I’m about to say something I never thought I’d say. It’s something which ground against what I thought were my ‘artistic, creative gears.’
For years my dad would tell me that “if you want something done, ask someone who is busy.” The implication being, if you ask someone with a lot of free time to do something, it most likely won’t end up getting done.
I never believed him until moving to Guatemala and starting a full-time job.
I wake up at 6:15, eat breakfast and leave by 6:40 to catch the bus. As soon as I get to school, it’s lesson prep until classes begin a half hour later, at which point the day whizzes by faster than Jim Carrey pumping his arms in Dumb and Dumber (If you don’t get that reference, click here).
By the time classes end at 2:30, I have a pile of grading to tackle for an hour, mixed with some prep for classes the following day. My goal, which I am still working on accomplishing, is to do no school work outside of school hours. 1.5 weeks in, I have yet to master the fine art of speed-lesson-prepping, but I feel like I’m getting there.
The bus drops us off around 4:30, meaning I have three and a half hours before my host family has dinner. One and a half are spent walking to the gym, working out, coming home and showering. I try to hit the hay around 10, so the time after dinner is spent winding down and getting ready for bed, or writing as I am now. And this doesn’t consider any sort of social activities I have throughout the day
The point is, now that I have a full-time job, every free hour (or minute) counts.
For the past handful of years, I consistently thought that if I only had a bit more free time, I could really get creative and be like those other guys: The Casey Neistats, Gary Vees, and Austin Kleons. The thing those guys are constantly telling their followers, though, is that if you want to do something, you just
For me in this season, that means wrapping my creative outlets around the skeleton of my teaching routine.
To many of you creative types reading this, you may think that the term ‘routine’ means someone is sharpening an axe against the stone of your soul. What I have found (and what countless others have asserted) is that the opposite is true. Being forced to cram my creativity into an hour or two in the afternoon or evening has actually made me more motivated to get on top of it. I can’t explain the exact rationale behind it yet, but staying busy—in a healthy way—has made me more excited to do everything better.
Life has somehow transformed from an amorphous mush which was unable to sustain any sort of foundation to an exciting puzzle, where I find places I can fit everything and still make it work.
I don’t know how I never realized it before, but when I was working a handful of part-time jobs, most of which were rather flexible with the hours, I always expected to accomplish more than I actually ever did.
When I had all the time in the world, I could take an hour to cut my own hair and shave and shower. Now, those things are forced into the 20 minutes between gym and dinner.
With all the time in the world, I didn’t have to get my sermons planned ahead of time, because there was always tomorrow to get it done as well.
With a full day of freedom, I would anticipate being productive for most of it and checking errands off my list. Instead, I’d sleep in, leisurely eat breakfast while soaking in some Netflix, and take forever just to get around to doing anything. In fact, this typically meant that an entire free day was spent with maybe an hour of productivity. Which is less than I output now while working a full-time job!
Again, I’m still working on the mechanics, or psychology running beneath it all, but I have never felt so accomplished in my life. I go to bed having worked out; written, photographed, or shot video; and taught a full day of classes, influencing young minds toward the Kingdom. Every day.
Ideas may burst into my head in the morning or afternoon, but at work the best I can do is jot it down and stew on it for a few hours. Historically, when I get inspired I whip out my laptop and write up the post. I have also learned that patience may also be a key to the creative process: Rather than shuffling a piece to the public, I’ve begun starting something and letting it simmer overnight, or over the course of the day.
And none of this is to brag. Rather, I feel like I’m a bit disappointed in the Ethan of the past several years for having so much time on his hands and filling so little of it!
And maybe you can glean something from this as well: Fill up your time. I’m learning that there is actually a wide chasm between having a full schedule and being an unhealthy workaholic. God doesn’t want us to solely define our lives by our vocational output, but He doesn’t want us to be slobs either. Remember that work existed in the world before sin did. There are plenty of Christian books on rest and Sabbath, but you can just as easily err in the opposite direction. Don’t let rest become a ticket to Lazyville.
may we be people with high output and full days. May we remember that our days are numbered, and we are only given so many from which to wring the sweet nectar of productivity. May we labor for the glory of God and expend out effort to make earth look more like the kingdom.
May we be people who do work.
P.S. Watch my YouTube video on the subject here!
Wow. This was probably the _best_ post about creativity I’ve ever read! I’m a creative person with a part-time job and basically all the time in the world, and yet I haven’t written anything for a looong time… I’ve been thinking of asking for more shifts at work but been worried how it might affect to my writing. Well, it seems that it would only do good to work more. This was truly the wake up call I needed. So thank you, good sir! Well said.
I have found this to be true in my own life, as well. I am almost always at my best when time has order, structure, and priorities.
P.S. I hope you’re really enjoying Guatemala! I was there once for about a month in the Guat. City area, and loved it!
LMAO “the day whizzes by faster than Jim Carrey pumping his arms in Dumb and Dumber”
Are you still living and working in Guatemala as of Feb 2019?