Do you have to be selfish to be creative? Does creativity make you selfish?

Picture these two scenarios.

Your friends want you to go out tonight, but you want to go home and spend another hour on your painting. They say you are a spoil sport but you just want to get home and paint because you were out at a work function last night so you have some catching up to do. You stick to your guns and go home but you wonder if you are being selfish. After all, it is important to keep up relationships with friends.

Your family want to spend time with you after dinner watching television or a DVD, but you want to go to the other room and do your piano practice.  If you miss practising for one day it makes your fingers go stiff.  They don’t appreciate this.  You know you need to do it and playing the piano makes you feel better.  You disappear off and get into your scales and arpeggios but you can’t help wondering if you are being a little bit selfish.


So does creativity make you selfish?

Both yes and no are the answer to this.  Yes, you do need to be consistent with your creative activities.  You need to take the time to regularly work on your craft.  This takes discipline.  In saying “yes” to spending time to write, making things or practising a musical instrument, you will be saying “no” to other things and other people.

Sometimes those other people will be fed up or even hurt that you are not choosing them.  Sometimes you might end up neglecting activities that you ought to keep up with.  For me, working on my writing tends to rate above things like personal filing or doing my taxes, so every now and then I have to do a huge catch up on those necessary activities.


But if you don’t scratch that creative itch

On the other hand, if you don’t take time to scratch your creative itches then you will probably be irritable, depressed and thoroughly unpleasant to be around. What use is that to anyone?

A couple of years ago my husband was unemployed for a while and it drove me nuts having him around the house all the time.  On the days that I wasn’t at my day job I was used to being on my own, gently percolating my creative thoughts and then taking action on them.  Having him around drove me crazy and it impacted on my writing.  I felt that my ideas were drying up and I had nothing to say.

After a lot of frustration I realised that I just had to ‘take’ my creative time, no matter what was going on around me. Initially it caused tension between us as I fought to stay in my creative headspace and not have conversations about what we should have for tea or other mundane matters.  It did feel selfish to avoid him for chunks of the day but I knew that I simply had to take that time as I needed it for my own sanity.

At the moment I have more demands on my time as my parents are getting older. For the past few months I have spent the first hour of my day on my writing. It feels so good to spend that time in my study doing morning pages and then drafting a blog or doing something else towards my Gentle Warrior project.

After that hour I am free to do whatever the day requires of me with a good, satisfied nature. This may be my day job, visiting my parents or spending time with my husband.  And sometimes I get to spend another few hours creating.


Make compromises but keep creating

In order to keep a creative routine you might need to cut a deal with your friends or family.

  • Maybe you make sure you see your closest friends once a week but spend the rest of your free time working on your creative project.
  • Maybe your family agree to let you have an hour a day uninterrupted piano practice time but then you agree to do an activity with your children afterwards.
  • Maybe you enlist the help of your children to encourage you to go to bed earlier so that you can get up before work and spend an hour on your writing.
  • Maybe you agree with your other half that you get to spend half a day at the weekend on your creative project and that time is sacred to you.


The world needs what only you can provide

You are channelling your emotions and life experience into a piece of art, and who ever experiences that art will have it wake up their emotions. This could be healing and life changing for them.  Don’t deprive us of this.

Even if your creations aren’t out there in the public domain, the world needs you at your best – all itches scratched!  What could be selfish about that?


Now I’d love to hear from you

What are your feelings on your creativity? What are your thoughts and challenges about taking the time that you need to be creative? What would happen if you didn’t take that time?


Next steps

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