The Busy Addiction: Why We’re Scared Of Having Free Time To Create

Not having enough time is probably the most common reason people tell me they don’t create more.

On the surface of course it seems like a perfectly valid and genuine reason. If we literally have no time to commit to doing something, then we’re not going to be able to do it.

But what if there’s something deeper at work here. What if we actually make sure we don’t ever have enough time?

Why would you want to do that though? If you’re an artist, if you love creating, if it’s a great passion in your life, why on earth would you not want to create as much as you can, as often as you can?

How about because you’re scared?

Scared that if you do have the time and freedom to create, you might not have any good ideas to work with?

Scared that you would have to come to terms with all those unfinished projects and works in progress going back months, and years?

Scared that you would actually love creating so much, and enjoy it more than anything else in your life, and you’re not sure you “deserve” that?

I could continue and list a dozen other possible reasons. They all come down to the same point though.

Maybe you’re filling your days, and weeks, and months with so much “important” stuff, it means you don’t have to deal with some of the struggles you have around creating.

image: This Year's Love

I’m not for a second suggesting we don’t all have demands and commitments and priorities in our lives, and we have to give them time.

But by giving priority to EVERYTHING else in your life over creating, it lets you off the hook.

Always being busy keeps it safe. And that becomes a habit, it becomes addictive.

So isn’t this just our good old friend procrastination?

In a way it is, yes, you’re avoiding doing something you want to do, by filling your time with other activities.

But it’s deeper than that. It’s not just that when you have a free half hour, instead of creating you decide that reorganising your stationary collection or cleaning every surface of the kitchen, or going back through your email for the last month and rereading every message in case you overlooked something important the first time, is the most urgent and productive use of your time.

It’s more like a pre-emptive procrastination. You’re actually – consciously or not – planning ahead and making sure you’re not going to have any free time to create.

You manifest this addiction to being busy so you never have to stop and face those real reasons why you’re not creating.

We’ll expand on this in a future article, and look at some of those reasons you might be scared of creating.

For now, think about how relevant this is in your life.

Think about how much time you commit to creating, and maybe some of the other activities you make yourself busy with that possibly aren’t quite as urgent as you first tell yourself they are.

Be honest with yourself. Whatever you tell other people, only you know how “busy” you really are.

9 thoughts on “The Busy Addiction: Why We’re Scared Of Having Free Time To Create”

  1. To answer the questions posed in this article… Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes (you get the idea). *sigh* So many ridiculous hurdles. So many fears. Again it boils down to just taking that first little step, and the others will follow.

    When the little voice in your head says “I should be making that phone call, doing that paperwork, running that errand, etc.” Change it to “I should be drawing (or painting, etc.) first, then I’ll do the (busy chore/project).” I’ve learned that if it’s the other way around, I never get to the art. The idea was to clear my head of nagging chore demands to fully focus on the art, but in this busy world, are we ever really caught up?

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  2. That last point is so crucial Diane. No, we never get everything done, there will always be something else to create, or fix, or clean or feed.

    I’ve always struggled with this idea of maintenance, I’ll clean a room then wonder why a week later it needs cleaning again!

    A similar concept but looking from the other side, is that we will always have more creative ideas than we will we have time to develop. Once we accept that, we can focus on a few of them and give them our full attention and creative energy.

    Thanks for your comment.

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  3. I noticed a few years ago a man I had contact with at work would say “I don’t have time for that” in a very curt tone anytime he didn’t want to deal with something. I started observing how often people did this, both for the reason he did and because they are afraid of failure. I’ve made a concentrated effort not to use that phrase.

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  4. I think it’s something we can say and generally it’s not questioned. That’s what makes it easy, and safe.

    People don’t say – “Can you explain minute by minute the next week of your life so you can prove to me you indeed do not have time for this?”

    But it’s when we tell ourselves we don’t have time to create, or when we imply this by making ourselves “busy” with other things that we need to be vigilant of.

    It seems like you’re really aware of that kind of language and behaviour in your own life Diana. Amazing when you notice one or two people saying a phrase like this and then it seems everyone is using it…

    Thanks for your post.

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  5. Hello Dan,

    I really enjoyed this article, I imagine many of us can relate to the topic. I catch myself in moments like this and am constantly slowing myself down to stay mindful in honoring (protecting) my creative time–which is as valuable to living as sleep to me.

    Your phrase, “pre-emptive procrastination” <–I love that!

    I find many of my clients often unwittingly sabotage their creative efforts for some/all of these very reasons–and just as often it becomes such a liberating moment when they give themselves "persmission" to create; or creatively address the feeling of overwhelm from unfinished projects they're avoiding, or fear of success(!), or the dreaded feeling of okay I made the time, now what–my mind is blank or too distracted! All of these, and more are such great creativity stallers! "Pre-emptive procrastination" did I mention how much I love that phrase? It's perfect LOL

    I think you actually touched on this, but I also believe that as soon as we can allow ourselves to see our creative expresssions–that release–as a vital resource we will protect it and value it as a personal priority for accomplishing our daily needs, maintaining emotional well-being, etc.

    Thanks for sharing this post–we've all been there that's for sure! And I look forward to your future posts about it too 🙂

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  6. Thanks Michelle!

    Some big issues you touch on there, not least of all permission. Even if everyone else gives us the go ahead, actually giving ourselves permission to make time to create, to create the best we can, to surprise ourselves and the world with just what we’re capable of. Lots of angles there I’ll explore in future posts.

    The other part of what you said that really struck me is around having a creative habit or routine. You make time to create, then what? You’re overwhelmed by too few or too many ideas, or just not used to that kind of freedom so you choke.

    Once we get strong routines and habits in place, we can create so much more freely, regularly and easy. Creating every day is probably the core principle of all creativity I believe. Again, something I’ll be writing much about in the near future.

    Thanks again for your comments.

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  7. I agree. I think we use busy to avoid feeling our feelings. Creativity is stifled when there is no time for “nothingness”. The empty spaces in our lives allow us to explore our creativity and to live more authentically.

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