making the most of creative time

You run from school to store to post office and finally back again. And when you get home, you realize you finally have hours to yourself. Hours. This does not happen often. There are many things you could do, many task-y important-ish things. But you long for more, to touch the invisible face of inspiration in some new and different way you haven’t quite been able to yet. You want to make the beautiful.

So here you are, Time finally looking happily your way, stretching out next to you with his hands tucked lazy behind his head. And you watch as he turns his face up to the sky, eyes closed to the warm sun, and asks what you’ll do with all of his present attention. You’re so baffled that he’s come, so amazed that you actually have the time to do something that all you can do is sit next to him in wonder.

Those of us who have been creating for any amount of time have read the books and know the ropes on how to maximize our environments for creativity. If you want to create something new, don’t check your incoming while you’re trying to do it. (shut off email, Facebook, twitter and the like.) Don’t try to be an editor and a creator at the same time. Refuse to be your own interruption. Fight the resistance. Quiet the inner critics. Write like a mad woman.

But what about when you do all these things, you’ve set the environment up just right, and still you are met with an impenetrable wall of discouragement? Yesterday I was sure my creative days were over and any chance of me ever having anything worth saying again was not only lost but killed flat dead on the ground, limp and lifeless and puny. You know how that goes. When you long for time to write or create, you have exactly 47 billion things to say. And then when the time finally comes, you sit and push out all distractions and you got…nothing. Again, it isn’t that I didn’t have any work to do. I have plenty. But my galleys for book number two won’t arrive until next week and a few other things I have going are at a stopping place for now.

There is so much talk of productivity, of focus and make your art! and don’t waste time! There is pressure, and not a small dose of it, to take the time you have been given and make the most of it. Or find the time you don’t have and beat it into submission. I have done this. I know how to boss time around. I know how to do the work.

But maybe it isn’t a bad thing to let yourself lay back on the wide green earth with Time by your side, stare up at the same bright sky, and let yourself be. There is every temptation to strangle him into productivity and make him work for you since you have so much of him right there. But some days he doesn’t bend easily. You might do well to relax and give up the fight. And to reconsider what make the most of it means anyway.


  1. Anna says

    You offer more freedom from all the voices, the probably good advice. In every area of life it seems you can bow to pressures trying to live right and well. God freed us from the Law and condemnation and you really help me see that in the little things of everyday life. (Was looking forward to your post Facebook/ Starbucks post and it didn’t disappoint. Great way to build anticipation!) xx

  2. says

    Yes! Reconsider what “making the most of it mean” and, stop “strangling time”. Amen, friend! I hear ya! (especially as writing is on hold for me–though I long to be doing it, listening and resting is my necessary.)

  3. says

    “When you long for time to write or create, you have exactly 47 billion things to say. And then when the time finally comes, you sit and push out all distractions and you got…nothing.”

    or when we have so much things to say and then when you are face with the situation, it all goes blank?

  4. says

    Beautiful beautiful. This has me hook line and sinker. “And you watch as he turns his face up to the sky, eyes closed to the warm sun, and asks what you’ll do with all of his present attention.”

  5. says

    That was my day yesterday. I took two days off from work for some “Me” time but it is so rare that I never know quite how to use it, even though when I am sitting at work my mind is flooded with ideas that I scratch on post-its. I wanted to be still before the Lord, but distractions kept begging for my attention. Today is my second day off and I pray that I can at least listen for His voice. I pray also that I will be able to post something to my blog because it has been quite awhile since I have done so. Thanks for sharing your heart!

  6. says

    Time is such a battle for me, how to know when to push forward and when to let it simmer . .. This quote has been on my mind lately: “If you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. For a canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus communicates, without loss to itself, its superabundant water.” -Bernard de Clairvaux . . . thanks for the reminder to rest, it is how we are filled. Your posts always resonate.

  7. says

    This reminds me of the promises other women make to me, that one day when kiddos are in school, time will open up for me to create again. Yet I think I do some of my best work in my head while I’m spreading peanut butter and chasing naked bottoms into the bathtub. That coveted hour at the end of the day in which I can finally WRITE is both exhilarating and exhausting… yet if more time doesn’t necessarily mean more productivity, just more frustration at a blank brain or more temptation to fill it with other to-do’s… then maybe I should embrace this limited-hour stage of life as a gift, not a creative purgatory. Thanks for this message, Emily. You’ve reminded me that the grass is greenest where I water it.

  8. says

    Making the most of it…
    meaning many things from one day to the next or even one moment to the next. Who says Emily can’t just “be” sometimes?

  9. says

    Love this….Sometimes it’s really hard to decide what to do when we find we have time on our hands, but just like you said, sometimes the best thing to do is – nothing! We feel a pressure these days to make every moment count, because our unspoken- for ones are precious and few (or so we are told).

    I posted on (in)courage a while back about this same idea –

    Give that free time to God first and see what He does with it!

  10. says

    Ah – permission to just be. I love this Emily. I’ve been at a loss for words for a while now, but I have allowed myself to just be quiet and it is so nice. I am hopeful words will come. In the meantime, I’m all for lying down in the grass.

  11. says

    Hi Emily,
    I’m back to say that I spent sweet quiet time with the Lord this morning. He urged me to pull out my journal and share a story that I had sitting in there for a few years. After reading your post this morning, I was very intentional about turning everything off and spending at least a few hours with Him. So, thank you again!

  12. says

    I think maybe those of us who don’t still have children at home who would otherwise require much of our time and attention, don’t always make the best use of the free time we find ourselves with. I certainly don’t spend enough time lying in the grass. I sometimes berate myself because I should be making better, more constructive, and creative, use of the time that is my own. Especially since I know many very busy women and mothers who would give an awful lot to have just a fraction of the free time I have. I tell them, enjoy this time now, though, for too soon, your children are grown and gone, and you’re left with more free time on your hands than you might want. Is that even possible? Yes, it is. Thank you, Emily, for this “timely” post. Blessings.

  13. says

    Ahhhhh, thanks Emily! Just thinking about empty space makes me take a deeper breath.
    I call it laying fallow…all the farmed earth has to do it in order to increase productivity and regenerate nutrients. Even God did it on the seventh day. It is hard to call things “good” if we are always spinning.

  14. Karen says

    AMEN sister. Oh, Amen and amen. I had some blood tests this week because I’ve overloaded myself for too long and gotten worn out and my systems are all out of whack – and you know what the Doc wanted to test? My vitamin D levels (among other things). I don’t see enough sunshine. So I’ve made an appointment with myself today for morning tea on the lawn. As soon as my 10am appointment has come and gone, I’ll be there. No magazine to read, no phone to check my Facebook or be hassled by calls and texts, just me and my tea and my muffin and the ants. My day has improved just thinking about it. :)

  15. says

    funny…how our God who can melt away the mountains of this Earth’s hustle and bustle but are still BLOCKED? –that He can di-visine-ly clear (yes, I just came up with that mwahah!) away the cloudiness our eyes can find so fogging and blocking…yet somehow we’re still LOST…well it seems He is answering my prayers and questions through speaking into your words, Emily–because lately I just feel “stuck.” He is, indeed, faithful to clear away wreckage and give swift answers though his overwhelming love but I just want to thank you for understanding…and for expressing that here!

  16. says

    “. . . and reconsider what ‘make the most of it’ means. . . .” Oh, my, Emily. Have you ever hit the nail on the proverbial head! Actually, I think you’ve written a whole new proverb yourself! I think I could probably compile a book of proverbs from reading through your posts, come to think of it.

    Thank you–for being you and for sharing yourself with all of us.

  17. says

    funny, isn’t it…that when we truly have something to say, we never have time to say it – and vice versa… I dream that in heaven we’ll never forget what we were going to say – and of course, we’ll have many inspirational things to say too!

  18. says

    Amen! You are such a good writer artist. I too struggle with time creating versus time being. Such a great artistic way to express the struggle.

  19. says

    Time is my word for the year, as in God being in charge of my time! Love this post. I am trying to do some of that resting, looking up, on weekends, Saturday sabbath, Sunday afternoon after dropping my daughter off at the junior symphony for an hour and a half. I’ve discovered the beach, and seen dolphins twice, but they’re gone when she’s done and we stop by again on our way home.
    This weekend though, I had a nap on Saturday and a chat at Starbucks on Sunday. Also restful. We’ll see about the productivity of the week! (much coming up)

  20. says

    I too put pressure on myself to create when time is given. Lately I’ve been writing down ideas that come to me throughout the day so when I actually have time to create my scribbles help inspire me. But sometimes lying in the grass is the only (and most productive) thing I can do.

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