“Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work … No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.”
I’m getting better at saying “no.”
I just read the Lifehacker article “Why Some of the World’s Most Productive People Have Empty Schedules” and the related Medium article “Creative People Say No.” If you’re a creative type, especially if you’re yearning to undertake a creative profession, take the few minutes to read these articles. (If you’re already creating full time, you probably already live this stuff, and I envy you.)
When your creations put food on the table and keep the lights on, or when you’re trying to balance a creative career with a full-time “real” job, time is your most valuable possession. Money may seem most important, because you trade money around for that food and those lights. Money helps you buy Shiny New Things and even funds business expenses. Lack of money is what keeps you up at night, sweating bills and empty accounts rather than sweating over creating something.
However, it takes time to generate money. If you have no time to create, then you will not generate money with your creativity. You will stay at the “real” job, and you will pour your valuable time into it, and your creativity will continue to suffer.
This is why I developed the “no” habit, and more importantly, why I’m learning to say “no” to myself.
This is why I haven’t seen the latest, greatest movie in the theater, and why I’m always several episodes—or even an entire season—behind on my favorite television shows. This is why I’ve rejiggered my karate schedule following my black belt test. This is why I sometimes have to tell my friends I can’t hang out on a given night, as much as I’d like to.
After a time, it gets easier. You may feel like a jerk at first, but soon people get the idea. They may not always be happy about it, but they understand what you’re trying to do. If I hadn’t finally learned to say no, Lie with the Dead still wouldn’t be finished, and Deadliest of the Species would still be out of print.
My next trick will be balancing my available time between health and creative endeavors. My martial arts training is not just a hobby, it’s exercise. My weight lifting supports my karate and judo, and I’m trying to get back into running to burn off some fat and increase cardio endurance. Adequate sleep is important for general health and for muscle recovery.
Sometimes, something has to give. Deadlines, you know. It sucks, but that’s how it goes. When I find that winning formula for time management, I’ll let you know.