us to pursue self-improvement projects. The effect tails off until the next fresh start comes around.

How many of us go through these cycles of ambitious aspirations before life smacks us down with its competing demands? And how do you usually respond to not meeting your own ambitious plans? Maybe a mixture of exasperation and rolling your eyes at yourself? Often this reaction snuffs out any zeal or motivation.

Here is my trick to spark up the fresh-start effect again and again. Firstly, give yourself a break! There are only 24 hours in a day, and your waking hours need to be divided between important priorities. Be kind. You are not failing. Rather, the goals you set are floating in a vacuum, removed from the day-to-day things you are currently juggling. Resist the urge to beat yourself up. Use kindness to fuel you.

Try to carve out more modest goals because they're more sustainable. For example, doing one new craft workshop every three months is a realistic and achievable target that will make a big difference to your memories of the year. Finding an hour on one Sunday a month to sit and play that ukulele is a good enough start. And good enough is good enough.

2) Take stock

It's easy enough to say 'be kind' but the practice is not so simple. I find that it is useful to keep in mind an important scientific insight into stages of change.

Most of us who despair about not having enough time for our creative pursuits are in the "Contemplation" phase. We recognise that the status quo is falling short of our aspirations but have no concrete plans to bring about change. In order to move from "Contemplation" to "Preparation", we have to take stock.

This starts with examining how we are currently spending our time. I suggest that you find a quiet 30 minutes with a notepad and a pen and answer the following questions:

a) What does creativity mean for me? What does it make me feel?

b) What am I missing out by not engaging in any of my creative pursuits?

c) How much time do I spend at home and what do I do with that time?

Use this exercise to explore what kinds of creativity nourish you most. Is it something about doing traditional crafts? Or the deep stillness after painting? Or the beaming pride of having made a beautiful thing from paper or fabric or clay? Whatever it may be, write it down. Take stock and really revel in it. It will serve as your vision, your beacon, your steadfast guide.

Notice how the diagram of the stages of change has double-headed arrows between the stages. It means that we can often slip from one stage to another, reverse back and then leap forward. Between "Maintenance" and "Pre-contemplation" is relapse when we go back to our old habits of watching TV, playing games on our phones and browsing through social media. This is how our feral minds tend to move. If you're able to accept that, you can be generous with yourself. Every time you lapse, you start again.

3) Have a buddy

Don't do it alone. Creative pursuits are often one-person journeys whether it be writing a poem, photography, crochet, cross-stitch or whatever else. We crave kindred spirits to share our deep joys.

Extroverts, tell everyone about your hobby and what you intend to do. Introverts, tell everyone in your inner circle. You will be amazed how many like-minded people are in your networks. They just need the opportunity to talk about your shared passions.

Once you have a buddy or buddies, you can set yourself little prompts or projects together. Maybe it is a baking challenge to accompany watching The Great British Bake Off. Maybe it is a commitment to write a haiku every week. Maybe it is a charity craft auction that you each are making something towards. Maybe it is just a Creative Afternoon once a month where friends gather to play each other a song or sit together to crochet and knit or make greeting cards together. "Together" is the key word.

Let me know your thoughts here or here. Happy creating, you crafty people!

First photo: copyright of Heather Lumgair.

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