Creativity tips – Making time for creativity

We all want to be more creative. The tricky part is making it happen by making the time for it.

You may have noticed that I didn’t say find the time. This is not about waiting around for that perfect chunk of spare time to do your creative project. Because, like most people out there, you don’t have a whole lot of spare of idle time where you have absolutely nothing to do on your ‘to do’ list. So this is why I say make and not find the time.

You need to commit. You need to honour yourself. Say ‘yes to doing what brings you joy and lets you express your creativity. You need to set aside a chunk of time for your creative project.

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Now before you start telling me all about the hundreds of things that you have to get done by yesterday and about the multitudes of family, work and other commitments you already have on your plate (and I so know where you are coming from 🙂 ), I’m going to re-assure you that this can be done. You can make time for that creative project you love.

You just need to find the right-sized container (or quota) for the job.And no, this is not about storage :-).

I’m talking about boundaries, limits and targets. Basically, the amount of effort that you’re willing to put into your creative project on a regular basis, and then doing this every day.

In a way, it’s like defining your minimum quota of creative work – but that sounds like you’re in a factory making widgets. And you’re not. You are spending time creating something that is more exciting, more satisfying, sometimes frustrating, and at times, a little unclear about what exactly the end product might look like. So a quota just doesn’t quite fit.

So I’d like you to imagine that you have a creativity container in your hands. It can be any size or type of container you like. Whenever you spend any time on your creative project you are filling up your ‘creativity container.’ Your job is just to make sure that every day you fill up this creativity container.

There are 3 types of creativity containers to pick from: time, space or quantity. What you choose will depend on what suits your creative project, the way you like to approach it, and what you can realistically commit to doing each day.

A time container is where you commit to working on your creative project for a minimum amount of time, say 5, 10, 12 or 20 minutes. You set the timer and then you work on your creative project for that amount of time. Whenever the buzzer goes off you stop and then that’s where you start from the next day.

A time container is the most flexible of all containers because you can change the nature of the task depending on what’s next in the project. For instance, I like to break up my photo book projects into 15 minute chunks per day. I often underestimate how long it takes to sort through photos and then edit them, even before I’m even ready to make a book. So a time container means I just keep working on what needs to be done next without burning a whole lot of time at once on it. 

A space container requires you to work until you’ve finished a certain amount of space. If you’re writing, it might mean writing until you’ve covered a certain sized page (e.g. a system card, half an A4, or one or more A4 pages). If you’re painting or drawing, then it might be a board the size of a postcard, a 30x30cm canvas or even larger (depending on how big your lines and strokes). This also works if you’re in the garden by focusing on specific garden sections at a time.

Choosing a space container means that the time it takes to complete may vary. You might feel inspired one day and fill up your space in under 10 minutes. But on another it might take you well over an hour. For instance, I use a cup or saucer to determine the size of the mandala that I’ll work on. Over time I have worked out that a cup takes about 5-10 minutes to colour, while a saucer normally takes around 20 minutes. So at the start it’s a bit of trial and error as you work out how long it takes to fill up that space on average. If it ends up taking longer than you like to spend each day then reduce the size of the paper, canvas or space. Or just switch to a time container for the amount of time you an reasonably justify and fit into your day.

Inner Creative Mandala featured in Inner Creative blog on Making Time for Creativity

With a quantity container, you pick the number of finished items or products you want to create each day. Most likely it’s going to be one thing, say write 1 sentence, dance to 1 song, cook 1 dish every day. You can increase the number if they’re quick to do, like knitting 3 rows of your jumper each day. For my Mandala Play Adventure I committed to colouring in just 1 mandala each day.

This is another variable type of container. Sometimes that sentence might flow, but at other times it might feel like pulling out teeth for each word. So gauge the average time you need to create your one (or more) item and adjust accordingly (perhaps swapping to setting a specific time container instead).

And if all of these containers still seem too big to fill each day then I suggest that ‘Any amount counts’. This container is particular good for complex creative activities that might be hard to quantify. Or, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task you just need to get into the habit of starting and working on your creative project. ‘Any amount count’ lets you do that. I usually apply ‘Any amount counts’ to my art journalling. One day I might prime a page. Another paint the background. The next I might start another or go back to something I’ve already started. Some days I might do lots and others it’s enough to just show up, open up the journal and make a small mark on the page. The main thing is that I’m keeping my creativity channel open, even if it’s at a drip.

The trick to choosing the right creativity container is to try holding it to see how it feels. Set your container size and see what your body does when you think about doing this every day. How does your body feel? Does it constrict, feel tight or overwhelming? Then pick a smaller container. Keep making the container smaller and smaller until it feels so easy that it’s ridiculous. (And if the thought of spending just 1 minute on your designated creative project feels too hard, then I suggest that this project is not really for you and that you do something else creative. But that’s another blog :-). )

When you’re choosing your creativity container it’s not about becoming overly ambitious, pious or self-sacrificing about it. This is not a place for ‘shoulds’ but rather about what is realistic for you. It’s better if your container is small. In fact, so small and achievable that any barriers or resistance you might have towards it simply fade away whenever you think about working on your creative project. You can only feel the fun.

For instance, I have a 3 minute mediation container. And it works! How can I not make time and space for only 3 minutes in my day? I know that 3 minutes of mediation a day will not make me a Zen master any time soon. But it’s better than no mediation. And as it gets easier to sit there and meditate I’ll increase the time I spend doing it. Better to commit to only 3 minutes than scaring myself with 30 minutes and only mediating on random weekends or public holidays.

In the end, the aim is to get you into the creativity habit and spending time on your creative project. So that over time spending time on your creativity is so second nature that it’s up there with sleeping, brushing teeth and eating.

And no creativity container is forever. As you get used to spending this small amount of time or creating a small piece each day then you build up your confidence, your resilience and your skill level. Then you can start slowly increasing your container size to something that still feels comfortable. But in the beginning it’s about making sure that you start.

So what creative project or activity do you dream of doing?
And what type of creativity container could you commit to filling each day?

I’d love to know. Please share your thoughts below in the comments.


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