Questions to Ask When Struggling To Make Time For Creativity

As a Creative coach, I get to work with amazing creatives who are aspiring to build a creative life that works for them on their own terms and have conversations with them where we talk about what’s stopping them from living the creative life they aspire to live. Today, I am sharing a recent conversation with you that I had with a client in a hope to support you in your journey if you are struggling with the same.

My client is a self-taught artist, a painter who loves to play with colors and textures in her art and paintings. She shared how she is struggling to focus her time and energy on the creative side of her business along with her day job, family and life commitments and mainly because of the struggle that comes with when you are trying to market to come in front of the potential buyers. Hanging out where her potential customers might be at and marketing her art in front of potential clients is important for her so she can finally focus on creating the life she is aiming for; where she will be able to dedicate much more time to her art in her studio, just playing around with the colors and textures that she is obsessed with.

I could hear the pain in her voice when she told me that she hasn’t been able to paint since past 2 months and it’s leaving her to feel unfulfilled and burnt out at the same time. She is feeling terrible and finding herself desperately missing the creative spark in her life. Even though she tries her best to make everyday work but there’s just too much to do and not enough time, she is finding herself busy, busy enough that she can’t make time to play or experiment anymore, playing and experimenting that is important for her creative work and life. It is not only affecting her but it has also started to affect his family as she is feeling deprived of joy. She said, ‘There are too many things to think about in a day and I’m unable to focus on what’s important. I used to be an organized person but now I tend to forget all the important dates and things that I am not supposed to forget’.

She mentioned how she feels that she is not only letting herself down but also her clients as they are not feeling connected to her anymore and since her paintings are a high-end value pieces she needs her clients to feel heard, connected and understood so she can share and create her best work, the best representation of what her clients are trusting her for. Even though she is giving her best but she could feel a little disappointment in the tone of her recent clients when they mentioned there was a lack of communication on her part. She was regretting having neglected the desired communication and her despair was that even though she is trying her best to make things work but she has lost somewhere in that process. One thing that struck me the most was when she mentioned how she has been trying all the things she is supposed to be trying if she wants to have a successful career as a painter and a creative business owner. I had to ask where is this coming from and she shared how she spends all of the time she has in her hands while driving to her day job, and doing other mundane tasks by listening to podcasts and audio-books.

Here are a few big questions that I asked her and if you are struggling with the same try asking these questions too.

How do you want your ideal day to look like?

Stepping aside from what we think our days are supposed to look like and asking ourselves, how I want my ideal day to look like can create space for ourselves to be seen, heard and understood by our own selves. By visualizing and picturing the ideal picture we are more likely to work towards it than from a place where we have no idea how we want to be spending our time in the day on.

What is your version of success? 

Success is relative and how we measure our success is also relative. By allowing yourself to define your own version of success you are not only creating space for yourself, your creativity but you are also allowing the magic to happen for you. Does your version of success mean you selling your paintings to as many customers as you can or you having a few yet valuable clients and more time to paint and experiment? Having more buyers or having just a bunch of buyers who feel they are not only getting the value out of their purchase but they become true fans of your art and your unpaid marketing tools in the longer run. The ones who fall in love with the process of getting an artwork done by you and proudly place it above their lounge sofa and share how much they adored working with you with everyone that pays a visit to their home?

What are your income goals?

Having more and more buyers don’t necessarily mean you get more money in the bank. You maybe need to revisit your pricing and the value you put on your work and customer service. You maybe don’t need to have 10 clients to make £100. You can have the same £100 by getting 5 clients only. That’ll not only bring you more freedom and time you are aching for in your creative work and life. More is always not the answer. Often times, less is more. Having an idea of what your income goals are can lead you to make better choices for yourself.

What are your non-negotiables?

Having time with your family, your day job, your paying painting clients or you searching for more paying clients while your existing clients are feeling left out? When we have no idea of our non-negotiables, we tend to approach everything as a ‘must do’ but I believe there is a distinction between must do and should do on your to-do list.

What are your long-term goals and how you can work toward making them happen?

Having a bigger picture of your creative work and life is important. When you lack the vision of what that bigger picture is you find it hard to name your non-negotiables. When you do have a bigger picture, a zoomed out version of what you want to strive towards you can come up with solutions that support that very vision. You can find and have systems in place that would work for you. Automation and scheduling can help in making the clients to feel the way we want them to feel while placing an order with us and in her case, waiting for their final piece. If our income goals allow us to have fewer clients yet more freedom in terms of time and space, we can always choose to use a chunk of that time in communicating without clients one on one. It’s easier when you have fewer clients and you can make that experience of buying from you special and valuable by communicating directly. The bigger picture could mean a simple yearly calendar where we mark all the non-negotiables and reverse engineer them into our days on a weekly and daily basis so we get to where we want to be by the end of the year.

What advice serves you the best?

My encouragement is that you are the best judge of what your business needs and stop listening to shoulds or the excessive noise and become intentional about the intake of external advice, opinions, and perspectives. Reduce the noise and find her way back to herself, start trusting her own intuition and advice more than relying on the shoulds and the pressure put on her by other people.

When you are focusing too much on learning the systems your focus is not on the work you can bring to life. It’s a choice. You can make that choice and choose to do your business a little differently.

How can you reduce the overwhelm?

When we choose to allow other people’s opinions and perspectives to guide our way we miss on the opportunity to create something that’s unique to us and our unique circumstances. Listening to podcasts and absorbing too much of someone else can contribute to feeling overwhelmed. The more and more advice than you can ever put into practice. The wise thing would be to become conscious of our intake and regulate it. You have a choice to not to listen to the noise and forge your own path. By all means, do look for advice and seek it out when you feel you need to fill some kind of gap but learn to trust your gut and your instincts when it comes to your business. Nobody can do your creative work better than you. Do not outsource the vision of your business to somebody else. Take that charge and choose to unfollow the noise if you have to.

A gentle side note: one thing I have personally experienced is that any advice that is making you feel overwhelmed is a sign that it might be is not right for you.

How can you make time for what you are aching for?

We all have the same amount of hours in the day and what matters is how we choose to spend them.

Having systems in place for our clients so when they are ready to invest in our work and services; in this case, in getting a painting done, we don’t always have to be present there. The systems in place can do the hard work for us. Also, fewer clients intake means you get to communicate personally with everyone. We can choose where we spend our energies and our time. We can either choose to spend the time we have on trying to market and get in front of new potential buyers or we can use that time to nourish our relationship with the existing ones.

To finish, you are allowed to carve out your own path even if it looks a little different than everyone else’s.

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  • Wonderful post.. I’m a writer, and I make more time for creativity by doing big tasks (like long blog posts) in little chunks. I’ve actually found recently that I can be a lot more productive in two sessions that are 1.5 hours each than in one marathon 4-hour session 🙂

    The key to it all, like you’ve said, is knowing what your goals are – what are the priorities, and what things can be crossed off the list.

    • I can relate to what you wrote about being productive in little chunks and with time I have built a routine that is based on a better understanding of how I work best. Thank you for sharing your own experience, thoughts and your kind words. x