Safeguarding Your Creative Time

One of the most important commodities we have in the world, and one of the things we all feel we don’t have enough of, is time.

I have always found that in order to carve out enough time for myself as an artist, I have had to be pretty ruthless in the safeguarding of my time.

I am beginning the second draft rewrites on a 107K-word novel I wrote while holding down a full time job. This is not something you do by being overly generous with your time.

I’m not saying to become a recluse or to miss out on the important events in life. What I am saying is you need to make your creative time sacred. Likely you are not the type of person to skip work or blow off a meeting with a friend, so start treating yourself, your goals and your creative time with as much respect as you would these other areas of your life.

Set some structure into your life. Schedule consistent time in which you work, whether it’s to practice, to create or to promote art. Consistency is key. Keep your appointments with yourself. Breaking once is a slippery slope. If you miss once, don’t let it happen a second time. Allow yourself one missed appointment but never two in a row. Make that commitment and stick to it.

Here’s the way you have to look at it, if you don’t have the discipline now to keep yourself motivated, to keep a schedule, what makes you think you’re going to when you’re doing this full time?

On the reverse side of that logic, proving to yourself that you can do this, that you can keep a schedule, that you can consistently and daily show up to the page or the canvas, will strengthen your resolve and belief in yourself as an artist. Prove to yourself that you can. That sort of confidence built will go a long way. You take yourself more seriously when you take yourself more seriously.

But what of all the outside pressures begging you to beg off? Sometimes saying ‘no’ can be burdensome and uncomfortable. Sometimes all the daily email and laundry and child-rearing can seem to be all-absorbing. This is when communication is your best offense.

In all the time I was writing my book, there were a few times when I actually drafted up a letter to family and friends and explained what I was doing, what my time and my life was going to be like during all this, that this was my goal and this was my plan and this was what I hoped to accomplish. This was what it would mean to me and this was what it would mean for them, and I thanked them in advance for all their support and understanding.

If I didn’t return that call or email for a few days that was okay. If I didn’t go to the movies on Saturday, they’d get it. And sometimes it was okay if my place was messy. And sometimes I didn’t go to that party. I actually lived at my computer most nights and many weekends.

But it all paid off. With a regimented timetable, I finished my first draft within a little over a year. In that time, I not only learned what I was able to accomplish and what a great support network I had around me, but I learned the importance and value of maintaining a schedule, guarding my time and keeping my promises. And now I know I will do it again and again. I found certainty as an artist. And that’s more valuable than all the time in the world.

It’s not how much you have, it’s what you do with it.

Stay hungry. Stay Well-Fed.

– C.R. Cohen

The Well-Fed Artist – featured in the 9 o’clock hour on Radio Soapbox every Monday night.  Listen live or listen to the archives.

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C.R. Cohen’s love affair with words and the arts has lead her on a lifelong journey as a poet and writer and an art activist, founding Artists Underground, to bring networking, resources and advice to artists, and joining forces with Soapbox Nation to provide creative career consultations and artist services to help artists get further faster.
About C.R. Cohen
C.R. Cohen’s love affair with words and the arts has lead her on a lifelong journey as a poet and writer and an art activist, founding Artists Underground, to bring networking, resources and advice to artists, and joining forces with Soapbox Nation to provide creative career consultations and artist services to help artists get further faster.

2 thoughts on “Safeguarding Your Creative Time

  1. Guard your time and schedule work, but also schedule play time where you are not allowed to touch anything work related. Otherwise you burn out and become less productive.

    There is no time-frame for accomplishing your ambitions. Develop clarity, consistency, and always focus on the “why”.

    This is your zen thought of the day!

  2. Stay hungry. Stay well fed. What a mantra! I love it.

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