Giving Yourself Permission to Create

How much time do you spend every week creating – whether that’s painting, writing, or singing in the shower? I love being creative, but up until about five years ago, I denied myself consistent time to do the thing I most enjoyed.

When I was about nine, I wrote a book series called High Cliff Towers, which was about a boarding school for rich kids who arrived for the start of the term by helicopter. I sat for hours at my desk, and didn’t ask myself why I was dedicating so much time to writing. Nor did anyone quiz me about it. After all, children are meant to be creative. Then when fifteen-year-old me wrote heavy-hearted poems, nobody questioned this use of my time. People understand that expressing yourself through art is an important part of being a teenager.

I think it was upon entering proper adulthood that guilt kicked in, and I began to allow myself less and less time to be creative. Sure, I now had more responsibilities, but did I really need to deny myself a writing session so I could work late, do life admin, or meet a friend for a drink on that specific day, at that specific time? Of course not. But I bet you know those looks on people’s faces if you try telling them you have a date with writing. Choosing writing over socialising isn’t the done thing. Somewhere on the journey from childhood to adulthood, I’d absorbed the myth that being creative is self-indulgent, and I stopped making creativity a priority.

Do you put creativity first? Or do you tell yourself you haven’t got time because there are more important things to do? You’ve got kids who need you. There’s housework to get done. You have to go to that work get-together.

If you wrote a time inventory of everything you did during your day, including sleeping, would it really contain twenty-four hours of must-do tasks? If you’re anything like I was, taking care of your responsibilities doesn’t take up as much time as you think it does. If you let go of the guilt, there are often things you can strike off the list or move to another day.

In my late 20s, I banned myself from writing and reading fiction, so I could spend every spare hour studying for a second degree that I was doing part-time. But the truth is that I studied far less than I’d intended to because I felt so drained. The more I denied myself creative escape, the more miserable I became and the less fun I was to be around.

Finding pockets of time, won’t help much if you’re wiped of energy. These days, I give myself permission to create every week, even if that’s just half an hour of journaling. I also focus on letting go of the guilt.

The next time you think about denying yourself time to create, think about how it would feel to ban yourself from exercising. You wouldn’t feel ashamed to work out. It’s good for the body and the mind. Well, the same is true of creativity.

Dear Fear

I’ve been reading the wonderful book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert about creative living beyond fear. In her book, Liz writes a letter to Fear. This inspired me to write my own letter. Read More