This is a big one.
I face off with this one daily.
It goes like this:
You’re at a break in your day and you think, “What should I do next?”
Immediately, images or ideas flash through your mind (if you haven’t suppressed them to oblivion already so many times that they’ve given up). You start to daydream about that project: the drawing, the story, the song. You briefly consider sitting down to sketch, write or strum.
And then you think, “Nah, I can’t do that. There isn’t enough time to make any real progress. No doubt that I’d just get rolling and something would interrupt me: the phone would ring, my parents would want me to do chores, it would be time to go to work…” whatever.
Or maybe you’re staring at a 10-minute window, and you figure you can’t really do anything with 10 minutes.
Yes and no
Yes, it’s true that creativity benefits from large blocks of time. Anything over 2 hours is absolutely lovely.
However, there are still things you can do with smaller chunks of time to achieve your artistic goals.
- You can get other tasks done so you are free later to create
- You can teach your creative muscles to work in smaller units of time
But beware! The first one can be a hidden trap! If all you do with your free time is other things, then you may fall into the trap of not using the larger blocks for creating.
You see, at that point you’ve got a habit of choosing other things. And when the 2 hours are available, your procrastinatory habit is likely to kick in and you’ll decide to watch a movie or clean your room. Especially if other anti-creative thought processes are running free in your brain. Basically, the more you succumb to the temptation to not create, the easier it is to continue doing so. (Coming soon: Anti-creative myth #3: why start now? The trouble with inertia)
Do the math
Okay, so I really don’t like math. But sometimes numbers can be so convincing. Consider this:
If you procrastinate for a week on, for instance, writing your story, then 7 days have gone by without any progress. This may seem like no big deal. But if you do it long enough, you find a month or a year has slipped away, and the story is unwritten.
On the other hand, if you write for 10 minutes a day, you may finish a page in a week. Or if you’re fast, you might have 5 pages (after all, once you start writing, it often happens that you keep writing for longer than you thought you would). And if you kept it up all year, you’d have anywhere from 52 pages to 260 pages (52*5) at the end of the year.
A whole lot better than nothing. Zip. Zero.
Assignment: train your brain
Practice being creative (in the creative art of your choice) in short increments.
Try different times. Start with the short ones. Get creative about it: find ways to do it while waiting in line at the store, while on a drive (as long as you’re not driving!), any time you have even a 2-minute window.
It may not be easy at first. You may only create utter garbage that you never show anyone.
But I can guarantee that if you keep at it, what you create (even with these tiny bits of time) will improve. And after a while, you’ll find it just as easy to create something wonderful in 10 minutes as it is to do it in 2 hours.
The something wonderful might be smaller or shorter than the 2-hour version, but it will be wonderful nonetheless. That’s why well-known artists do all those cool little sketches at cons — they’re so well-practiced that they can dash off something cool in just a minute or two.
(By the way, I wrote this entry in several of those short units of time… I started by only writing the title in 15 seconds because I had the idea but had to do something else first… Then I came back and wrote about half… And then I came back and finished it… I’ll probably come back and review/edit it the same way before posting it… Living proof that it can be done!)