How to Find Time to Be Creative

Just a few days ago, a friend wrote to me,

“How do I get rid of things on my plate that I don’t want to do? How do I prioritize?”

Her questions echoed similar ones that many people have asked me. It seems like we’re living through an epidemic of busy-ness. In the midst of the rush, it’s becoming harder and harder for people to decide what’s most important, and to focus.

I know many of us wish we could wave a magic wand and make our most frustrating and tedious obligations disappear.

But that seems impossible. Weighed down by our To Do lists, we can’t find enough time to do the things we want to do. We feel trapped.

What Happens When You Don’t Deal With This Problem

If you don’t treat the root of the problem, for many people, the result is depression.

This is what happened to me.

For a long, long time, I felt trapped in my work. First when I was working a full-time job, traveling for business, and taking care of our young daughter at home. I yearned to have a greater sense of control over my life and some sort of creative outlet. But whenever I tried to figure it out, I felt stymied by a lack of time and confusion over which direction would be best for me to go.

Then I quit my job to help my husband with his business. Having our own business, I reasoned, would give me that greater sense of control.

But it turned out I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire — instead of having more time, I had even less. To make matters worse, I took on a consulting job to bring in a little more income. And then I had a second child.

Now I was juggling two jobs, two children (one of whom was a baby), and a growing sense that time was racing by and somehow I’d missed the spot where I was supposed to get off the express train and “find my calling.”

What Caused This Mess?

Eventually, I came to realize something important: Depression can be caused by unrealized creative potential.

And the key to realizing your creative potential is not what you think it is. You don’t need more time.

What you need is a subtle but utterly pivotal shift inside yourself.

Although your obligations don’t necessarily need to change (at least, not at first), your mindset toward them does. When this happens, it can open up a veritable floodgate of creativity.

We all have two finite resources in our lives: money and time. However, there is at least the theoretical possibility that we can create more money for ourselves.

Time, on the other hand, is truly finite. While some of us may have a lot of money and others not very much, we all have the same amount of time.

Yet some people seem to spin their wheels for years at a time, while others move forward and make things happen.

We think that in order to “have enough time” we need to relinquish some of our tasks.

The truth is that our own minds are the terrible taskmaster keeping us trapped. And the reason why that taskmaster is so cruel to us is because she is deathly afraid of allowing us to move toward that vast, powerful, brilliant space of our full potential.

Our current To Do list is a known entity. We know what we’re supposed to do at work, to keep the household running, to make our families happy.

But to confront our nagging existential angst… or to push ourselves as far as we can go in our creative pursuits… far enough to go over the edge and see what happens when we try to fly — that is like stepping into a void.

So we instinctively (and unconsciously) protect ourselves by dutifully checking off the boxes on our To Do list.

This is completely understandable. “Finish monthly report” or “reorganize the basement” might not be fun or creatively fulfilling, but at least they’re clear and concrete.

How the heck do you check off the box that says “confront my existential angst” or “realize my full potential in life”?
I’m not a religious person, but I am spiritual, and this line from the Bible resonates for every human being:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

The shift that needs to happen inside you is simple: you stop resisting. You accept what your heart is telling you.

There is something inside you that you want to do. You may have a very clear vision of it. Or you may have no clear sense at all; only a hazy intuition that something needs to be different.

It doesn’t matter whether you know what you want to do, or you don’t. You simply start by saying “yes.”

Yes, I matter.

Yes, I am open.

Yes, I am moving forward.

Instead of saying “I can’t,” you say, “I am ready.”

I am ready to ask for help, even when it feels uncomfortable.

I am ready to go looking, even when that means taking a path I’ve never traveled before.

I am ready to knock on the door, even when I have no idea what lies on the other side.

When it opens, I am summoning the courage to step across the threshold, and keep going.