Has it been as crazy a year for you as it has been for me? Seemed like every time I turned around, something was happening. Whether it was a doctor appointment, the cat getting out of the house, my niece being born, family birthdays, buying a new car, my husband has purchased another arcade machine…each day this year has been part of an amazing adventure.
And it’s been hard finding time to write. How about you?
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PILE
If you’re a working parent like me, even if you’re not specifically a writer, you’ve felt the crunch of trying to balance work with family with your own desires. Whether that’s a novel, a painting, landscaping, fly fishing, shopping…everything else comes first. And nobody realizes how much that bugs you. Maybe you've even been trying to deny it to yourself?
ENDLESS 'TO DO' LIST
We all like to have that ‘to do’ list taken care of. We all love seeing our family happy. But we can’t pour out of an empty pitcher for long. At some point, we need to take time for ourselves to recharge. And writing can be a great way to do that. But how do you make time when someone needs you every two minutes? When toddlers don’t understand the secret desires of your heart? When spouses have been missing you and really want to be with you?
LET'S BRAINSTORM NEW POSSIBILITIES
More than prioritizing the lists and becoming more efficient at laundry and washing dishes, let’s lock ourselves in the bathroom or hide out in the car a minute together and think about how you feel about making yourself a priority.
Yeah, yeah, Mrs. A – put myself first. Easy for you to say.
HARDLY AN EASY ANSWER!
No, it’s not easy. I certainly have a hard enough time doing it myself in my own life. It’s clear that, on many nights, my lists get the better of me and I become consumed in sweeping and wiping and spraying instead of sitting down and composing or being creative. I’m not perfect in this. But I figure that, if we take some time to talk about it together, we can encourage each other.
Talking to them can be the most rewarding feeling when you connect. However, sometimes, trying to sit them down to explain something important to you can be the hardest thing you’ll do in a day. You don’t want to offend them or make them feel you’re pushing them away. Sometimes, they can be so wrapped up with work or with the kids that they are clearly too exhausted to give you their total attention.
If you feel comfortable enough to talk face to face, set aside time to talk about needing time for your creative hobby when they are not exhausted or in the middle of something. If you’re not comfortable, consider writing them a quick note to ask for private time first. When you do talk, don’t demand private creative time and don’t make it sound like they’ve done something wrong. This isn’t time to dig up buried things to use as weapons.
Ask them about their own creative projects. Do they feel they have time to explore their favorite hobby enough? Explain that you have been feeling passionate about yours and that you want to be sure that both of you have time in the week to cultivate that passion as individuals. Ask for brainstorming about how you could both work together on making time for each other so that your spouse doesn’t feel excluded.
Perhaps, on a mutually agreed upon night or weekend, you could arrange a sitter so you could both have time for yourselves. Even just an hour or two a week can help you recharge your batteries while enjoying private time creating!
God bless them – our children can be our greatest joy and our first frustration in the day. From creeping around the baby’s room so we don’t wake them to getting school age children up and out the door, kids are an ever growing conundrum to navigate. It’s never easy. Just when they’re old enough to entertain themselves, we sit down to write a quick paragraph and the juice cup goes spilling all over the carpet. Just when we think they’re tackling their homework enough for us to open a fresh browser window, they need help with math. It’s never ending!
I’d never suggest neglecting your children in any way. Making their needs a priority goes without question. Yet, depending on their age, there are ways to sneek in ‘you’ time!
Naptime is golden. Mazimize it. When that baby is newborn, SLEEP when they SLEEP. PERIOD. Don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion during those first few months. Allow yourself to rest. It will do wonders for when you DO carve out ‘you’ time later. You’re never creative when you’re exhausted. There will always be times when they are not screaming or wet that they can lay on the floor next to you as you jot a quick paragraph or sketch a quick drawing. Before they are toddlers, there are still times when they can sit in the swing next to your desk and play with a toy as you write.
Once mobile, all bets are off. Naptime is still golden, though! By this time, hopefully you’re no longer a zombie and are back to getting sleep all night long. Then those naptimes can turn into writing and creative time. Take the baby monitor with you downstairs. Sit with it out on the back porch as you create. And explore playtime with them as a chance for you to doodle with their crayons or sculpt play-doh together. They’ll love that you’re playing with them and your creative juices can tap into their young energy. Don’t feel you always have to do adult style creating.
If you’re home while they’re at school, set aside even just 30 minutes to create before they get home. The chores will still be there later and the world will not end! If you’re at work while they’re at school, keep to a strict bedtime so that you have time in the evening to yourself. It will help them get adequate sleep and give you a break to create before bed. If you’re not an night owl, consider sticking to their early bedtime and get up an hour earlier. If they have after school activities, try not to use that time for every errand in town. Could you forego one stop to sit in the parking lot a few minutes early and write in the car? Sketch while you wait?
How do we always seem to find time to scroll through Facebook - but not find time to create? If we curtailed that time, minutes might open up that you didn’t see before.
WELL NOW WHAT??
OK, so they were receptive, they were enthusiastic, they were encouraging. Great. Those around you understand and want to give you the space to create. But now they’re in the other room with the TV on full blast or they are carrying on general mayhem around you and it’s still driving you bonkers! ACK!
If you can be at the computer, consider putting on some white noise video from YouTube to drown them out. If you write longhand, find a download to put on your phone as you sit with your tablet somewhere. Maybe some ocean waves on your ipod can take you away from the craziness of the family. There are even noise cancelling headphones that can provide ambient noise. When the house is absolutely anything but quiet, work to create your own.
4. CLAUSTROPHOBIC LIVING/WORK SPACE
Get outside if you can. Café’s might work or a quiet corner of the garden might work better. Try different locations. Set aside the first few weeks to slowly clean or create yourself an area that makes you feel more relaxed and focused. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to make yourself a wonderful corner of the world in which to create! You deserve it. And when all else fails, like we said at the beginning of this post, there's locking yourself in the car!
If you have a space that IS yours in the house, but it has become overrun with everything else, take an hour somewhere to sort out creative things and everything else. Maybe you need a small desk in the kitchen to keep bills separate from your creative area. Don't try to make your creative corner a catch all. Allow yourself to have something just for the passionate projects you want to be working on!
Do the words only come while you’re engaged with something else? Try just recording your stream of consciousness thoughts on a recorder app on your phone or a handheld recorder. Then you can type up your thoughts later or send the file to a transcription service to complete for you. This way, you can be outside gardening and writing for maximum creativity! Honor that you’re not the type of creative who needs to work at a desk. Everyone is different. Search for that perfect way of capturing your attention doing what you are passionate about.
You’ve just spent the day at work, cleaned the house, fed the kids, picked up after them, bathed everyone, gotten things ready for tomorrow, and you’re asleep on your feet. Nothing kills free time like exhaustion. If your ‘you time’ always gets pushed to ‘sometime after midnight’ when everyone is asleep, focus on sleep. We’re never as creative exhausted as we are when refreshed.
Go to bed. This happens to everyone at times. If you find it is happening to you daily for years on end, however, then something needs to change. Whether children need to be asked to help out with chores or given a schedule, examine how the day goes and evaluate. Does your family have a schedule at all? Ask for help and don’t expect to do everything yourself! Teamwork in any situation can help distribute the burdens of life to open up even a half hour a week to create. Even a little bit of help can begin to foster a teamwork feeling to get the ball rolling.
Don't beat yourself up if you are exhausted. Admitting you are tired is not admitting defeat. Put yourself first and rest - your creative project will still be here tomorrow.
WHAT DID I FORGET?
So, other than the above, what are the biggest roadblocks you have to getting more creative time in your day? I'd love to hear from you and help encourage you to move forward however I can. Drop a comment below. I might even expand on your thought to be a blog all it's own.
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