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How to manage a full-time life as a creative?

I didn’t know that creativity could be appreciated past a certain age.

I didn’t know that respected adults were allowed to take the time to pull out paint brushes while dirty dishes overflowed the sink.

I didn’t know that you could stop life for a little bit to play your guitar on a dirty floor while facing a pile of unwashed laundry and still be considered a responsible parent.

You, like me, may have been mislead in the definitions of intelligence, discipline and success.

When I was born, I was given a tool belt that carried a ready pen full of ink, a couple of paint brushes, hands for instruments, a saturated imagination, a song on my lips, and a book of blank sheets of paper meant for me to fill and fill fully.

I’ve accepted that these are the tools that I was given with this life that I am supposed to live as me.

As an adult, it’s been hard to work a full-time job or several part-time jobs while also trying to save creative energy for myself and other creative projects or hobbies.

Even working for a creative company or having a creative title can still seem draining. All of my creative juices dry up for the sake of my 9-to-5.

I currently have two, part-time jobs while juggling an ever revolving carousel of hobbies and talents that are in constant demand and competition for my attention and time: an art show here and a gig there and time home in the studio, you know how it goes.

These tips that I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to being disciplined with my time so that I still have energy for my personal creative projects outside of work.

Here are eight tips on how to manage a full-time life as a creative.

TIP #1: Pencil in your projects.

We’ve all heard the saying, “You make time for the things you love.” And it’s true. So, pencil it in.

I used to think that if my work schedule and all other appointments were blocked out, that by default, all remaining free time was time left for me to create – but that’s not how it works.

We have to intentionally block out time for us to be creative.

Most of us need routine to create.

I know that we each have our different creative cycles that peek at all different hours of the day or night – but start by blocking out a few hours a week at the same time. Get your creativity into a rhythm.

Put your pen to paper – so to speak – and exercise that routine of creative freedom by scheduling your creative time.

TIP #2: Keep your phone in another room.

Duh. This may sound unnecessarily obvious but let us be reminded that we live distracted enough. Turning the notifications off of your phone or turning your phone to silent is not enough. If you leave your phone in another room, you won’t be tempted to stop what you’re working on, get up and go check your phone only to end up scrolling through Instagram for two hours.

TIP #3: Find a quiet place.

This is a lot more difficult than it sounds but it’s so so important to have a space that’s yours. It’s exhausting in itself to have to pull out all of your paints, brushes and canvases, to find your sketchbook and pencils, to dust off your keyboard and pull out your amp and find all of your tangled ¼ cables for your guitar.

By the time you set up what you want to work on, you’re over it – over the whole thing – but for a lot of us, it’s not practical to leave our work out all over the room all the time.

So, empty out a room, ask around, who around you has some free space that you could utilize, share or rent?

TIP #4: Exercise single-tasking.

Single-tasking – one thing at a time. Can you think of the last time that you focused on one task and one task only? Sometimes we think we’re single-tasking but our minds are already on to the next thing and the next.

One of my favorite things about drawing is that it allows me to focus on one very isolated movement at a time. It’s slow. It’s steady. It’s monochrome. It becomes a form of meditation. One line, one dot, one stroke at a time.

So, in our busy everyday lives, pay attention to how often you’re multitasking. What can you let go of? What’s mandatory for you to be working on right now? Give yourself some breathing room – one thing at a time.

TIP #5: Say no.

So you have your creative time blocked out, right? What happens next?

Your co-workers ask you out to grab drinks after work, you forgot that you have to pick up this-this-and-that from the store, you have to grab a gift for the party and laundry and dinner and before you know it, everything is an exception. Your art slowly loses its priority.

Friends are important, yes. But we have to remember that our amount of time that we’re given each day is a set 24 hours. Every time that we say “Yes”, we are saying “No” to something else. By saying “Yes”, what have you been saying “No” to lately?

You have to start saying “No”. Treat your scheduled creative time with the same respect as a doctors appointment. When someone wants to make plans that interfere with this time, say you’re busy and reschedule with them, not for your art.

TIP #6: Spend time around other creatives.

Introvert? Trust me, I know. It’s hard. We like our time and we like our alone time to ourselves – but we need each other.

Ask around. Go to your local art shows and coffee shops. Plug into your local art community. Seek out a few friends that you naturally click with that aren’t emotionally exhausting to be around.

Plan a time to meet routinely, to draw or create or to critique each other’s work. Other opinions aren’t everything but they are important. Be around those that inspire you, that push you. Inspire each other. Challenge each other.

TIP #7: Plan an art show or book a gig.

For me, this is the best kind of goal setting. If I know that I have a show coming up or a gig, I’m put into creative overdrive. Every last detail of everything that I do from that point on is so thought out, careful, and intentional. I am able to produce work on a level that I didn’t think was possible.

It’s amazing what we can push ourselves to do if we just create the space and time for it.

Having a chance to showcase art gives me the drive to create new content, make a fresh start, and to experiment with new styles.

You have what it takes to showcase your work. Just do it! Push yourself.

TIP #8: Get outside.

Whether it’s a morning walk, a picnic, a nap on a blanket in the park, or daily routine exercise – get outside.

I think that it’s so healthy for us to set aside even for just 15 minutes each day to let natural light hit us and touch our skin, to feel the wind, to observe tiny little animals we don’t normally pay attention to – to watch nature move and be.

Nature has a way of resetting us and reminding us of how human we are. Let it inspire you.

I know – this is all very easy for me to say. But try it out. Slow things down. As creatives, we’re better people when we’re giving ourselves the time to do what we’re meant to do – create! Trust me, I’m a better friend, a better daughter, a better employee when I make sure that I am dedicating time to my projects. It’s important. Know that it’s important.