Our Saturdays go something like this:
- Morning routine
- Tidy the kitchen and living room
- Smalls therapy
- Making art
Sometimes they go like this:
- Morning routine
- Tidy the kitchen but
- Interrupted by epic meltdown/tantrum
- Trip to the hospital for crisis evaluation
Those are extreme examples; our Saturdays usually fall somewhere in between. We never know what kind of Saturday we’re going to get, but I always hope and pray for the former.
For this ambitious, creative Planner Nerd, the not knowing part is really frustrating. I need routines, schedules, and to-do lists to keep myself in a good place. I still make them, but when we have a bad day/week/month/year, I invest a lot of energy into beating myself up for not getting things done. Especially when I consistently fall short on goals I’ve set for my blog and creative life.
The result is walking around feeling off balance and anxious about the ever-growing list of creative projects bouncing around in my head with nowhere to go. And don’t get me started on the plain old life to-do list.
Laundry and dishes always need doing and food needs to be shopped for and cooked. Dust and pet hair conspire to make a carpet on the hardwood floors. The bathroom, ugh, the bathroom, where the bacteria and mildew have a party with the toothpaste blobs and soap scum.
Making life happen is hard.
And, talking to my fellow mamas of kiddos with special needs and extra features, taking time for you seems next to impossible. Things you want to do, things that your heart and soul need to feel nurtured…well, those seem like they’re not even an option. I know mama, I know. It’s really fucking hard.
My therapist is full of well-meaning advice:
- Are you making time for self-care? (Self-care is a fucking swear word. Like really? You gonna come manage the chaos while I soak in the tub and give myself a facial?)
- Why don’t you hire a cleaning lady or order a meal package to free up some of your time? (I see you have extra money in your wallet for me to spend on this, fork it over.)
- Just block out time for yourself and stick to it. (See the intro to this post.)
- Get your husband to help you. (He does.)
*note to self, find new therapist
All of this to say it’s really hard to create in a tornado.
Since we haven’t been in a place where I’ve been able to create much, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I recently finished this book by Chase Jarvis and while I liked it, there was a lot of tough love that made me feel less-than. Now, that’s TOTALLY not Chase’s fault. A lot of it was just the wrong advice for me given where our family is in this moment. It’s a fantastic book for someone who has more control over how they spend their time than we do.
That said, this book has helped me more than almost any other book I’ve read because of one small question:
Given the situation, what would you like to create?
I’d love to tell you where in the book I found this but my reading notes that morning were sloppy. So all I can tell you is that Steve Hardison was quoting Steve Chandler’s CREATOR.
Anyway. Before I read this book and spotted this quote, I spent an embarrassing amount of time focused on all the things I wanted to do but couldn’t. My bujo was littered with tasks I carried from one day to the next. Between meltdowns and recovering from them and doctor appointments and therapy and working full-time to depression and anxiety that kept me in bed for days, there was never enough time to create the things I wanted to create.
All of which meant I sucked and was failing at life. Obviously.
Does any of this sound familiar?
So much of the pain you put yourself through is rooted in being resistant to what is. Rooted in suck it up buttercup and you all get the same 24 hours.
Nobody ever tells you to consider the season of life you’re in when they’re giving you creative or business advice. They say if you aren’t willing to put in the work, you obviously don’t want it.
You know better, of course you want it, but your guilt and shame turn perfectly valid reasons into what advice-givers like to call “excuses.” RUDE.
(Also, not helpful, “life coaches.” Stop doing that shit and go get some life experience.)
So what I really want to tell you is that this question is going to help you as much as it helped me, I promise.
Given the situation, what would you like to create?
Let me give you a couple of examples of how this works.
- I would like to make a collage. Start to finish it could take a few hours. BUT, it’s been a rough day for Smalls and I’m exhausted. Given the situation I can’t make a collage, but I can spend ten minutes sourcing or cutting out images. Doing this will scratch my creative itch and allow me to feel like I’m at least making progress toward completing a project. I know I’ll be happy I spent the time in my craft room, that always makes me feel good.
- I’d like to be writing and posting two to three blog posts each week. Hell, I’d be happy with getting one post done each week. Given the situation, I can only complete blog posts intermittently. I don’t like it, but I accept that in this season of our lives that’s the upper limit of what I can commit to.
- This blog post has taken me about seven days to finish because given the situation, I need to get up at 4:45 a.m. and have only fifteen minutesish to write. I would so much rather be able to spend a few hours writing each day, but given the situation, I can’t.
Reframing your creative projects this way allows you to make compromises while setting yourself up for success. It takes away the “there’s no way I can do this” mindset and empowers you to make a choice.
It sucks all the air out of the guilt and shame you carry around for not being productive.
Given the situation acknowledges where you are. It honors your goals and creative path without sending you to Beating Yourself Up For Not Getting Things Done land.
It may be that given the situation you need to spend the last of your physical and emotional reserves on taking a nap or washing a sinkful of dishes. That’s ok too. You do not have to constantly produce or create or accomplish or show up to have value. (We’re going to talk about this next week.)
Do you see how this is much more gentle on yourself?
The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and annoyed that you can’t create what you want to create, ask yourself:
Given the situation, what would I like to create?
If what you’d like to create isn’t what you’re able to create, ask yourself a follow up question:
Given the situation, what can I create?
It might help you to write it on a sticky note and keep it in your planner or in your creative space.
I’m so, so grateful for that book landing in my hands right when I needed to see it. And also really looking forward to reading it again when I have more bandwidth to work through some of Chase’s other ideas.
Let me know how this works for you, I’m really curious to hear about how it goes when you put it into practice.
And please do share this with anyone you know who is struggling to find time or space or energy to create!