How To Re-Assess Your Relationship with Time and Creativity
A newsletter about writing, art and living more creatively
I am often thinking about the concept of TIME: how do I manage it? Am I spending enough of it trying to advance my writing and career? And I am spending TOO much of it on my writing and career? How much time am I spending on hobbies? How many hours in the day do I sit at my desk (ah! reminder to stretch if you need it)?
In writing my manuscript, I really put myself in my shoes some years ago, as a recent graduate with a full-time job. I'd just been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. And even during my intake appointment, I said "oh I don't know, I have work, maybe I can come back in two weeks?" and the person taking my info very sternly told me I needed to come back sooner than that.
Those days, I felt GUILTY if I wasn't using up my evenings after my full-time job to freelance. I figured I needed to make the most of my time so I could: help my family out, pay off my student loans in record speed, save up for emergencies later, and, honestly, just say I was working my hardest and not taking anything for granted.
But here's the thing: no one in my immediate circle was pressuring me to do this. It all came from me. So, in the years since, I've had to re-assess my relationship to time and productivity. It's hard sometimes because I love writing. I also started to love cross-stitch and embroidery. And sometimes when I get really focused, I have to force myself to go to bed. I fall into a sort of tunnel vision. And that's okay! (I think, right?) What's not so great is when I tell myself that I'm not allowed to have free time. Or that if I don't use all my free time to be productive, I'm failing somehow.
I reached out to artist Lis Xu for an interview (linked below!) and she had a lot to say about full-time work, the idea of being in the studio ALL THE TIME and how she found her own balance.
"There’s a big part of me that thinks that I’m not a real artist because I don’t do it full-time, which isn’t true. So I hope [that] me talking about my process with figuring out how to do my art better— in a way that suits me with my full-time job with all my other stuff that I need to do—helps, I guess, reassure people reading who might be creative and have jobs that pay the bills. It’s super, super, super common.
I forget all the time that there’s a ton of creatives who have one full-time job, two full-time jobs…Sometimes I just stop painting or drawing for, I don’t know, two weeks, just because I don’t feel like it. I know that’s totally okay."
I also recently found a great resource on the Creativerly newsletter about doing a monthly review. Since I recently went from full-time and freelance work to part-time and freelance gigs, I'm using it to take stock of what worked and what didn't work in terms of freelance life — and that includes questions like: did I have enough down time? Were some assignments more time-consuming than I thought? What would I have liked to spend less time on, or more time on? How can I keep that in mind for the next few months?
Also, I've heard this many times but I keep it in my back pocket as a reminder: creative people need TIME to just BE. Sometimes that means staring into space, zoning out, taking a long walk, getting lost in a good book. It's not time wasted, especially for creative people who need inspiration for their craft. But, also, it's not time wasted because, well, it's your time to use!
I hope these questions and thoughts help you if you're looking to re-examine your own relationship with time and creativity and work. I don't have all the answers (duh!) but I do love talking about all the QUESTIONS.
Hit that REPLY button if you have any thoughts on this! Also, let me know what topics you'd love to hear more about.
In my recent work:
I wrote about an exhibition on Latinx artists working with sound and the Salt Eaters Bookshop in Inglewood.
I interviewed Lis Xu, who shared her insights on balancing a full-time job and creativity.
Your favorite small but feisty writer,
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