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Have you ever tried to juggle competing creative interests? Today’s Write Question focuses on that problem. If you have another question you’d like me to answer you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.
Have you ever tried to juggle competing creative interests? That’s what I’ll be addressing today in The Write Question. I’m the publication coach, Daphne Gray-Grant.
Today we’re hearing from from John Morgan — a reader who neglected to say where he’s based, but who asked the following question via email.
“Do you have any tips for person who’s trying to be a musician as well as a writer? It’s like trying to live with two women when they both want you. It builds a lot of frustration and I find myself constantly making decisions and never fully making a plan. So, I go on wandering and wondering. What can I do?”
That’s a tough life, John, living with two women both of whom want you… Seriously, though I think the problem isn’t time or interest. It’s your inability to make a plan.
So, do this: ask yourself WHY you’re failing to make a plan.
Is it because you feel there’s not enough time to pursue both of your interests?
I have to tell you, that’s not true. We all get 24 hours every day and if you spend 8 of them sleeping and 8 of them working that still leaves you a full 8 hours.
I know you’ll need to spend some of that time commuting and some of it eating but that still likely leaves you with a generous 6 hours. For music, 30 to 60 minutes a day should be enough, unless you have a job as a symphony musician. But if that’s the case, that’s where your working hours will be going anyway. For writing, all you need is 15 to 30 minutes. Don’t tell me you don’t have that!
You actually have plenty of time to follow both creative pursuits.
Or, is your worry that you need more mental space in which to be truly creative?
I understand this concern! But here’s the secret. Not only do you need the time for music and writing but also for one other activity. I suggest either exercise or meditation. Both of these activities will help clear your mind and give you a feeling of freedom that will make it possible to pursue two creative paths at the same time. I’m including a link below to one of my blog posts on meditation.
Or, perhaps the problem is that you don’t know how to make a plan.
If that’s the case, then I suggest you get yourself a scheduling book. You want one that divides every day by 24 hours. If you can’t find such a book, then make yourself a simple table or a chart using Excel or Microsoft Word.
Then, block off your day. Include EVERYTHING you need to do including sleep, meals, laundry & dishwashing (or do your two women do those tasks for you?) Then, PLAN what hour of the day you’re going to practice your music and what 15 or 30 minutes you’re going to do your writing.
If possible try to do your writing first thing in the morning. I don’t suggest waking up earlier than usual. If you can, just write for 15 to 30 minutes after whatever time you naturally wake up. You don’t need to be terribly wide awake to write. In fact, creativity is more easily summoned when we’re a little bit sleepy.
Some people think they need to be inspired to do creative tasks. But this is absolutely untrue. In fact, writing and music are rather similar pursuits. Both require a great deal of boring, repetitive practice that needs to be done every day.
You don’t become a musician as a result of a spectacular five-hour practice or jam session. Nor do you become a writer by producing 5,000 words in a single afternoon of session.
Both creative pursuits are achieved by relatively short but diligent practice sessions day after relentless day.
Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from American polymath and founding father Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
John, I don’t know if you’ve been blessed with uncommon talent or whether you just have wide ranging interests. Whichever is true, make a plan for yourself so you can enjoy both of these creative paths.