How To Steal Back Time To Create What Matters

And This The Path You've Chosen
image: dancoachcreative

When we’re feeling overwhelmed with commitments and demands, pulled in every direction with yet another pressure on our time and energy, it can feel hard to find any time to create.

When we do finally set aside a little slot of creative time, rather than switch off all distractions (internal and external) and just get down to creating, more usually we spend most of this time glancing nervously at the clock, wondering how much more of this selfish creative indulgence we can justify.

It feels like we’re stealing this creative time from other activities that are most pressing, more “important”.

With this attitude, it’s inevitable that we don’t allow ourselves to create anything like our best work. We end up feeling not only guilty that we’ve spent this time on creating and have nothing to show for it, but also feeling more artistically frustrated than ever.

Which, of course, means we’re even less likely to commit time to creating in the future. Why put ourselves through this same torturous struggle over and over again?

But what if we’ve got this completely the wrong way round?

What if the crime of theft was actually being committed all the time we’re NOT creating?

What if the time we spend on anything OTHER than creating what’s important for us to create is actually the stolen time?

How would this new reality change our outlook, and our approach to creating?

I suspect it would mean creating would feel more like this:

When you sat down to create, you’d feel completely at ease with having committed this 15, 30, 60, 90+ minutes to creating. After all, exploring and expressing your creativity is something of central importance in your life.

(Can you even imagine a life without creating? No, I can’t either!)

So you would give your full attention to your current project, and easily slip into that wonderful time- and space-defying state of pure creativity where you’re so immersed in the gloriously gushing warm waters of what your creating you forget where you are, what time it is, maybe even who you are. (Remember this feeling? Let’s bring it back.)

You’d only emerge from this happy consciousness when the alarm sounded on the timer you’d set when you sat down to create, right after you removed all clocks from view so you couldn’t keep glancing at them even if you wanted to.

Whenever you weren’t in one of your creative sessions, you’d be thinking about when the next one was, planning and plotting, letting those brilliant ideas simmer away at the back of your mind in the meantime.

You’d also be feeling that THIS was the stolen time, and you’d do all you could to review and revise how you spend your hours, days and weeks, to ensure that as little time as possible was stolen from your creativity from this point on.

Does this alternative way of approaching stolen time, and creative time, sound like one you’d benefit from and greatly enjoy?

It’s all completely within your control.

You have choices in what you commit your time to.

Stop stealing from your creativity – that core, living, breathing, pulsing part of you that’s constantly whirring away inside waiting for the opportunity to explode into gorgeous sound and colour – and give it back the time it deserves.

Make creative time top of your To Do list each day. The lowest it’s allowed to be is fourth, but that’s only when Breathe, Eat and Sleep are the items one, two and three. (And even those are negotiable.)

You can start with just a little time each day. Say, 15 minutes. It’s an amount that any of us can steal back for something as vital as creating.

Start today, do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. In a few weeks, when it’s become second nature, increase the time to 30 minutes.

Step by step, day by day, you’ll steal back your creative time.

And, step by step, day by day, you’ll steal back yourself.


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8 thoughts on “How To Steal Back Time To Create What Matters”

  1. I think whenever we feel we are “stealing” time from something for something else, it’s a sign that we’re not at peace with our own values or not finding a good balance. Often, it’s a sign that we’re failing at critical self-care– something vital is being badly neglected. For a creative person/artist, creative time counts as critical self-care, right up there with sleeping/eating/breathing just as you point out. That desperate or guilty feeling of theft is a sign to wake up, pay attention, and figure out what’s amiss. Because taking creative time for yourself isn’t truly stealing anything – it’s reclamation. Only when you are in mindful, authentic ownership of all your time, and taking full personal responsibility for how your time is allocated, will you truly be able to live happily without feeling like one part of you must steal from another to survive.

    Beautiful, insightful post, Dan!


    1. Oh I love that word “reclamation” Thekla! Yes that’s the point, we need and deserve to spend time every day creating, it’s not a treat or a luxury only to be squeezed in when everything else is ticked off a To Do List.

      I was reading an article yesterday, and the author was talking about something else, not creating, but something that was important to them. He said something like – “People ask me, how do I find time to do it every day to devote to this passion. I answer it’s very simple. I reorganised my life to make this a higher priority.” I very much like how simple and straight forward he made it – we are in control of our lives, we get to organise our time how we want. Stop doing stuff that’s not very important and devote that time to creating.

      Thanks for your comments. 🙂


  2. Wow, Dan. Every paragraph here hit home with me.

    I think that being creative and sensitive, we are more affected by external circumstances, especially negative ones, which makes it so difficult to stay focused on our creative pursuits.

    The emotional baggage and external events that smother our creativity can be conquered with awareness, discipline and the tools you’ve suggested to keep us from getting dragged down by those toxic influences.

    Have you noticed how we become easy prey for those with their own baggage? They’re not happy with their own chosen vocations or since they aren’t artistic they think creating is silly and unimportant or they resent you for whatever other reason and attack your artistic interests, etc. It’s up to us to overcome their negative influence.

    For example, while living at home I’d sneak my creative pursuits in like it was something naughty (!) because every time I’d want to play piano, or write or draw, I was given a household chore to do, or it was belittled. Then there were the snooty art professors that were not very encouraging because my style or choice of color didn’t meet their personal taste or idea of what art should be. Can anyone else relate to this?

    It takes work what with years (decades!) of bad influences and patterns to replace. But we owe it to ourselves.


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