I work in a midtown office. Between the morning commute, the seemingly endless hours staring at a computer screen, last minute deadlines, and hurried lunches, going home to be creative sounds like an impossible feat. My friends often commiserate about how little time we have to create art. It’s too easy to put your personal projects off until a perpetual later, to rationalize and justify watching three hours of TV out of exhaustion. Trust me, I know how hard it is–there are moments everyday where I battle with myself to get off that proverbial couch. However, It’s always worth it when I do.
1. After work, relax & doing nothing for one hour by yourself.
Forcing yourself to create art is never helpful. Forcing creativity will only stress you out and cause you to become more exhausted than you were initially. Instead of measuring how many hours you wrote lyrics or designed a logo, measure the results. Sometimes my best writing comes from fifteen minutes of concentrating, rather than three hours of back and forth procrastinating. During this time, don’t feel obligated to talk to anyone or make plans. It is crucial to have “me” time, as a way to decompress from your busy day and understand how you actually feel. Remember: it’s okay to be alone sometimes.
2. Create a schedule daily to set aside 15-30 minutes to work on personal projects.
Most times, setting aside large blocks of time during the work week can seem like a great idea, but usually never comes to fruition. It’s the quickest way to burn out and start a bad habit of procrastinating. Instead, set aside a realistic duration of time based around your work, social, and gym schedule without feeling overwhelmed. I tend to prefer writing everyday for about fifteen to thirty minutes, since I feel I focus more intensely and enjoy myself while I do so. Creating art is work, but it should be a job you enjoy doing; turning your passion into a joyless endeavor is the worst thing you can do.
3. Use your body.
I hate exercising, I’ll be the first one to admit this. However, when I actively use my body, I feel fantastic. Whether you prefer going to the gym before work, after work, jogging around the block five times, attending a yoga class, or doing crunches every morning, just do it. You will not only feel more energized, which will allow you to be more productive on your own time, but you will stay in shape. Maintaining your body helps you feel more confident and secure about yourself, and that’s sexy.
4. Don’t expect your self-worth to come from your job.
If you let go of the idea that your pride and sense of identity should come from your job title, you will become ten times happier. Even if you have the perfect job, you may be fired tomorrow. What then? Your identity as a human should come from what you enjoy, who you love, what you believe in, and how you view the world, not by who is paying you.
5. Treat yourself.
I’m the worst when it comes to treating myself–I tend to feel guilty over buying myself anything. Recently, I’ve learned how unhealthy this is, how it contributes to my stress and anxiety levels. Life is short, and difficult enough on its own, so why make it more stressful? Let yourself enjoy each moment as best as you can, because no one else will do this for you. Treat yourself to a latte, a manicure, or a massage. There is certainly a difference between being kind to yourself and being reckless with your money; budget and save for these treats. Not only will you feel infinitely happier, but others around you will too. Happiness breeds happiness.
Joanna C. Valente currently lives in Brooklyn, where she is a part-time mermaid. She received her MFA in poetry writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Some of her words can be found in decomP, Thrush Poetry Journal, La Fovea, The 22 Magazine, and other places. In 2010, she founded Yes, Poetry. Her ghost resides here. @joannasaid