Find that extra hour or two in the day that belongs to nobody else but you and make it productive. Put the hours in, do it for long enough, and magical, life-transforming things happen eventually.

-Hugh MacLeod, from Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity

It’s summer now, and these slower days bring pool bags filled with watermelon, vacations, wet bathing suits, and lots of  children. And we love to be with them, to have less structure, to do the pool and the beach and the lazy days thing. But we can’t help but wander into the still, quiet places of our imaginations. We can’t help but long for shreds of alone sometimes.

We tend to think we have to have weeks to re-charge, endless open days to plan and prepare, a retreat to re-center and re-focus. Those things will help, for sure. And if you get them, soak them up and roll around in the blessing of them. But most of us don’t have the luxury of wide open days or weekend retreats on any type of regular basis.

So what’s the alternative? Never write the book? Never plan the proposal? Never paint the living room? Ignore the artist voice?

What do we do when all the time we get is in whatever drops are leftover after wringing out the day? I wouldn’t write this if I didn’t believe it, but Hugh McLeod is right: magic happens when we take those drops and begin to fill the bucket. Or in his words, put the hours in, keep doing it, and magic happens. At first the bucket looks empty and I’m tempted to think nothing is happening. But that would be a mistake, because every drop saved is one drop closer to full. Here are some ways to fill the bucket in less than an hour.

Find the drops from your wrung-out day. Launch a relentless pursuit of the art.

Write for 30 minutes. It is not a waste of time.

Take a walk with your camera and see what you can find.

Dare to believe you have something to say but remember it’s because He said it first.

Sit in the quiet just because. A lot more may happen there than you might think.

Savor the moments to talk through the dreams, to sift through the disappointment, to pray for the miracle.

Do the work you love when the early morning lifts up her head with a smile and a high-pitched song.

Sit at the table and make your art when the evening sky fills up the yard right outside your window.

Don’t do it because you have to. Do it because you can.

Then? Open wide your eyes and see what happens. It may be the littlest things that change a life, and the magic is in the details.

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