I used to love a lot of things. Movies, dancing, music, reading, writing, and long conversations with friends, to name just a few. But over time, with medical training and then marriage and babies, I became really busy. Like, Really Busy. I gave up movies and dancing and music and reading and writing and long conversations with friends. I gave them up for so long, actually, that I began to forget that I once enjoyed them. Luckily for me, there are plenty of people in my life who want me to remember and it all began to come back to me.
It wasn’t until recently that I admitted to myself how much I missed having a creative outlet. I started writing again and I’ve since realized how much I need the catharsis of spilling words onto a page. All this time, I’ve been denying myself the “indulgence” of my hobbies so that my time was completely dedicated elsewhere. In actuality, I denied the best, most complex, most interesting part of myself. When I’m writing, my head feels clearer, my laugh comes more easily, and in short, the weight of my many hats feels much less heavy. Would we want our own children to live completely for others, to the point where they lose their own essence? Yet we model that version of grown up life to them every day.
I’ve had many people open up to me about their own creative dreams since I started publishing my blog. Friends who long to paint or to study interior design, glass blowing, or photography. So many of you love writing. So many of you used to sing and dance and perform. If you could see yourselves through my eyes as we speak, you would notice what I do: your eyes light up, your faces utterly transform as you shyly tell me your own dreams. Then, inevitably, you begin to tell me why you could never do it. It’s always the same reason: No Time.
The inimitable Elizabeth Gilbert writes and speaks so eloquently about living a more open and creative life. On one episode of her podcast, “Magic Lessons,” she advises a guest, who happens to be a busy mother, that in order to carve out time for her creative pursuits, she should be just a bit worse at something else, such as laundry. I’m here to tell you, since hearing this advice and beginning to write again, I have truly excelled at being the worst at laundry. For instance, my husband Mike was starting to iron work pants from the laundry pile a few days ago. The dirty laundry pile. I questioned his confusion about my system, saying, “That’s clearly the dirty rumpled clothes pile, not the clean rumpled clothes pile.” All for the sake of my craft, people.
Laundry is one of the chores I took on by choice in our household. It seemed like a good deal in comparison to some of the other chores but the thing is, it never…ever…stops. At some point it hit me that I could either do laundry or I could start writing but I couldn’t do both, at least not well. So I took a good hard look at Laundry and I said, “Listen here. You’re great and all, but you’re getting bumped.” Laundry was more than happy to oblige and piled itself up without complaint. And you guys…everything was just fine. In return, I built a website and published my blog. Seems like a pretty fair trade.
The point is, there is time enough, my friends. The world is hoping you will snatch some of that oh-so-precious commodity for your creativity. Using your own special and unique gifts is not an indulgence to be swept aside. After all, as Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, “Most things have been done, but they have not yet been done by you.” Be a little bit worse at something so you can be a whole lot better at something more meaningful. Let the laundry pile up, sit on your to-do list an extra day, say no to something that doesn’t return on your investment. Carve out time in tiny chunks, which will add up. Teach your kids that you are a whole person deserving of depth and fulfillment even beyond their cute little faces—they will adjust to a new normal (and become more creative themselves with their independent play time) when you say, “Mommy is writing. If you’re not impaled or dismembered, I’ll see you in an hour.”
The great Maya Angelo said it best: “There is no greater agony than hearing an untold story inside you.” What will your story be? Will you share it with us?