Today's subject: STOLEN TIME.

Dear Ones —

Thank you to the many, many people who wrote replies yesterday to my question, "What is your biggest obstacle for living a creative life?"

I read every single answer, and I was so moved by the thoughtfulness you brought to the question. In my informal analysis, it seems our top four champion obstacles are these:

1) Lack of time
2) Lack of money
3) Perfectionism
4) Fear

In the book that I'm writing about creativity, I've been trying to address all of these subjects, but today I really want to talk about the first item on the list — lack of time.

I want to share with you this blog entry below, that a writer named Tara Sophia Mohr wrote the other day, which I found very moving. She was writing in response to something I said in an interview, about how women have always made their art using stolen time and stolen materials. (An example I always give is the traditional art of quilting — an art form which women have always made in borrowed moments, using literal rags…and what do they make out of that compressed time, and those lousy materials? Masterpieces of singular beauty.)

The time that women have traditionally been given for themselves and for their creativity has never been perfect. It is still not perfect. Yet somehow, generation after generation, women have found ways to be creative, anyhow. (They have to, or they will lose their minds.) They gather the rags and the dregs, and they stitch it together into something amazing. Is it the ideal environment in which to creative? No. But they make it work.

And to be fair, men have also always longed for more time, more space, in which to work. EVERYONE longs for more time, more space. I once read a heartbreaking letter that Herman Melville wrote to a friend, saying that he was longing for a big, open stretch of time (I believe he called it "slow, grass-growing time") in which to work on his novel…but the time was never there. He was broke, he was stressed, he simply could not find the time. But he somehow managed to write Moby Dick, anyhow. And somehow J.K. Rowling and Toni Morrison — both single mothers with full-time jobs — wrote their first masterpieces, anyhow, when they were poor and obscure. I wrote my first book when I was a diner waitress and a bartender, living with roommates — crowded and broke. There was no privacy. There was no time. There as no money. I did it, anyhow.

I don't know any artist who does not long for that dream of a slow, grass-growing stretch of time in which to work without interruption. It never seems to come. If you are waiting for that perfect open sense of endless time to arrive in your life, you'll be waiting forever.

We must make our work, anyhow.

Stolen time, stolen materials.

One more thing: Back in the 1990's, I was complaining to an older artist about how I wished I could find more time to write. Out of nowhere, she changed the subject. She asked me, "What's your favorite TV show?"
Enthusiastically, I said, "The Sopranos!"
She smiled at me. "Not anymore, it isn't," she said. "You're done with TV. You're telling me you have time to watch The Sopranos, but you don't have time to work on your book?"

I have never forgotten her words. And ever since then, whenever I find myself on the brink of complaining that I don't have enough time in my life for creativity, I force myself to do an accounting — a brutally honest accounting — about where my precious hours are going. Where are they REALLY going?

What's your favorite TV show? What's your favorite Facebook page? What's your favorite magazine? Who's your favorite author? How many hours do you give those things?

What are you willing to give up, in order to have what you really want?

How much do you really want it?

ONWARD, dear ones — and please do read Tara Mohr's blog. It's terrific.



stolen time – Tara Sophia Mohr | Playing Big
Two months ago, I read this quote from writer Elizabeth Gilbert: Traditionally, women have always made their art out of stolen materials and stolen time. Those words have made the biggest difference in my life. You see, I thought it was a problem that I was writing in bits of stolen time. I thought…

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall