Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time in a Battle, Part 2

Sharon Wildwind

To recap: last week I wrote about that if you were stuck in a rut, and wanted to make changes in how much time you devoted to your favorite creative endeavor, one place to start was by writing down, for a week, what you were already doing.

This week I’m going to write about values and time.

Let’s pick up with something I wrote last week. You might want to argue that the weekly list you kept didn’t represent a typical week because the hot water heater broke down, or your pet got sick, or you had unexpected company. I told you not to worry about it.

The value here is that there is such a thing as a normal week, seven days when everything in our lives goes according to plan. The normal day, week, or month is a myth.

The unexpected always happens. It might be stressful (the broken hot water heater, the vet visit, illness, or an unexpected bill, etc.) or joyful (unexpected company, the arrival of a new baby two weeks early, or an opportunity to fly to Paris for dinner—don’t we wish!)

Creativity has to allow time for the unexpected. Yes, there are some events that knock us for a loop. A full meal plus wines at Lasserre (an exclusive Paris restaurant) would not only knock my pocketbook for a loop, but I doubt I would be able to write a single line for a week afterwards. Don’t wait for normal. Do what you want to do, even in the midst of chaos.

That brings me to a second value: I have to put off what I want to do until I’ve provided for all those people who depend on me.

A woman I worked with retired. She’d made a big production at her retirement party about how she was going to start quilting, something she’d wanted to do for years. Her retirement present from her co-workers was a gift certificate at a local quilting store.

I ran into her a year later. “How’s the quilting?” I asked.

“I never got around to it because I started volunteering with our church’s senior out-reach program. Just as soon as I can recruit more volunteers for that program, I’ll start quilting. That gift certificate came in so handy for buying arts-and-crafts supplies for the seniors’ activity room.”

It’s a story that I’ve heard over and over. The bottom line is that people who say they will start something—when the kids are older; when I’m not working a sixty-hour week; when I retire; when I move my parents into assisted living; when our finances settle down—never do.

The key word here is “start.” Start what you want to do now, even if you have only fifteen minutes a week in which to do it. Once you start something, and discover you like it, here’s the likely chain of events. You’ll
1. Sneak time to do it.
2. Get better at it.
3. Enjoy it more.
4. Find ways to spend more time doing it.
5. Repeat steps two, three, and four over and over.

Our next value: I have to [fill in the task of your choice] before I can take time to create. Let’s look at one have-to activity:
• I have to brush and floss my teeth. Probably a true statement. There are not-so-nice consequences to not brushing and flossing.
I have to brush and floss my teeth. Probably also a true statement. Brushing and flossing is one of those tasks that’s best done by the mouth’s owner.

Apply those same two emphases to other have-to values that are keeping you from being creative:
[This task] has to be done. (Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t.)
I have to be the one to do it. (Maybe you do and maybe you don’t.)

I’m reminded of the son of a friend of mine. He “had to” buy only a quarter of a tank of gas at a time because that was all he could afford. After the third time his parents rescued him by bringing him gas, one time in a horrible rain storm, his mother offered him the cost of a tank of gas and an alternative.

“Use this money to fill up your tank. When your tank gets 3/4 of the way empty, buy a quarter of a tank of gas. You’re still buying only a quarter of a tank at a time, but you’re never going to run out of gas.” She also mentioned that neither she nor her husband planned to make any more midnight gas runs. He didn’t run out of gas again.

The point is that we are smart, resourceful women. We can find win-win solutions that go a ways toward balancing our needs and those of others. Some of those solutions won’t be easy, but heck, whoever said that creativity was easy?

Our final value for this week: I’m not wasting time, I’m having quality down time.

Everybody needs down time. I don’t have a qualm in the world about spending two hours last week looking for YouTube recordings of Robert Mitchum singing The Ballad of Thunder Road. It was fun, two hours wasn’t all that long, and I got it out of my system.

Take a look at that time diary you kept last week (or one you’ll keep in the future). How much of your time was spent on down time activities? Is there any way to turn some of that time into more creative activities? Could you watch 7 televisions shows a week instead of 8? If you went to the mall every other Saturday, instead of every Saturday, would that free up two afternoons a month for writing, dancing, painting, or singing?

Next week, in Time in a Bottle, Part 3, we’re going to look at how new neuro-research is blasting away at some time-honored beliefs about how creativity happens, and what we can do to enhance that creativity.

Quote for the week
Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.
~Dr. Barbara De Angelis, motivational speaker and relationships counselor

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