I Just Don’t Have the Time

When we ask people what stops them from launching a creative activity that interests them, the excuse we hear most often is: I don’t have the time.

When we ask them how they use their time, they tell us: I have a full time job. I’m exhausted when I get home. I need one day a week for shopping and chores, and then – don’t I deserve one day a week to do nothing? And I never get through my to do list on Saturday, anyway.

Okay, some people really don’t have the time. Mothers with three children under five are probably going to have to wait a while to take up painting again. If you’re sitting in the West Wing trying to solve the problems of the automobile industry, this may not be the moment to start your novel.

But ordinary people, with ordinary workdays, can probably squeeze a little more time out of their days to undertake something that will expand and energize their lives.

The trick is, it doesn’t have to be a lot of time. We often stop ourselves by making our plans for our creative work so glorious and grandiose that we can’t possibly live up to it. “I’ll wake up every morning and write ten pages,” we tell ourselves. Or, “I’ll come home and before I even eat dinner, I’ll find my saxophone and do scales for an hour.”

Well, no you won’t, most likely. It’s too much to be starting with. Most likely, you’ve been putting this off for a long time, and you’re in a rush to DO IT NOW! Because in your heart of hearts, you’re afraid if you don’t do it quickly, and do it all at once, you will never do it.

So next time you start thinking about it, try thinking small. Don’t think about waking up every morning and writing ten pages – think about making an appointment with yourself on your “free” day to write for half an hour. Or maybe fifteen minutes, if half an hour is too much. Everyone has fifteen minutes to spare. You’d spare it for a friend who called you with a problem, wouldn’t you? Okay, this time, be your own friend. Just give yourself a little time – a very little time.

Get the piano that’s been sitting in the corner unplayed for so long tuned, and just sit down at it for a quarter of an hour, once a week. Don’t worry if it needs to be refinished, or it doesn’t hold its tune as long as it should. Just sit and play for fifteen minutes a week, and see what it feels like.

Maybe, after a few weeks, you’ll find you’ve actually been sitting for half an hour. Maybe, after a few weeks more, you might find yourself setting another quarter hour after you get home for work. (But please eat dinner first!) Maybe after a couple of months, you’ll have a series of sketches, or a set of photographs, or a completed short story, that you feel good about.

No working person has a lot of time. Almost everybody has a little time. And your creative dream is worth a little time.

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