The Creative Life
What exactly is a creative life? Everyone’s definition is unique. For me, it means having enough time in my day to do and create the things that I love. It means feeding myself on a soul level by expressing the beauty begging to come out. I spent years frustrated by half-done projects, the desire to put words on the page and feeling like I had no time to do any of it. I made a ton of excuses for myself—I work full time outside the house, we have a big family, the house is a mess—the list went on and on. The cloud of unfulfilled creativity followed me for years until I took a good, hard look at how I was really spending my time. I wasted hours a day on things that amounted to nothing. Here are the 7 steps I took to stop dreaming and start living the creative life I always wanted.
Step One: Define Your Dream Creative Life
I know this may sound trite, but you have to know what you want before you can go get it. What does your ideal creative life look like? Are you a full-time creative? Do you have a passion you’ve always wanted to explore and just can’t seem to find the time?
It always helps me to see opa (other people’s answers), here is what I came up with for my dream creative life.
I want to be a full-time author and researcher. I also want to have a couple of side hustles that allow me to travel & share my fabric arts and herbal creations with the world. I want a studio in the forest surrounded by nothing but nature and I want to share it all with my husband.
Step Two: Choose a Path
Now you know what you want, but how do you get there?
You have two basic choices:
- Go All In—for me this would be quitting my job so I can research & write all day, every day and travel to faires and shows on the weekends. This is a drastic and scary change for most people.
- Step by Step—daily actionable steps that lead to your goal. This is the path we will explore together in the rest of this post and a few more upcoming posts about actionable creative steps.
Step Three: Decide on a Time Block & Guard it Zealously
Decide on a block of time that you will set aside every day (no matter what, weekdays, weekends, on vacation and even during the holidays) that is dedicated to working your path. The block can be just a few minutes, you would be amazed at how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes! I used the Pomodoro method and set aside 25 minutes each and every day for my lists of 3. I did my best to ruthlessly deny distractions. I refused to answer my phone or look at emails during my creative time block. I succeeded about 80% of the time, but WOW what a difference it made in my creative life.
Step Four: Your List of 3
You absolutely must plan your steps. This is not the time to wing it or for insane levels of multi-tasking. The secret to phenomenal productivity is focusing on a single step. Just one thing you can do towards the end goal (in this case your fantastic, wonderful creative lifestyle) each week, day or even hour. Break it down. Stop looking at where you want to be and focus on steps you can take NOW. I use a list of 3 to move down the tracks towards my goals. Focusing on too many things only serves to overwhelm you mentally and spiritually, deal with what is directly before you. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow, methodical and step by step won the race 🙂
Speaking of productivity…..I’ve tried several methods of productivity (David Allen’s Getting Things Done™ changed my perspective on things tremendously and you absolutely must read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art). I have found the greatest success using a hybrid of GTD (see my workbook List of 3) and my own personal creation, The Clipboard Creative™ (all the details coming soon!).
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
Mari wants to leave her job and turn her passion for handmade soaps into a full-time gig. She wants to be able to travel and attend natural products shows around the world as a vendor. She has chosen the step by step method as she is not in a financial position to give up her outside employment. She completed a creative offerings worksheet and decided on the following three areas of first action:
1. complete a core line-up of products (bar soap, liquid dish soap, liquid shampoo & conditioner and liquid laundry soap)
2. expand her online presence (Etsy shop, her own blog/store site, and a business Instagram in addition to her Pinterest and Facebook accounts) and book 3 local shows to attend as a vendor in the next 6 months
3. develop & offer digital downloads of her recipes to create passive income and reach the diy market
Sarah loves astrology and numerology. She’s studied for years with wise teachers and she’s ready to launch her own private practice. She has very young children and doesn’t have a way, or desire, to maintain an office so all of her client work will be virtual. She’s chosen to go all in, home is her domain and she will find a way to work around housework and raising her babies. Her creative offerings worksheet focused her in the following action areas:
1. establish a blog and 1 primary social media outlet
2. write 10 introductory, informative posts about astrology & numerology–focusing on what’s unique about Sarah’s take on the subject matter
3. develop & offer her first flagship course
From this point, both Mari and Sarah can come up with actionable steps to accomplish their list of 3.
Step Five: Actionable Steps
Drill it down into simple tasks that can be accomplished in scheduled blocks of time. I still follow the rule of 3 and limit my tasks to just 3 accomplishable items. I have so many other responsibilities that anything more than 3 becomes overwhelming very quickly. Let’s look at Mari & Sarah’s lists.
- Register a domain name
- Purchase web hosting
- Install WordPress
- Make a batch of unscented liquid soap base
- Create labels for the liquid hand soap scents
- Add scents to base and bottle
- Register with Etsy
- Photograph the liquid soaps
- Register with Instagram
- Create listing for Etsy of liquid soaps
- Post on Instagram
- Write a blog post about liquid soap
- Write down 1 recipe for flagship course on soapmaking
- Look up local shows and apply for at least 1
- Make a list of 3 blog posts
- Register a domain name
- Purchase web hosting
- Install WordPress
- Choose a WordPress theme and activate it
- Make a list of blog categories
- Create a Facebook page for the blog
- Enter blog categories from list into WordPress
- Create an about page on the blog
- Decide on photos to use for about page
- Look up about pages on Pinterest
- Create a rough draft of about page
- First post on Facebook
- Make a list of 3 blog posts to write for each category
- Choose and outline 1 post from the list
- Choose 1-4 photos to use for the outlined post
Both lists are bite-size task masters that go a long way toward meeting the list of 3 each woman defined.
Step Six: Evaluate
At the end of your first week (and every week for best results) take a step back and evaluate where you are. Don’t just consider completed tasks on your list, think about what you’ve learned, where you can improve, how you felt and what you enjoyed most about your week. Please don’t get hung up on perfect, watch Marie Forleo below for a progress pep talk.
Step Seven: Edit and Revise
After you’ve evaluated your week it’s time to give things a tweak. Edit your next list of 3 to shake up the things that didn’t work for you and expound upon the things that did. Many people are afraid to edit and revise, feeling as if they are flaky or wishy-washy. Banish those thoughts. Evolution is exciting, I would daresay it is the pinnacle of creativity. Learning, growing and being brave enough to follow the path where it leads are good things.
“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.”