Most people think they don’t have the time to do what they want, but maybe it’s all in your mind–what if you re-imagine how you set your priorities?
When I tell people that I’m a writer, the most common response I get is: Oh, that is so great! I’d love to be a writer. I used to write, but I don’t have the time now.I’ve heard that response so often that it got me wondering: Why is it that so many people feel they don’t have the creative lives they would like to have? What does it mean that people don’t have time?
The New York Times recently published an interesting article about the ways in which people perceive themselves as being overly busy. It cites the December Gallup poll which found that 61 percent of working Americans report not having time to do the things they want.
61 percent. That is a high percent of people reporting they don’t have time to do the things they want to do.I understand that some people need to work three jobs to feed their kids; I understand that single moms have too much on their plates; I understand the great stress of economic insecurity, of heavy responsibility, of not quite keeping up. I understand, too, that everyone goes through periods of too muchness: periods of illness in the family, of crises, of the intensity of transitions.
But even for those people who live with the biggest stresses of our economic system and our individuated lifestyles—the stresses of living in a world in which the community does not come together to support those in need—there is still, over the course of a life, time for creativity.
Think of the great songs that came out of slavery, out of sailors working long hours on boats. Often when people’s spirits are most in danger of being crushed by oppression, great creative expression finds a way out. Our creativity, after all, is our life-force, and to keep it in is like trying to keep water in a narrow tube: after a while, it will find a way out.
When I hear that people don’t have time for their creativity, for their writing, what I hear is that they believe they don’t have time; what I hear is that they believe that their “work” is more important than their “creativity;” that what people are told to do is more important than what people tell themselves to do; that what people are supposed to do is more important than what people want to do.
Our creativity has the incredible power to disrupt our habitual lives, to unsettle old habits, to question ingrained beliefs, to push systems toward change.
If you walk around closed to your creativity, you will never write a poem. But if you are open to your creativity and open to the world around you, you might find yourself suddenly available to a poem that is being written by—and maybe through—you. And five minutes later, you may have a poem.
What if Keats had had the idea that he, a poor orphaned doctor, didn’t have time for his own creativity?
If you want to open to your creativity, if you want to give yourself time for what you want to be doing, I suggest the following five steps:
On a final note: The punch line of the New York Times article was that even though most Americans consider themselves too busy to do what they want, when people really keep track of time, they usually find that they have more free time than they realize.
If you prioritize your creativity and put that first, you just may be surprised to find that you have plenty of time for it!
Published first at Elephant Journal here