Sarah Land

If you’re in the accounting profession, you’re no stranger to peak busy seasons and may find yourself in the midst of one as we speak. I’m working through a busy season of my own in my professional life; setting up for the launch of multiple learning programs while planning and working to prepare for my upcoming maternity leave. Gratefully, I have much to celebrate these days; a job I love, the impending arrival of our son and another exciting personal milestone, the move into our first home.

By necessity, my workdays have grown a little longer recently, bleeding into early mornings and weekends. Add to this the priority of helping my daughter with school, attending sporting events and maintaining daily responsibilities; these days it feels as if there is little-to-no time left for self-care.

However, I took 5 days away from work this past week, to move into our house. The days have still been busy of course, but with a bustle of a different variety. We’ve been packing, purging, arranging the new space and enjoying drives through scenic rural landscapes as we cart our belongings from one place to another. In the midst of this time away from work, I have noticed a familiar longing from an old friend; the desire to create.

Work is a practical reality of our everyday lives, but the truth is, by nature, a demanding work schedule may reduce our creative impulses. This is not to say that work and creativity cannot exist simultaneously; Ideally, they do! But generally, your mental state in the midst of day-to-day work, compared to immersion in the creative process, is typically quite different. Where professional work requires prolonged periods of narrow focus, strategic thought, organization, and attention to detail; our creative ventures feel more expansive, free, abstract, curious, and playful.

I believe that creativity is a powerful kind of self-care, with the ability to bring mindfulness into our daily experience, leading to a happier and more fulfilled life. Sure, you can find satisfaction in professional achievements, but without prioritizing our innate desire to create, the soul grows restless. To create is to be inspired. I looked up a few antonyms of the word “inspired” today, and the results included “disheartened,” “discouraged,” and “dispirited.” Can you relate to any of those?

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

-Annie Dillard

If you have objections to my proposition of prioritizing time to be creative, I bet I know your first one:

That sounds nice and all, but I’m not a creative person.

Nonsense! I think we tend to conflate the idea of being creative with the standard of being an accomplished artist of some sort. Your creativity can manifest itself in so many ways. Some cook, some decorate, some tinker or build, some garden, some write or paint or sing.

In her book, Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert explores the idea of finding the motivation to do our creative work:

It’s okay if your work is fun for you. It’s also okay if your work is healing for you or fascinating for you, or redemptive for you, or it’s maybe just a hobby that keeps you from going crazy. It’s even okay if your work is totally frivolous. It’s all allowed.

Your own reasons to create are reason enough... Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.

So, what brings you to life? While you ponder this, I’ll move on to your next possible objection.

What’s the point?

Plot twist; there isn’t one! The beauty of creative work is that there’s no pressure to produce a certain kind of outcome or to produce any outcome at all, for that matter. Instead, what you’re after is the experience of creating; You’re invested in the process; the immersion of yourself into something bigger, perhaps even a little mystical.

The Latin root of the word inspire is inspirae, meaning “to breathe into.” This metaphor indicates that something divine or supernatural is at play when we are engaged in the creative process. You may have heard of this as being in “flow state” or being “in the zone.” The result of this experience is a sensation of clarity or serenity.

Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Make the time.

If there are any similarities between professional and creative work, it is that both require discipline. Just as with a work schedule, a gym schedule, or whatever priorities you have to balance; you must pencil in time to be creative. Otherwise, you’ll count it as a luxury you don’t have room for and skip it every time. Skeptical of the benefits? Try committing yourself to regular periods of creativity for 30 days and see how you feel. You can do just about anything for 30 days.

In his book, Keep Going, 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, Austin Kleon recommends establishing a daily routine for creativity:

When you don’t have much time, a routine helps you make the little time you have count. When you have all the time in the world, a routine helps you make sure you don’t waste it.”

He goes on, advising readers to observe the structure of their days and moods, looking for open spaces or making room in their schedules; and encourages rituals or superstitions that might invoke a creative mood. Personally, I am most receptive in the mornings or on weekends, before I become distracted by my interpretations of daily experiences. My ritual is to enjoy something that makes the moment feel luxurious and comforting; a warm cup of something, a candle, fresh air, etc. Consider your preferences and design a routine that works for you, no matter how simple or brief it might be.

Creativity shows up in unique ways for all of us, but the benefits of making time for creative work are universal. How inspired are you feeling these days? In what ways do you create? Where can you make more time for creativity, leading to more inspiration? We’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment and share!