Managing personal, daily responsibilities alongside creative priorities feels, to me, a lot like trying to boil water without a stove. There are ways to do it, but it takes a lot more work and resourcefulness than you’d prefer. You have to build a fire.
I go through periods of sitting in the dark often. No fire, no stove, and certainly no boiled water. But the most frustrating part is that we all have our valid reasons for these misaligned responsibilities and priorities that can lead to darkness. My reasons, for example (since I’m painfully aware of my own and have made it a sort of habit to call out my own imperfections in this space), have to do with lack of time and with other, “more important” tasks than, say, oh I don’t know, writing a chapter of a book or drafting a blog post.
Limited time and limitless tasks might not be far off base from your reasons, either. I’m pretty sure we all wrestle with time management (or just a deficit of enough time) and needing to get the *really* important things done before we get the things we’d like to do done.
For me, the stuff that comes before my personal writing projects makes up a pretty long list: clean the kitchen, walk the dog, declutter the desk, vacuum, work on freelance assignments, make breakfast, make lunch, make dinner, clean up after any given meal, work out, answer emails. I spend a good portion of the week with the little boy I nanny for. I spend a good portion of my nights reading…or watching Bravo. (Okay, mostly watching Bravo.)
Most of those tasks are simply things I need to get done to function normally and make a living, but where do the creative priorities fit in? (And they are still priorities…even if they don’t always make it on the day’s list of must-dos.) For me, I’m learning over and over again that nothing happens in an instant. Writing a book takes time. Curating content online takes resiliency and consistency.
I’m also continuing to learn my strengths: I’m a big morning lover, and that’s when my creativity and productivity are their absolute highest. So, on the days when I have a full schedule, I know I won’t get any writing in if I save it until 9 at night. (Let’s be honest, it probably won’t happen after 3 in the afternoon.) Even on days when my routine is a little slower and more flexible, a sit-down in front of my computer or with a notebook first thing can kick things off in a way more positive way than scrolling through Instagram in bed for a half hour.
Plus, at 7 a.m., I usually don’t have a sky-high to-do list full of all my responsibilities yet, and many of those can wait until later in the day anyway, when my left-brained creative madness has chilled out a little.
It really takes a degree of self-awareness and some diligence, but the necessary duties of life don’t need to constantly outweigh the fulfillment and forward motion of a side project or two. Take it from me — I’ve been learning and resisting and relearning this lesson too many times to count. Do the thing makes your soul feel less crazy — clean the kitchen, go for a run. But also make sure you do the thing that makes your soul feel set ablaze.