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10 Tips to Nurture Your Creative Life: Making Time and Space

“The grass is always greener where you water it.” ~Unknown

I’ve had this theory about life for a while now, ever since I embraced simplicity three years ago.

Life, a good life, a life well lived, is about maintenance. It isn’t chance or luck or fate (though I believe in those things, and in magic too); it’s about doing the work to create the life you want, and doing it over and over and over again.

Not that long ago, my writing life resembled un-watered grass. I let the passion I have for writing and words get away from me in my quest for an adult life. I begrudged anyone who had ever done anything creative—they must have more time, more money, more luck, the right connections, or something, anything, I didn’t have.

All my unused creativity turned into bitterness. I’m not one for jealousy or envy, because I know the value of living a happy, grateful life.

Still, all that unused creativity made me feel like I had no purpose in life—looking around I saw dried up, brown grass. What I should have been tending to, lay fallow and ignored.

By mere chance, I picked up a book on simple living at the library. It was spring, and while everything came to life around me, I felt—well, in retrospect, I think I felt nothing. A sort of apathy had taken over. Sitting on the back steps of my patio, flipping through that book, something clicked.

For me, simplicity and creativity go hand in hand. I spent over a year simplifying my life—decluttering, meditating, and becoming very purposeful about what I wanted and needed, and how those two things are different.

Then, one day, I sat down and started writing. Writing so much, in fact, that I finished the first draft of a novel.

Writing (and all creativity) needs space. It needs intention and purpose. Like grass, it needs to be watered, and how can you water it if you’re so busy attending to all the other “things” in your life?

Finding your simplicity edge can take some time and energy. There will be lots of sorting and deciding and donating and throwing away. Making space—physical space—can make a huge difference in your life; it is worth every minute decluttering.

And you deal with all your “stuff”, there is the mental and emotional stuff to be dealt with too: Is your calendar jam-packed because you hate to say no? Are you working a job you dislike to pay the bills you’ve accrued from all those purchases?

Here are 10 tips to find the time, energy, and space for your creative life (essentially, how to water your grass):

1. Say no.

To invitations and purchases, to guilt about disappointing others and items you don’t need. We all have our weaknesses—mine is shoes, my partner’s is helping people—but learning to say no, is really the first step in simplifying your way back to creativity. It isn’t selfish to honor your creative self; it’s self-care.

2. Have fun.

Creativity is about creation, and creation is fun. It should be enjoyable. If it doesn’t appeal to you, don’t force yourself to do it—because “should” is very different than “want.”

3. Keep the editor away.

The editor has her place in creative “work”—like when I write book reviews or polish stories for publication—but she has no place in the creative sphere. Figure out a way to keep her busy or send her packing, and only call on her when her not-picky voice might actually be useful.

4. Be curious.

Embrace your curiosity as a natural state. Curiosity is key. Without it, creativity can’t thrive.

5. Expect and embrace imperfection.

Perfection is creativity’s enemy.

6.  Toot your horn.

I’m terrible at this but I’m learning. People love to talk about creative endeavors—and it is inspiring to see how and what others are doing. Don’t be afraid to say, Hey, I painted that or Hey, I wrote a poem.

7. But don’t compare.

The grass is not greener anywhere else. You’re just looking at it from a different angle, and perception can be deceiving.

8. Keep it simple.

Don’t run out and buy anything you think you need to be creative. Creativity isn’t about items—though you may need brushes or a pencil or paper—it’s about the act. Start small, start with what you have.

9. Allow space and time.

Creativity really only needs space and time, two of the hardest gifts to give yourself. Clear a corner in your home, forgo a night out with friends, and begin.

10. Make it a routine.

This might sound anathema to creativity—it’s all about inspiration right?—but it’s actually the key. The grass doesn’t get green from the occasional heavy watering. It gets green from regular tending.

Creativity is the same: Attend to it everyday—the results are worth the effort.

Photo by John-Morgan

Avatar of Sara Rauch

About Sara Rauch

Sara Rauch believes in simplicity, fresh air, kale, and coffee. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary magazines and in the anthology Dear John, I Love Jane. She is the editor of Cactus Heart Literary Magazine and is working on her first novel. Visit her website www.sararauch.com for more information.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/beedette.ignacio Bernadette L Ignacio

    Green IS good! And I appreciate you reminding me of that Sarah. I too am a writer. One who is in the burgeoning stage. I fight not the too much stuff battle, but with the too much to do war. It’s like the Cold War, a longed out conflict slowly degrading all involved parties, i.e. my creative works. I don’t want my blog, bernadettelynnignacio.com, to go brown- so I just wanted to thank you for sprinkling a little fertilizer on my lit lawn, I’ll be sure to keep the sprinklers on in the mornings.

    Bernadette*

  • Sara Rauch

    Hi Bernadette,

    Thanks so much for your comment. Green is good, in so many ways!
    Keep writing!

    sara

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=768642979 Tena Moore

    I relate 100%! Thanks for the honest post and for reminding me that I am not alone. :)

  • Bava Juice

    Really enjoyed reading your article! I liked all the tips but the ones that really spoke to me the most have to be, give it time and keep it simple. 

  • http://www.zencaffeine.com/ Kaylee

    Whooo, my lawn is dying… I’m guilty of ignoring #10 – my writing practice is definitely just the occasional heavy watering lately. Thanks for the important reminders, especially to make it a routine. When I was consistent, it amazed me how easily the words poured out…

    Anywho, I think clearing the time and space for creativity is super important. SO important that I’m getting my own little nook in my new place, just for me, my desk and my muse. Yay! =)  Great tips, Sara. I’ll be pulling this up again when I get settled into my nook.

  • http://twitter.com/FlorCoppola Flor Coppola

    Thank you! Also you gave some warm rays of sun to grow my backyard. Regards from Argentina.

  • alleykat_

    It speaks directly to me, thank you! 

  • Sara C C Rauch

    Hi Kaylee,

    I’m big on routine (even though my younger self is shaking her head in disbelief!). Glad my post spoke to you, and good luck writing!

    Sara

  • bee

    I’m in the thirsty, begrudging, bitter stage but trying to work with it consciously. I felt well-watered after reading this piece. Thank you so much, this spoke to me in exactly the right way at the right time. Bless you!

  • Brandee

    This is truly the story of my life right now, especially #1, #5…okay, the full listing.

    It can be hard to give yourself permission to take time out for your creative side, especially when you may have had others in the past tell you that you’re “wasting time.” It’s nice to hear that it really is okay to nurture this self-care. Thank you so much for this post.

  • http://twitter.com/Michaelgrow Michael Mark

    Sara, Wonderful to listen to you listening to you.

  • Sasssandy5

    I LOVE your post and it feels like I could have written it myself. I agree whole-heartedly with all your points and I needed to read YOUR post to remind myself to keep making that space and time so THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Wishing you all the very best. xx

  • Renpic

    I can super super relate to this and your advice is very inspiring and empowering.  For me the hardest part about setting time aside to (eg) write a poem, is understanding the real purpose behind this activity.  It is difficult to explicitly connect the creative process to real self-care.  Framing it as maintenance rather than practice actually helps me make the connection.    

  • Lise Ferland

    Thanks for such an inspiring, and practical note…to be printed and put in my studio :-)

  • http://www.talkaboutcreative.com.au/ Content Creator

    I find the biggest challenge is distancing myself enough from the day to day rubbish.  I’d like to be able to use that stress and emotion to create but I create for a living, and clients don’t want drama, they want my creativity applied their way!  I think you’re right though, I think I need to completely step back and make time to for my own creative exploration, in the end it will benefit my clients too I think.

  • http://www.healinghandsmassage.net.au/ Mikel shang

    A great article! Thanks for sharing! I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing about making my own line of crystal essences for my healing practice for years now. I’ve researched, researched and researched. I’ve dreamed big and imagined myself succeeding. Then the crunch comes in… what if it’s not good enough. What is they don’t sell, What if I’m stuck with alot of stock, it would be a waste of money!!!! So I think now, you need to write a follow up article on how to combat the demons within! Perception and conception…. hmmm, :)

  • Girlgreytea

    Totally agree. That would be a great post. I struggle with the same thing. I have a box of invention ideas and I’ve even gone as far as to make a prototype of one. Unfortunately the demons you just described scared me into not going further with it. two years later someone else had filed a patent on the same idea…10 years after I had my first thought about it. It’s definitely a difficult thing to fight…

  • Arruda2011

    love love love this article! 

  • Sara C Rauch

    Mikel~

    Thanks for your comment. I will work on that post about combating the demons within! Good luck with your crystal essences (sounds like a gorgeous idea to me!).

    sara

  • Sara C Rauch

    Creativity is *absolutely* self care. We are creative beings! (Have you ever done “The Artist’s Way”? It’s a great resource for jumpstarting your creative juices.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/tammehunt Tamm E Hunt

    I think I have been loosed and freed. Great thoughts and advice.