How to stop everyday life from stealing your passion

How to stop everyday life from stealing your passion

Photo Credit: du3z via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: du3z via Compfight cc

Lately I’ve been discussing a very interesting topic with a group of writers. The point was: have you ever felt like life is stealing something from your art? Does everyday life steal time and energy from writing (or whatever your art is)? Is it a life’s problem or is it yours? And, most important, is there anything you can do about it?

Most of us – writers and artists in general – can’t make a living from our passion, which means we have to work. Fortunately I have a work I like and I don’t perceive it like a problem, but I know many writers who do or did something they don’t like. That’s when it becomes a problem and we start feeling like the main part of our days is spent in a flat and anonymous way, while we should be doing something else.

When our working day is over, there are a lot of other chores. We need to do the dishes, go to the grocery, do the ironing, cook something for dinner. Our families requires attention and care. They are wonderful, important and (hopefully) supportive and we love to spend our time with them. But a day is made of 24 hours only and make time for our passions is a hard task.

A piece of advice I often hear is this: “you can be good at one thing at a time, so choose one thing and focus on it”. Wonderful! Then I just have to focus on my fiction writing and complete my novel. Right?

Right.

But…

Oh yes, there’s always a “but”…

But another very good advice that reach my brain from many different sources is: “finishing your novel is important, of course, but don’t forget to build your platform or you won’t have an audience interested in what you write”.

That’s right too.

So what?

I can only do one thing at a time but I have to do at least two: writing my book and running my blog. Not easy, especially if you consider that running a blog doesn’t merely means to write posts from time to time. You often have to research in order to write useful posts, you need to promote them on social media and it’s a good thing to maintain good relationships with other writers and bloggers by reading their posts and leaving comments.

Suddenly the things you have to do are such a number! And you start feeling overwhelmed.

Do you feel overwhelmed?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

We can feel overwhelmed together and lick our artistic wounds.

Or…

(ah, ah! There’s an alternative!)

… we can find way to deal with it.

Photo Credit: kem09m via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: kem09m via Compfight cc

First of all: choose where to spend your energy

Even if the social media era may bring us to think we have the gift of ubiquity, actually we can’t be in more than one place at a time. And we can’t focus on too many things. That’s why we need to choose wisely what really deserves our attention and what doesn’t.

Do you have to complete the first draft of your novel because you’re growing mad at not finishing it? Then do it and focus on it until it’s done. After that you can go back to the other things. Do you have to go live with your new blog? Then use your free time working on it, you can worry about other things later.

It may seem contradictory with what I said before, but it’s not. There are a lot of important things which need your attention but your time and energy are limited. By choosing where to spend your energy you decide what has to be done first. You can try this: write down a list of big issues; it doesn’t have to be overly detailed, just write down the big beasts who are threatening your peace of mind and put them in order of urgency. For instance:

  1. Set up my blog
  2. Finish the first draft of my novel
  3. Edit the first draft of my novel.

Now you know what needs your attention first. Once it’s done, you can start all over again with your second step.

For what concerns social media, they are important for promoting what you are doing, but the risk is to be swallowed up. This time too you have to choose wisely which ones works better for you and quit the others. This way you won’t spend all of your free time and energy on a futile tour of every social network on the planet.

Photo Credit: shinji-man via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: shinji-man via Compfight cc

Second: plan

I know, I know. This may sound simplistic, but planning in advance really helps, for three main reasons:

1. It helps you to sort out your priorities: when you have everything written down on a piece of paper, you can better decide what’s most important for you and what needs to be done first.

2. It allows you to save energy and time: if everything is already planned, you won’t have to think about it along the way, because you will know exactly what you are supposed to do.

3. It gives you a neat idea of how much free time you have during the day: by planning you may discover free moments you usually let go in an unproductive way. That has to change (I am still struggling with it a lot).

There are several methods you can apply. You can write everything you have to do every day and try to stick to the schedule. You can write a to-do list in order of priority. You can have separate calendars or daily diaries, one for everyday tasks and the other specific for writing. A few days ago I read this article, An insanely simple 3 step guide for killing procrastination, which suggests to take a few minutes every evening to plan your most important missions for the day after. There isn’t a right way. You just need to find your own by trials and errors: try something, see if it works and if it doesn’t try something else.

What’s important is you find your way to fit time for your art in your everyday schedule. Once you’ve done that, you can break up the big tasks on your first list into little steps and plan when and where to do those steps. For instance, the first task on our list was Set up my blog:

  • Buy a domain
  • Decide on a suitable theme
  • Set up the header and appearance
  • Write the ABOUT page
  • Edit the ABOUT page

With a more detailed list you can schedule where and when you’re going to complete each point.

Photo Credit: Luca Versari via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Luca Versari via Compfight cc

Third: search for tools that can make your life simpler

Last week I was writing on my facebook page and before I hit the publishing button I noticed a bubble asking me if I wanted to post immediately or later. That’s how I found out about the chance to schedule posts on a facebook page. I wasn’t aware of this feature and it changed my approach to my facebook page completely. This is just an example of those tools which make your life easier, but it can be whatever you want.

Hootsuit.com is another incredible resource to manage your presence on social media and it’s free up to a certain number of social networks and pages.

You may have to pay something for these kind of tools, but we can’t do everything on our own and sometime it’s fine to delegate. You just need to find the right balance between what you can do on yourself and what may require a little money.

Now what?

I won’t fool you, it’s not easy.

But it’s possible.

You can do it one step at a time.

A new week is about to start, why don’t you try to revise your schedule following these steps?

1. Choose how to spend your energy and focus on what is important: first things first. What needs to be done right now? What do you need to complete in the shorter time possible? Deep inside you know the answer, so don’t be afraid to take action.

2. Plan in advance: break up your big task in smaller steps, decide what you need to do every day, write it down and stick to it. Warning: this is not a punishment. Be realistic in what you demand from yourself!

3. Search for tools that can help you accomplish your tasks: there are tools (I’ll write more about them in other posts) and if you don’t know where to look don’t be afraid to ask. You may be surprised at how many helpful people there are out there.

I would love to hear from you, know something about your experiences and hear your opinion on the matter! If you want to share the journey, leave a comment below!

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