You have a job and a family – and a passion for your creative project.
You squeeze your creative activity into whatever gap you can find in your schedule whether that is on the train, on the toilet or when everyone else is watching Netflix.
You forego social plans and knuckle down to either doing the work or promoting your work.
You tell yourself it is worth it and you are being true to yourself.
There is only one problem. You are exhausted.
Does it have to be this hard?
This was me
This was me in June.
Monday 4th June to be precise when I sat down to do my morning pages, completely exhausted from all the activities I had crammed into the previous two weekends, questioning whether my extreme tiredness was worth it.
I came to the conclusion that it was worth it as I would rather be half dead from exhaustion than half dead from not living.
But that doesn’t mean it was a good situation. At the time I was juggling family responsibilities, writing, doing my day job, helping to plan a course for my Buddhist organisation and trying to keep on top of domestic chores. For the preceding few weeks I had known that packing everything into my life like this was not sustainable.
I was frustrated. Whether it was the gardening or edits on my novel, I couldn’t give the amount of time to the endeavour that it really required. It was like plate spinning. I was leaping from one pole to another doing a little bit of activity to keep that particular show on the road, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to keep it up and eventually the plates would come crashing down.
There is a quote from Jim Rohn, one of the grandfathers of the personal development world, that reads:
Resolve says, “I will.” The man says, “I will climb this mountain. They told me it is too high, too far, too steep, too rocky, and too difficult. But it’s my mountain. I will climb it and you will soon see me waving from the top or dead on the side from trying.”
This is definitely me!
How can we make it do-able?
A fully lived life is not always an easy one. Most people don’t have the gumption for it. The trouble with us creatives is that if we don’t get to do our creative work then we will always feel that something is missing.
I don’t have all the answers to this. Hell, I wish I did. All I know that it is a continual balancing act. For a few weeks one regime will work, then something will disrupt it and then you have to try again.
Sometimes you’ll get all those plates spinning beautifully, other times they are going to wobble and crash to the floor. There will be occasions when you will have to choose those plates very carefully and not spin so many. This is what I am doing at the moment.
So how can you make it easier on yourself?
- Know why you are doing it. This is going to more palatable if you are internally motivated by the creative process than by external validation of the results. If you just want external validation then you might not get it, which is going to make the journey even harder.
- You need to have fun. Fun replenishes your spirit and replenishes your creative juices. It is ok to occasionally blow out on your creative time and do something fun.
- You need to nourish yourself. For me this means hanging out in environments that feed my soul. Sometimes its spending time soaking up the buzz of Central London, other times it is walking among trees and a couple of times a year I need to see the waves crashing on the seashore.
- Learn to say No. You can’t fit it all in. You have to prioritise. If you are bad at saying No then you will find some handy hints in this blog: Don’t have enough time to create? Learn to say No.
- The creative life is a marathon not a sprint. Progress is sometimes incremental. That’s why it is good to create on a ‘little and often’ basis. Over time this mounts up. Julia Cameron calls this small regular activity ‘laying track’. Eventually the track will take you somewhere. It might not take you where you had originally planned but it will take you somewhere.
- If you are a sprinter then build in time to rest and recuperate. You can’t sprint all of the time. In the training schedule of top athletes, the periods of rest are as important as the active times.
- Most people give up when the going gets tough. By keeping going, even if your progress is really slow, you are already ahead of the crowd.
The creative life will have its difficult moments. However hard they are, I still think it is better than not answering the call and living a life of regret.
Regrets are more painful. If you don’t take action towards your creative goals you start to develop a rose tinted view of what might have been possible. This amplifies the regret even more. At least by plodding on, however hard or slow it seems, you know you have given it your all and achieved the very best that you can.
Even if it isn’t realistic for you to fully realise your dreams, it is better to find an alternative way to scratch that itch than do nothing.
I have a book of daily Buddhist guidance and this is what it said for 4th June, that day when I was so exhausted:
Death will come to each of us some day. We can die having fought hard for our beliefs and convictions, or we can die having failed to do so. Since the reality of death is the same in either case, isn’t it far better that we set out on our journey toward the next existence in high spirits and with a bright smile on our faces – knowing that in everything we did, we did the very best we could, thrilling with the sense “That was truly an interesting life”? (by Daisaku Ikeda)
Shall we plod forwards gently together and create a truly interesting life?
P.S. Just for clarity, personally I have never done my creative work while enthroned in the lavatory but I do know of writers who do utilise that time!
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