Sometimes life demands and routines often get the better of us and the momentum we felt when committing to a new hobby, dream or bubbling idea is often the first thing that gets bumped off out list, or not even scheduled into our lives in the first place. Over this three part blog series, I’m going to share with you the three most common obstacles that hold you back from following your creative desires that were inspired from my learnings in attending some amazing workshops and panels the Brisbane Writers Festival in September 2019 .
I noticed three main themes recur as questions from festival attendees for the panelists and or established writers holding the workshops. My interest piqued as I commonly fall into these potholes and get stuck too. These themes/potholes are:
• Lack of time: You’ve all heard we “have the same amount of time as Beyoncé”…although, if I had a personal chef and cleaner maybe I could rule the pop world too 😉
• Imposter Syndrome: Have you ever thought, “Who am I to write this book / have an exhibition / run a workshop / apply for this scholarship / have a Youtube channel?” or “Maybe I don’t know enough or am not good enough to be doing this?”. These thoughts that can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success, are what we call ‘Imposter Syndrome’, and that usually stops us right in our tracks!
• Getting lost in trying to figure it all out too soon: This is a recipe for overwhelm and a surefire way to bring on the freeze response stopping you from ever getting started.
So against all these odds, how can we overcome these three gigantuous reasons to even begin our projects inspired by our creatives desires in the first place AND keep on going when the going gets tough? As a person who has lots of ideas but often leaves them laying in many scattered notebooks around the house I’m writing this as a reminder for me as much as I am for you.
Look, you may not have as many spare hours as Beyoncé, but you can always find time for the things you really want to do. American Novelist, Karen Thompson Walker who ran the workshop ‘Leaning into Imagination’ at the 2019 Brisbane Writers Festival advises to get up early and to write (or create) before you go to your day job. “You are choosing you before your commitments” she says, “and at the end of the day, you won’t have to look at another screen when all you want to do is relax and switch off”.
Even just 30 minutes a day adds up 3.5 hours a week! By reclaiming your morning and waking up a little bit earlier will allow some room for stillness with yourself and your craft before you let the rest of the world in. A quick glance at emails, requests, social media notifications beforehand can pull you away from centre before you get your creative time. Use that fresh part of the morning just for you and your self expression, even if it’s just a little amount. At first, it might seem arduous but after a month you’ll have a new habit and it won’t seem as hard to commit that creative time for yourself.
What’s the rush to finish something? Does it have to be all or nothing? Sometimes good things really do take time. Melanie Cheng, an Australian author on the “Inside the Creative Life” panel shared that it took her nine years to write her first novel due to her full time job as a Doctor working in General Practice and being a mother. Due to her commitments, her only option was to write in ‘small snatches of time’. After her first book was published she was given a book advance and had to write to a specific deadline and then found she had to restructure her approach to writing by adopting a stricter approach. Now she dedicates one whole day to writing and a couple of afternoons that she protects. Cheng explained that once she had the book deal and the deadline, she could no longer wait for the muse to appear and she committed to her writing in her scheduled times and wrote whether the muse showed up or not! If you want to learn more about the concept of showing up for your creativity despite your muses attendance, check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous Ted talk Your Elusive Creative Genius. Her talk explores this concept in greater detail and it’s one of my all-time favourite Ted Talks – well worth a listen if you haven’t already.
On the same panel, Australian Author, A.S Partic shared his wisdom on the subject. “We are all creatures of habits. If you’re not consciously choosing good habits, chances are you’re operating on bad habits. There are no non-habits. These ‘bad’ habits are where we frit the time away. The choice to choose to commit to a new habit is painful, it requires being off auto pilot and doing something by doing something new, which means the unknown and which, by nature, we are programmed to avoid.”
We’ve all experienced this first hand our time whittling away on social media. What seemed like 5 minutes turned out to be an hour. That’s an hour spent mindlessly consuming when you could have been spending it creating.
A.S Partic’s advice is to use timers such as Pomodoro Tracker or Focus Booster where you work for short focused bursts of time like 20 or 25min then have a 5 min break. As you go along on the Pomodoro Tracker, the breaks get longer. This does a few things, firstly when you know you’re on the clock it redirects you to ONLY focus on the task at hand that you’re committing to. No phone checking, no wondering about Facebook on your laptop, no feeding the cat (or yourself). All of these things can be done after 25min of focused working. This time is for the task at hand only!
If you’re having trouble with wandering clicks on social media sites, put your phone on do not disturb, aeroplane mode or out of the room if you have to. Secondly, there are extensions on your internet browsers you can install to block social media websites of your choosing. This way, your hand may unconsciously click over to Facebook but the spell is broken when you can’t get in. This breaks the unconscious habit of procrastinating with social media by interrupting the habit. If you use Google Chrome as your web browser, try the extension called Work Mode.
Another tip is to use self-imposed deadlines. There’s a thing called Parkinson’s Law which hypothesises that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. If you have a deadline then you have something external to work towards, and even better if you’re accountable to something like a competition deadline. Find some opportunities or competitions in your field you can enter and this means sending your work off (even when you don’t think it’s good enough) so you get into the habit of meeting deadlines. If your knees start to tremble and your breath gets shallow at the thought of putting your work out there, look out for Part Two in this series where we’ll be looking more closely at the Imposter Syndrome and how the voice of our inner critic is constantly telling us to stay small as way of keeping us safe and our ego wrapped up in cotton wool.
Until then, check out some more of our blog posts on getting the most out of your time below.
Eight Tips to Kick Your Procrastination Habit: tips for when you’re stuck in a procrastination rut.
Prevail over Your Put-It-Off-Osaurus and Get on with Your Goal: Yes, there’s a monster who feeds off your procrastination.
Nullify Your No Minute Man and Escape the ‘Glorification of Busy’: debunk that belief that you are too busy for creativity.