Personal Creativity vs My Creative Business

Work. It’s a blessing and a curse. If you’re self-employed, you want to be flooded with work so the checks keep rolling in and your business will grow. But if your job is being creative, it can suck you dry of any and all inspiration you may have wanted to save for yourself.

This happens to me sometimes. Lately, its been happening a lot. There’s a bit of inner struggle. Today i felt supremely satisfied with what i put out into the world. Every client was happy. Emails full of positivity flooded into my inbox. i was checking off items on the to-do list left and right, and i was enjoying myself! But as the world outside my office window grows darker and darker (its pushing up on midnight as i write this), i realize that my view for the past 15 hours has pretty much been this…


My desk is a tragedy. A total mess. i’ve barely moved from this spot since 9am. And i realize that another day has passed where i didn’t refinish my kitchen table, didn’t make that camera strap cover i’ve been planning since i got my new camera for christmas, and didn’t sew the new crib sheets i’ve got planned for our newest little addition, who’s scheduled to arrive in a mere 7 weeks!

My creativity has all been channeled toward my clients and i’ve got none left for me.

i don’t mean all this to sound whiny. i am immensely grateful for the blessing of abundant work coming my way. i’m just seeing it as a teachable moment.

So i hopped on Google and did a little web surfing and came across this post on the Zen Habits site. i know its made the rounds on the blogs. But if you haven’t read “The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People”, i certainly highly recommend it. SO many of the main points resonated with me. i’d have to say, though, that it wasn’t the No.1 or even No.2 habit that struck me most. Nope. The item that really made me pause was in the “other habits” section, all the way at the bottom of the post, and it was an observation by actress, Felicia Day that went like this;

When I am most productive I am the most ruthless with my schedule. I will literally make a daily checklist with, “one hour gym”, “30 minutes of internet research,” and “drink 3 glasses of water” on it. For some reason being that disciplined creates a sense of control that I wouldn’t have otherwise, as a self-employed person

YES! That is me! That is what works for me!! How could i have let something so simple escape me? Twitter and Facebook have effectively sucked away my ability to stick to a ruthless to-do list. Social media has also made my sales skyrocket in the past year, so no offense to Twitter and Facebook.

But i realized i need to get back to being accountable to a timetable that has ME on it!

Now, i know full-well that this type of strategy may not work for most people. But i’ve tried it in the past. i used to live by such intense to-do lists. They kept me motivated when no boss or supervisor was there to do it for me. And i was always deeply satisfied at day’s end to see all my check marks lined up down the margin. So, tomorrow i’m on it.  My nutty, over-the-top, 30-minute increment to-do list is going to include at least 1….maybe even 1 1/2 hours dedicated to my OWN creativity.

i’ll eventually work my way up to more… steps, baby steps.

i think that the way to keep loving the pursuit of my art and also to continue to appreciate how blessed i am to do it for a living is to step away from the business end of it more frequently. i just need a daily reminder. Who knows? If i do well, i may have a personal creative project to share in my next post, instead of just a neglected item on my “ME” to-do list.

12 thoughts on “Personal Creativity vs My Creative Business

  1. Gee – I wish my desk were as messy as yours! (tongue in cheek) – mine’s not only a disaster, it’s incorrigible, and not because I’ve been spending time there, either! Yes, the to do list is tantamount to my productivity. I’ve been away from it (hence the incorrigible desk). Thanks for the reminder to reinstitute the practice! #1 on my list: 15 minutes per day simplifying my office cubicle – ruthlessly.

  2. I had just decided this morning that I needed to get back to keeping a time log because it keeps me focused on my to-do list. It also keeps me accountable for my time, which seems to stop me from getting sucked into facebook or other social media sites.

  3. So true. I find that, especially around the holidays, I do NOT make time to work on personal projects – things like painting the cabinet that I’ve been meaning to paint for over a year, planning our vegetable garden, organizing, exercising… This time right now – January and February – is my time to play. And if I put it on a list it gets done. Sometimes I put “answer email” on the list just so I have something that I know I can check off! Good luck!

  4. Stephanie: here’s a few concrete suggestions which have worked for me.

    1. Three glasses of water: fill three glasses, line them up on the counter, when they are empty you have had your three glasses.
    2. Time tracking: I’m convinced part of the problem with time tracking is most people only track one time. It’s critical to track two times. The first is billable clock time for clients, what you’re charging them by the hour, and if it’s by project, consider charging time to the project.

    The second is running a timer by task. I decompose tasks into 15-60 minutes each, then run an hour timer. At the end of each task I note the time in 15 minute increments. When the hour timer goes off, I take a break.

    NOTE: for ordinary breaks, like walking around thinking about the work, that’s billable time so keep that clock running.

  5. I can so relate to this post and actually stayed up til about…hmm…2am {again} last night trying to work on my schedule so that I can do just what you are talking about! Yes, baby steps…I did get a new “work flow” sheet printed out that I think will help tremendously, and I’m working on tweaking the schedule I created a few months before the holiday rush started…b/c then, it well…kinda flew out the window since I was so busy trying to fill orders. Oh, all of this that you mention is so very important for our creative souls and well-being!! :) Spot on!! And, I think the idea of being even more specific with the allotted time will truly help…I’m going to work on tweaking my schedule a bit more! Thank you, thank you…just the added dose of inspiration I needed this morning! And, it always helps to know that I am not alone in these struggles of running a business from home! :)

    Happy HUMP day!!


  6. Great post! I skipped my workout for over a month because I got busy with orders. I paid for my gym membership and didn’t even use it once in October, only three times in November and twice in December. This month after adding my workout to my schedule I have worked out 8 times! 8 out of 12 days!

  7. I’ve been thinking a lot about this as we enter the new year. Last year I felt like all I did was just work constantly. This year I am definitely scheduling me time, time for creative play. And I’m also insisting that I get off the computer in the evenings. It’s hard to do, but necessary for my peace of mind.

  8. Pingback: Catching up
  9. Wow, this post really hit home for me. My own creative business has just taken off over the last year, and I realised (when I finally had a spare moment to breathe) over Christmas that I haven’t done anything creative for myself or family for a very long time. I’m a big to-do list person, so I now know what is going to go on my list regularly. Thank you from a daily reader but rare commenter.

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