When meeting someone for the first time, one of the questions I ask is, “What do you like to do for fun?”. Often, my question is returned with a look that is a mixture of amusement, weariness and resignation. “Fun? I don’t have time for fun anymore.” My heart aches for my new friend because I understand. I understand the weariness that comes with the constant demands of the day. The laundry, the bills, the needs of others; these all demand our attention and energy. We continue to forge through each day, without stopping to refuel our souls. Is it possible to live a creative and abundant life in the midst of the messy?
A few years ago, my answer would have been an emphatic no. However, I no understand that it is possible. Possible only if we are willing to be honest with ourselves. Honest about how we spend our days. In my previous post, I shared how my husband’s remark was the catalyst for me making time for . If I was to make time and mental space for creativity, I needed to examine how to make this happen. I have identified five obstacles that prevent us from making space for our creative pursuits, and how we can overcome these barriers.
1. Media Use
Media can have a positive impact on our lives, but it can also be a major source of distraction. Many times, I have hopped on my to puruse social media, email or to read an article. Next thing I know, thirty minutes have gone by and I have nothing valuable to show for it. Setting boundaries on media use has been a helpful practice for me in curbing the media monster. I designate specific blocks of time during the day for media use. I also turn my phone OFF by 9pm to ensure a good night’s rest.
2. Too Many Commitments
Enrichment activities and social commitments can be wonderful opportunities to grow our creative skills and grow relationships. However, there can be too much of a good thing. When we are running from one activity to the next, we create an atmosphere of hurry in our homes. We need to be selective about the quality of activities we and our families engage in. Examine your motives for being involved. Are you driven out of fear of missing out? Someone else’s expectations? Try to pair down your commitments in order to make more margin in your life.
3. Superhero Syndrome
Even if you manage to get your external commitments paired down, what about at home? As a mom, I have fallen into this trap. The house must be organized to a T, the meals must be homegrown and organic, our clothes cute and fashionable, the yard trimmed and tidy…the expectations go on and on. And to that I ask, “Whose expectations are these?” and more importantly, “Why do I care?”. The unspoken message in the culture is that if you do all these things, you will be happy and healthy. I can assure you of this: chasing after these unattainable standards will guarantee you neither happiness nor health. Let go of this false perception of perfection and embrace what matters most to you.
4. Lack of Support
Your creative passion may still be buried inside of you. But you feel it, stirring your soul to action. But to do so, may cause friction with those around you. It may mean leaving a job or title, reducing your income, or just breaking the status quo. Seek out like-minded individuals who share your creative passion. Invite your family and friends to experience your passion with you. Even if they are reluctant at first, don’t be discouraged. Remember, they are processing their own obstacles as well. Your enthusiasm and energy will be contagious.
5. Fear of Failure
I saved this one for last, because of all the obstacles, this is the one that is the most difficult to overcome. It is one that, even if all the other obstacles have been removed, can prevent you from ever pursuing your creative passion. It is a struggle I must face each time I pick up a brush or put pen to paper. Do I have what it takes? Am I just pretending? The internal critic is relentless. We must learn how to combat the barrage of lies that attack us. First, know that this is part of the creative process. Expect the fear, rather than being surprised by it. Then tell it to go. Realize that you have been created with a unique way of seeing the world and that voice deserves to be heard. Stop comparing yourself with others. Know that the creative process is varied and messy. The notion that the creative life is fluffy and whimsical is a lie. Expect hard work.
So, after reading through this list, which is the biggest obstacle for you? If many (or all) of them are present in your life, I recommend starting with small, manageable goals for each one. Identify ONE action step you can take to improve. Don’t allow the fear of tackling these challenges freeze you. Remember the ancient words of Confucius, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
Now, go get your shovel and start digging up stones. Then go move mountains.