“The only thing that will stop you from fulfilling your dreams is you.” ~Tom Bradley
Every day seemed like hours passing. It didn’t matter how much I got accomplished at work or how many nice things I did to help others. I never felt satisfied.
This restlessness seemed to grow as much as the time I spent on my creative writing shrank.
My someday dream of finishing just one book started to seem more like a never-to-be-crossed-off item on a bucket list. And the most frustrating thing was that the more effort I put into trying to write more, the less I had to show for it.
I thought for sure that I’d achieve success by bringing my project management tactics home from the office. I instituted a daily writing quota—twenty minutes in the morning right after finishing my oversized mug of coffee.
I quickly discovered that there was nothing inspiring about dragging myself out of bed earlier for the three weeks this practice lasted.
Next, I switched to evenings and upped the timeframe to 30 minutes. This nighttime block wound up being even less appealing than sorting through junk mail and vacuuming the floor. It was just another to-do on my long list.
So then I tried not formally demanding anything. Who needed structure when it stilted my inner artist? Well, that artist ended up no happier with what replaced it—a new practice of holding myself hostage in my home office on weekend mornings.
Yes, I would sit there not writing and secretly hoping if I sat there long enough I’d suddenly manifest lively prose.
My guilt would glue me in a prime position—facing my computer monitor. Eventually, I resorted to Internet distractions to avoid the quotes looming overhead: “Writers write.” and “You can have your book or you can have your excuses. You can’t have both.”
These inspiring quotes transformed from motivation into an excuse to quit.
I convinced myself that writers simply love to write and my love-hate relationship was very symbolic. For a real writer, the process wouldn’t be so painful, challenging, and laden with doubt.
I clung to this proof, trying to forget and carry on with other interests—yoga workshops, cooking classes, and grueling workouts. But the restlessness never ceased.
On the advice of my new life coach, I tried a new approach: write in the middle of life. Ditch trying to cram in writing while half-asleep or after thoroughly exhausted from a long workday. Instead, I would write during my formerly non-existent lunch break.
I squelched the chorus of “but” excuses and tried to be open to the one strategy I never tried. I never thought to because I usually spent a few minutes chowing down my food before jumping back into work.
And beyond time logistics, how could I possibly be inspired halfway through another busy day? How would I focus on writing when I had an afternoon’s worth of items waiting for my attention?
In spite of my skepticism, I bought myself a new Zen-themed journal. I armed myself with the inky blue and black pens I loved. And for 20 minutes I shut out the world beyond the lined pages in front of me.
On the very first day, I was amazed that this strategy was a success. Without any set intentions, I wound up writing several pages, jotting down an exciting assortment of new ideas and, most of all, discovering a renewed sense of enthusiasm for my writing practice.
And then it finally clicked. Lunchtime was safe from being smoldered by expectations. I didn’t have time to agonize over what I should accomplish.
Now, my creative writing has turned into a welcome mid-day break, at least most days. It’s a chance to slow the tempo and focus on only one thing. Most importantly, my lunchtime progress lifts the burden to produce at other times.
Free from my self-created pressure, I actually end up writing during the same times I used to fail—early in the morning and later in the evening. I write every day, sometimes several times a day, because I love it.
I pick up my journal and feel excited by the possibilities rather than petrified of the empty lined pages.
And it’s so wonderful because my writing has become a source of joy. I’ve finally tossed aside the expectations that stifled my creativity and let the words flow.
I feel more energized than ever because I’ve finally conquered that once nagging restlessness.
In this journey, I’ve learned a few key things about turning dreams about someday into actions today:
1. Toss aside expectations.
There’s a difference between meeting a fixed deadline and pouring your heart into your creative passion. Don’t crush your creativity by expecting too much and demanding constant progress.
Give yourself time and explore without forcing a specific end result. You don’t have to limit yourself to one project, one specific ending, one hero, one artistic medium, etc.
2. Don’t make your creative endeavors a chore.
Dedicate time to what you love but if it becomes a drag, rethink your approach. Be realistic. For example, setting aside two hours every week may be technically possible but it may not practical in terms of helping inspire progress. Do what you can with the energy, time, and resources you have.
3. Make the most of unused minutes.
Like the lunch break I used to waste, look for the times in the middle of life are great opportunities to explore creativity. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a large chunk of time—even a few minutes here and there add up to progress.
For example, think of all the moments spent waiting—for an appointment, to pick someone up from school or practice, or to meet a friend who is running late. These are all unexpected, fantastic times to tap into creativity and jot down ideas.
4. Use stillness to fuel creativity.
With so much to do, it’s easy to default to a frantic go, go, go tempo, which makes it hard to observe, hard to dream, and hard to create.
Take a few minutes each day to recharge. Maybe this is the moments of pursuing your passion like my mid-day writing sessions are for me. Or maybe this means practicing a few yoga poses, playfully blending paint in a journal, walking a little slower, taking a more scenic route home or enjoying a hot bath.
It doesn’t matter what nourishes your spirit as long as you can slow down even briefly.
5. Love and honor the process.
Enjoy the unexpected discoveries. Celebrate even the smallest of progress. It’s a journey and just opening up the channel to pursue your passion is a success in itself.
Photo by charamelody