Your Creative Environment. TIME: Guard it, and if you have to, steal it.
“You have a song in your heart to be sung, and you have a dance to be danced, but the dance is invisible, and the song – you have not heard it yet. It is deep down hidden in the innermost core of your being; it has to be brought to surface, it has to be expressed. This is what is meant by “self-actualization” – Osho
The elements of the creative environment: Time, Space, Mind and Body – are all intersecting. This post is about Time.
Do you love the feeling when The Muse appears and you start creating, on fire, losing the sense of time and place? (Until the sense of smell tells you the potatoes you started cooking 4 hours ago are well burnt?) I do love it! It makes me feel alive. You only need to invest in good pots.
On most days The Muse doesn’t visit though… the fire extinguisher is left alone, and the work still needs to be done.
If you are already a pro – you likely have a system in place to write, design, prepare a speech, etc. If you still struggle with getting in the zone, finding the right place… maybe organizing yourself is just what’s missing. And this could be done with time, space, mind, and body.
I hope that while looking for your way of creating, you can find some good tips here, for times when you are stuck, and when the ideas pile up in your mind but nothing gets done. I had times recently…. (ok in the past 15 years) when my creative side was a source of extreme frustration for me – mostly in the area of focus. And when I started making changes, I experienced more and more enjoyment from this part of my work.
But don’t let this happen to you: don’t be so absorbed in creating the perfect workstation that it will become a paralysis or frustration bigger than your not-done-art.
The key is to play with it when you are stuck, when are you lost, looking for inspiration or even motivation to work. If you are wild and free in your work, it makes no sense to “fix it.”
How to organize your creative environment / TIME
I found these brilliant words today:
“Traditionally, women have always made their art out of stolen materials and stolen time. ”- Elizabeth Gilbert. I read… and suddenly I became part of a great legacy of women who had been stealing bits of time, writing at kitchen tables instead of desks, scribbling notes whenever they could, and most of all writing anyway. Writing anyway. Painting anyway. Composing music anyway. Dancing anyway. Working on their callings and dreams and labors of love anyway.” – Tara Sophia Mohr
We thought we need to organize time, then we realized we need to protect our time… With my artist friend, Diane, we came to a conclusion last month: we need to guard our time (obviously some situations asks us to guard it like a vicious dog), only to be told: we need to steal time….
A person from an anti-terrorist brigade once told me: “If you won’t kill them, they will kill you. It is that simple.” Looks like same goes for your time: if you don’t steal it for yourself “they” will steal it from you.
But maybe it’s the other way around. We think we are stealing time, but who does it belong to? The time has been given to us, we only need to
- protect it from those who want to steal it (or innocently ask for it).
- organize and prioritize it in such a way that there is nothing to steal.
How to organize your Time to be most creative.
1. Find your creative hour. Experiment with work at different times of a day (if this is an option). Maybe it’s best before sunrise? At night 8-12p.m. when nothing happens or when kids are in bed? When do you have most focus? When is time “on your side”?
2. Schedule it. Plan to use your most creative hour(s) regularly. Put it in writing, in your calendar or phone. If you don’t – the desire to do something will just float in your mind coming up in moments when you can’t do anything about it, causing growing frustration.
When you schedule it, reserve blocks of time, 2-3 hours or more if you can, or break the available hours for two segments a day. This will help you to create a sense of timelessness, when you mind is not worried about the next thing, but can completely focus on the task.
3. Create a sense of timelessness. Creativity cannot be rushed. People say sometimes they can only work under pressure. I have read a good comment to this “you think so because you ONLY work under pressure”.
In my own experience I find the best ideas when I don’t need to think of my next appointment or obligations. When my brain is in an alpha state. (relaxed as if when in guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, shower, during walks in nature). Next time start early and see the benefits of that: the good side of procrastination, deeper insight, as you revisit the work, and completely different (better?) ideas coming to you.
4. Breaks. For how many minutes or hours can you work without hitting the wall? Breaks are essential. They let you to step back, take a deep breath, make a tea, phone call, eliminate crashes that would interfere with the next, good working session. Five minutes spent in meditation – another break idea – can result in a break…through.
How often should you take a break is up to you and depends on the nature of your work. If you have a intense, intellectual project going on, like making a plan of robbing a bank, or writing a guide for life for the next generations, you may need more frequent breaks.
They may be filled with something completely different or may blend seamlessly with what you do, you can go from action to contemplation, focused action to letting your mind drift. This is how I experienced it when painting years ago: at least ⅓ of the time was spent not in front of an easel, but sitting on a bench watching the clouds, “doing nothing”, waiting for the best solutions to come. And they did.
Ideas can be found when doing things unrelated to your work, mundane things, that you know subconsciously, because you did them countless times. Cleaning, washing dishes, driving. This happens because you enter alpha state of brain frequencies – the state that opens up the gate to your subconscious mind (this is about 85% of your mind, where – likely – your genius resides)
Why would I want to include such an obvious thing like taking a break? Because I found that it became the most difficult one for me. And I doubt I’m the only one. Once we have lots of other responsibilities, we want to do things asap, to complete it and move on to another task. But any good creative work takes time, and ultimately not taking breaks is counterproductive to our work. Good things take time.
5. Set a timer.
I know this one may seem to contradict the tip to “create timelessness” or to “turn off notifications”. Yet there is something a timer can teach us. If you have a difficult relationship with Time, know, it can be healed. If it slips thru the cracks of the day, and you have no clue what you accomplished, but you were sure busy all the time – use timer for few days.
What I noticed is how much, or how little, can be done in just 20 min. It brought my awareness to the passing time. You see it running so fast! It brought a great realization: No time to lose… no time to lose…
6. Turn off the distractions.
Identify and eliminate the thieves of your time! No need to call police… just find a bit of self control and make a 100% strong decision to ignore social media, phone, notifications.
There is an app called Self Control, that will disable access to social media for as many hours as you want. Turning off my phone and email has been so far one of the best things I did for creating “timelessness and no distractions”
Alternatively here is another cure for social media addiction if you really can’t stop: eat so much of it you will vomit.
If you work from home, instead of hoping your family won’t bother you, and waiting in the alarmed state for someone to enter your place, just to be mad at them, state it clearly: you need this time and it is important (as a reminder put a sign on the door “working until 2:30, do not disturb”).
Initially it may feel passive aggressive, women often feel guilty that they want to spend time on THEIR work. For some, it is almost impossible, since they would rather spend the time with the family. Only you can find the right balance.
Can you compromise your creative sparks? Right now I will only say… I think creativity is a strange thing: every time you convert an abstract idea into something physical, and you send it into the world, you are making a life supporting deposit into your soul. You feel renewed.
7. Simplify and find time. The task of simplifying time is a big topic in itself. I learned a lot about this from Leo Babauta (Zen Habits). Actually these were just simple changes with big impact.
Simplifying will take time, but in the end, it may free a lot of it.
Leo says: go over everything you do, your commitments, volunteering, and entertainment time. See what is really contributing to your happiness, what is essential for your livelihood and wellbeing, good family life, connections. Everything else is just stealing your time, all stuff that is just “meh” goes. What and who steals your time?
You may feel guilty about resigning from certain functions or volunteering, but look at the payoff. Releasing the guilt is simply another thing you need to gift yourself: nobody on a white horse is coming to give you more time – if anything – to take it. If there is an activity that you hesitate on giving up – because you feel obligated to do it (not because it is expression of your values) – ask yourself “would I want to die doing this?”
Statement to release “time related guilt and perfectionism.”
There is time for rushed notes and messy drafts,
time to perfect, to revise, improve.
And there is time to drift between the two…
And time for creative winter once a year… or few.