Pay Yourself Creatively First

Pay Yourself Creatively First
The Sunrise as Captured by Dall-E 2

Creative work is a selfish act. The reason for this is that in order to get the results you seek, you need to make time for your craft. You have to “throw time at the problem”. Yet throwing time at it is easier said than done.

The mere act of setting a timer to play music or write for 30 minutes can make many people feel guilty. “I should be doing something that helps pay the bills”, or smaller matters like, “the bathroom is a mess, I should really go clean that now”.

As the day wears on, the likelihood that you’ll get around to taking care of yourself by taking care of your creative needs dims and diminishes by the hour. That’s why I am borrowing a cliché from financial wellness, the idea of paying yourself first, and applying it to creative work.

How to Pay Yourself Creatively First

There are two times of the day when you can pay yourself first creatively.

The first is in the morning before you do work for an employer or clients.

The second time is after you get home from work, even though many people don’t leave the house to do work any more. If you do work in an office, you can stop off at a café on the way home.

For music you don’t really have the luxury of working from anywhere, but one thing I try to do is use the time out of the house to listen back to some music in progress and make notes. I have found Google Drive to be useful for addressing the issues of having two laptops and two mobile devices that I use regularly.

Use a Time Log to Check

Something you can do to figure out if you are actually paying yourself first is to write down a log of what you’ve done in any given day. This is a form of accounting on the time dimension. The dreaded timesheet. But it’s done for a good purpose. You don’t have to do time logs all the time, you can just do them occasionally.

This is the quickest way to know if you are throwing time at your creative problems, at the time when you said you would do it.

Take it Easy

With all of these ideas, you have to be gentle on yourself. Sometimes I beat myself up for sleeping in on a day when I had a good pocket to work with, but I re-align myself and move on with my day afterwards, vowing to do my best next time.

As Seth Godin says, you are your own worst boss. Notice the tendency to harm yourself and stop it as soon as you catch yourself. Give thanks for the distance you’ve been able to travel on the creative journey every day.