At last you decided to get serious about your creativity. You get yourself into a groove with it and are working to a consistent pattern. You enjoy it. You’re so excited about the possibilities. And then – Bam! Something happens. Life throws you something that is so big that it completely screws up your plans.
Maybe a major situation kicks off at work which is going to see you return to a sixty hour week. Maybe someone close to you dies. Maybe one of your parents falls ill and you have to spend a lot of time looking after them.
Now your creativity is in shambles. The time that you had so carefully carved out for it is swallowed up. You know that if you were a ‘serious’ artist then you would burn the midnight oil, never sleep, never do anything social again and create no matter what. But you’re too knackered now, both mentally and physically, to cope with finding time for art and doing anything meaningful towards it.
It feels like the bad old days before you starting working on your art, except now it is worse because you’ve had a taste of what it is to be an artist and you are having to let that go.
A three step approach
- Breathe and be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that something massive happened and that you are doing well to cope with it.
- Figure out what you need to do to take care of yourself in terms of eating, sleeping and mental fortitude so that you can sustain the efforts required to deal with the new situation. This is a very important step. Your efforts have to be sustainable or you will end up kissing goodbye to everything, not just your creativity.
- Access what you can salvage from your creative routine.
If it just a case that you won’t be doing any for a week or two then accept this. Deal with the emergency and come back to your plans in a couple of weeks. In the greater scheme of things, two weeks is not a huge amount of time out of your life.
Reassess your routine
If it is looking like your time is changing for the long term then you have to reassess how you can do your creativity. It may come down to really squeezing it in to the nooks and crannies of your time.
Although this will mean doing less than you would like it will at least keep things ticking over. Don’t give up on your creativity all together because even though the circumstances are awful, having an hour or so, here and there to do your own work can be your refuge from everything else.
It might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened
It doesn’t have to be all bad. Sometimes when something comes along that threatens to take away your creative time you can see just how committed you really are to your project.
A few months ago my Mum got ill and had to spend some time in hospital. I work three days a week in my IT day job and therefore think of Mondays and Tuesdays as my creative days. However, now I was spending those days at my parents doing anything and everything that they needed.
As I saw my creative time disappearing I realised that my writing was not something I did as a ‘nice to have’ if I had the time. It was something I needed to do or I would die!
I therefore saw the situation as a very positive test of my creativity. It was fantastic to know that I just had to find some time to write, no matter how small.
In order to claw back some writing time I made the decision to do something I had always been resistant to – I decided to get up earlier in the mornings and do an hour of my own work before the rest of the day kicks in. Sometimes this means getting up at 5.30am and sometimes it is a more palatable 6.30am. I usually travel into London one day a week, and my commute is 90 minutes, so I don’t force myself to do the early shift on those days, though I do make use of the train journey to write.
I have been doing this pattern for a few weeks now and I am really enjoying it. Using the hour or so I have in the morning I do morning pages and then I have thirty to forty minutes to do something towards my creative project. Initially I worked through a blogging course and now I use the time to write blogs so I can build up a stock of them, ready for when the next emergency lands!
To make this routine sustainable I make sure that I get to bed earlier. In the past I used to struggle to get to bed at a decent time. Now I am more motivated as I really want to get up and do more writing.
I don’t have as much time as before but I use it more effectively. When I’ve hauled my arse out of bed at 5.30am I don’t mess about wasting time looking at Facebook. I just get on and write!
The biggest benefit of this situation is that I am writing and working on my creativity more consistently that I was in the past. I am really excited about where this new consistent routine might take me and I wouldn’t be in this position if my Mum hadn’t been ill.
Whatever happens when life throws you a massive curve ball, be kind to yourself, do the best you can and keep plodding gently towards your goals.
Now I’d like to hear from you
If you’ve been knocked off course recently let us know how you are doing and how you are getting back to your creative routine. And remember to pat yourself on the back for having the courage and tenacity to continue.
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Every month I also share the ups and downs of my own creative journey – but only email subscribers get that insider view.