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The Folly of Free Time: Finding Bliss in the Abyss

Finally, you have some free time. How do you feel?

Key points

  • Being busy may be blinding you to the real issues blocking your creativity. But it's a great excuse for why you're still not famous.
  • For the wannabe artist, down time is the only time to create. But sometimes filling the void evokes a sense of blah, not bliss.
  • The weekend beckons us to take a break, spend time with friends and family. But you'd rather write, paint, sew. Strive to find the balance.
  • To go further with your art, you need to do your art. Devote a block of time for your creativity.

Creatives crave time to create. Time to do their art.

We live for the weekend dreaming of those extra hours.

But here’s the thing—we all have the same amount of time each day. 1,440 minutes or 10,080 in a week. Taking into account sleeping (7 hours a night?), eating, and self-care (2.5 hours a day), and, oh yeah… work (8 hours a day?), that leaves about 360 minutes a day for tasks that could allow time to follow our bliss.

Wait! What? That’s more than 6 hours of available—or FREE time each day. Even more on the weekends when I don’t have to ‘work.’

So what’s the problem?

For me, it’s a matter of how I manage that free time.

I'm more productive when my schedule is full. Or am I?

It's true... I'm always trying to cram more tasks into my planner than I actually have time to complete. For example, when I’m getting ready to go to school, and I’m five minutes ahead of schedule, I think, “Hmm, I could start the laundry. Or throw something in the crock pot for dinner.” And then suddenly, I’m late.

The old saying, “If you want something done, give the task to a busy person,” makes sense in some ways because busy people appear to be better at managing time.

But it doesn’t always work. And sometimes, important things (like being creative) get shunted aside.

It’s the weekend. You would think that these two days, when I theoretically have more than 14 hours on Saturday AND Sunday to work toward my goal, that I would have SO much done.

So why are weekends so hard for me?

I just don’t know how to relax.

I don’t know how to ease off the gas pedal when I’m on vacation. That’s probably why my husband and I prefer to go to Disney for vacation. He always says, “We didn’t come all this way to not go to the theme park every day.” And “The pass is for the whole day. Let’s get our money’s worth.” And I tend to agree with him. (I’ve heard that you’re supposed to relax on vacation. But it rarely feels relaxing.)

I don’t know how to disengage on the weekend either. Sometimes I think that I would get more done if I had a part-time job on the weekend, leaving only two or three hours for myself. Then I’d be more focused. I’d have to be.

One of my writer friends admonished me a few weeks ago when reviewing my upcoming semester schedule. I don’t remember the exact words because while he was uttering them, my brain was refuting them, but it was something like: “You do too much. You’re too busy. It’s okay to not be doing something all the time."

I wonder.

Is busy-ness disguising the real reason why writers don't seek publication? Or artists don't look for galleries? Or the musician doesn't try to find an agent?

I’ve never been paid for my writing because I’ve never really tried. My rational brain argues, "You’re too busy. What’s the matter with you? You do so much. Maybe when you retire."

Yeah! Right!

I fear that if I get to the Pearly Gates and I am not holding a published book under my arm, the gatekeeper will say, “Too bad. You were pretty good. You just didn’t quite get there.” Then they’ll look past me and say, “Next?”

It’s not that I don’t have enough time. We all have the same amount of time each week.

  • The folly of free time is a lack of structure and a sense of urgency.

  • The folly of free time is sitting at my computer just pondering and squandering.

  • Free time is not free.
  • Free time is a gift.
  • Free time—or ME time— is the only time to work towards our artistic goals.

It is folly to fidget and fret.

Do one thing. For one minute. For five minutes. For 15 minutes. An hour.

Even if no one’s watching, you need to do this. You need to believe in yourself and know that you can do it.

Fill that free time.