Recently, blog reader Mary Beth posted this following quote:
“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Mary Beth asked me to comment on this, since she struggles to find time to do the writing she wants to do.
The “How do you do all you do” question is one I get a lot.
This topic has also been touched on in this blog in these ways:
Well, if you just read all those links, you are brimming with answers!
I just want to say that you are needed and worth it. You were created to express what is uniquely you. Don’t let anything get in the way of that. Remember that nothing is more important.
Streamline your life in the ways that are right for you. Over here, I never go to the beauty salon, we don’t have pets, we don’t drink alcohol or caffeine, don’t watch TV. Time and money people spend on those things we put into our creative pursuits or time for walking, reading, blogging, or prayer. Don’t do stuff just because other people do, or by unthinking default. Get clear about your version of what contributes to and what detracts from your best experience, and then include or exclude activities correspondingly.
I do a lot, but I don’t do everything. I haven’t done laundry, for example, in 29 years. Thank God for husbands, but if you don’t have one, there are other ways to delegate. Take a hard look at your priorities, and find the places where you are not using your skill sets in ways that serve you best. Run with your strengths and manage your weaknesses.
Get some routines down to get your housework into manageable chunks each day/week, so when you’ve done that piece, it is all you need to do for that day. Consider doing the “worst first.” Getting your chores and what you least want to do done early in the day, leaves you with a free, open, expansive feeling. You know you are done, the slate is clear, and now you can do what makes your heart sing. Contrariwise, if you are afraid you will not get in your creative time, get up and do it first. Then you’ll not resent your other responsibilities later in the day, and can do them with a refreshed, recharged, satisfied thought.
Find creative ways to do the chores you need to do. I consciously started choosing to see cooking as an exciting creative act with ingredients as a palette of possibilities, instead of letting it become a burdensome responsibility that took me away from what I love to do. Reframe for yourself how to do what you need to in ways that serve you better and contribute to your artistic process. Maybe listening to an audio book or podcasts would uplift and inspire your chore time and keep it from dragging you down.
Take responsibility for your life, and refuse to make or find excuses. Decide what you want to do. Chunk it down, and then schedule it in. My husband has always wanted to write a book. Every year “life got in the way” (what a stupid phrase!!) Finally we figured out approximately how many words such a book would have, divided that number by how many he needed to write each week to be done in a year. He figured out that if he defended Monday and Tuesday mornings each week, and routinely showed up and pecked away at the manuscript, that would be enough. He did that and it happened! Now he is in the editing stage. You too, can apply this to anything you really want to do.
There is a time for everything, and the key is to focus in the now. When James is writing his book, he is not thinking he should be mowing the lawn. When he is framing my paintings, he his not irritated that he should be writing his book, because there is already sanctified time for that. Just like in housework, there should “be a place for everything and everything in its place;” look at your schedule that way too. Don’t waste time thinking about what you are not doing, reassured that those needs have already been guaranteed time and space.
And frankly, stolen moments is how I revived my art practice, so don’t discount that. (See the second link above.) I started small by painting one 3.5 inch square each day. Type in “Box-a-Day” in the search bar on this blog and you’ll see 84 weekly blog posts of me doing just that tiny, little bit, while I was still homeschooling and working. With the colossal homeschooling responsibilities off my plate, I’m now working my same job, while doing a lot of art when I used to do the homeschooling. I was effortlessly able to make this shift. Just start with what you have, without chafing at it and being frustrated by it. If some creative pursuit brings you life and helps you thrive, keep doing it, and it can’t help but grow and blossom, incrementally finding more room in your days.
My best advice is to get yourself out of the way. Be a transparency for God, and do God’s will instead of your own. If God is telling you to wash the kitchen floor, then do it. If God is telling you to go out and paint in the glorious day, don’t talk back, go be obedient! Have a schedule, but be open to God over-riding it on occasion. Enjoy letting that happen. Don’t miss those opportunities to get out of bed at four in the morning to write down that poem that came to you full force while you were sleeping. Routines allow you to be free enough to blow them every once in a while without major consequences. Trust God’s plan for you (which is way more AWESOME than you can imagine) and move forward with confidence, giving yourself wholeheartedly into each present moment.
Remember, the whole world literally hinges on you not being entrenched. You were created able to get done what you are meant to do, and no avoidance tactic is as strong as that. Give up your fear of success. Own your deep authenticity and get on with all your dazzle!