More About Time: The Myth of Doing It All

If you consume mass media, you’re bombarded with images and stories of people who seem to Have It All and Do It All. You know: the fulfilling job, the wonderful loving family, the gorgeous house, exciting vacations, charming friends, lovely parties, healthy meals. Topped off by unlimited time in the studio and companion animals who never shed.

We see all of this and think, “Why should I even try? This is never going to be me.” And that’s partially true: it’s never going to be you. Because–hello!–it’s a myth. No one can have it all or do it all. You’re arguing here, saying that someone can, surely, someone with lots of paid help. Well, no:  because they’re not doing it all, either. They may be paying someone *else* to do it all, but that just proves my point.

And my point is:  if you want to have time to make art, to work on your projects, to bring to life the things you have in your brain, something else has to give. If you’ve got the belief in your head that you can work on your art only after everything else is done–polishing the silver and harvesting the home-grown vegetables and checking the kids’ homework and sewing your own clothes from burlap bags and–wait. Are we channeling Little House on the Prairie here? In Creative Time and Space, I talk about this rather a lot because it’s reallyreallyreally important:  if you are an artist, if you want to make stuff, that has to take priority. No, I don’t mean it’s more important than spending time with your family and working to keep the lights on. No, it’s not. But it’s more important than spot-free dishes and weekly dinners for your neighbors and prefectly pressed slacks. Because if it’s not? Then you don’t really want to make stuff. Then what you’re looking for are excuses about why you don’t have time to make stuff, and you’re not going to find any help here. What you’re going to find here is a little nudge, maybe a hearty shove, and the insistance that the things you’ve been taught about what you’re supposed to have in your life–the shiny floors and perfect teeth and long, lazy vacations in the Bahamas every month–they’re all part of the myth created to get you to want things you don’t have.

When what you really want is time to make stuff. So go back one more time and look at that list you’ve been working on. Look again at the things you’ve been doing that have been taking up whatever time you have left over after sleeping and working. If you’ve got things like “wax the floor” or “clean the closets,” but those things don’t mean anything to you except one more time-sucking chore, make another list. On this one, make just two columns: Things I Have to Do, and Things I Love to Do. Your work this week will have shown you that the first column can be very, very short. You have to work, you have to eat, you have to sleep.  The other column is the important one, where you’ll list “hanging out with my mom” and “cooking on Saturday,” because those things fill your soul and make life worth living. But you’re not going to put in “reading the newspaper front to back” unless it, too, makes your soul sing. You’ll see there are just a few things you do regularly that fit into that column, leaving you a lot of room to add “painting,” “stitching on canvas,” writing poetry.” Those kinds of soul-filling, heart-singing, project-creating things. Once you know exactly what they are, and once you’ve realized that many of the things that were taking up your time are things you don’t really have to do, well, then. It opens up a world of possibilities, doesn’t it?


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6 Responses to More About Time: The Myth of Doing It All

  1. Gulfsprite says:

    I don’t comment unless something really resonates with me (for good or bad). This article was wonderfully said! My dishes may be dirty but my art is feeding my soul! Thanks for a great read.

    • Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

      Thank you–that’s exactly how I feel. The dishes will get dirty again, and maybe cleaned again, and then dirty again, but what we make today will BE something.

  2. cheerytomato says:

    Rice, you are always a voice of sanity for artists. Thank you for writing this again and again – I need to hear it often!

  3. Johoanna says:

    Thanks for the kick in the pants. Now I don’t feel so guilty spending the morning reading blogs I love (like yours and a whole host of others) and browsing my contacts new photos on flickr. These are things that feed my soul and help feed my creativity. They remind me that I’m not alone. I already know I can’t have it all. I learned that a long time ago. But it’s nice to be reminded. Thank you.

    • Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

      I’m glad this was a helpful reminder. I need to remind myself every now and then, as well.