It’s really tempting to binge watch and eat all day while scrolling through all the distractions on my phone. One second another breaking news alert about the death toll or social distancing, the next minute a recipe for a black bean buddha bowl I just have to try. And it’s okay to spend some time doing that. This blog is about how to make time to make art even when we work full time, have families to tend, have other hobbies and interests, etc. Basically–How do you make time to do the solitary, hyper-focused, emotionally taxing work that is art?
All of a sudden I find myself with nothing but time at home. The high school where I teach is closed. My yoga studio is closed. I can’t meet my friend for coffee. This is no longer about making time for me. This is no longer about setting a timer to squeeze a spare half hour before work to make progress on my novel. This is about how to set aside the anxiety of the moment to get some writing done. Some things that are working for me:
Wake up early
On weekdays I am still setting my alarm for 4 to get up and write. As always, this is my best creative time, because the house is totally quiet and the sun is not yet up. There is no solitude like the solitude before dawn.
Put your phone in quarantine
I am leaving my phone downstairs at night, not checking it until after I write, and setting it aside or turning it off for big chunks of time during the day. There is this app that sends me a digest of the news on any given day that takes two minutes to read. Over the course of this past week, I’ve noticed something. Spending more time than that reading my news feed does not give me more news. It just gives me more time worrying about the same news. If you really feel that you must be an informed public citizen, pick a publication you love and trust that reviews the news and set designated time aside to read just that publication.
Get you work out there
If you’ve got work ready to send out into the world, get it out there. Whether that means submitting work to agents or journals, updating your artistic portfolio, self-publishing, or whatever it is for you that is equivalent for you putting your work into that little paper boat and sending it across the water–do that. Yesterday, I revised my query and sent it out to two agents. Just that act was enough to float me through the day. But then–guess what? They both replied asking for more pages. Getting our work out is how we artists who are solitary beings by nature connect. Now is the time to connect.
Make a schedule and be gentle, but firm with yourself about keeping it
It’s taking me much longer to get settled into the work, and I’m much more distractible, but if I set a schedule to sit at my desk writing from 5–9, I am going to set at my desk attempting to write from 5–9. Will I waste some of that time? Sure. No big deal. Just sit for the time you’ve promised to.
A note for those of you with younger children
Our kids are grown or mostly grown, but I realize that some of you may just have flipped time. Time you would have been at work, you are now spending homeschooling your kids. I have seen a lot of advice online for parents about how to make a schedule for their kids. For your sake, I sincerely hope that part of that schedule includes (if your children are old enough not to be a danger to themselves) unstructured playtime where they can do their own thing and you can get a couple of hours of creative break time for you. Especially moms out there–kids need to see you reading, making, and living apart from them and they need the same. Take a cue from famed short story writer Alice Munro, the most badass stay-at-home mother/ writer ever.