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Creative Outlets

We hope you all had a wonderful Reading Week, whether for you that means a vacation, a brief respite from teaching, or just a quieter Kingston.

In this next series we’re going to be discussing some “life hacks,” with a focus on both saving money and spending time wisely, recognizing that usually you can save one only by spending the other. We’ll likely have some posts on financial budgeting, getting groceries on the cheap, and second-hand shopping for other things (like furniture…not food).

Today I’m writing about building non-work activities into an overfull schedule. It’s a well worn topic, and that’s pretty much a testament to the fact that it still needs to be talked about.


“Creative Outlet” sticker by Ziemowit Maj https://www.behance.net/gallery/vinyls-electricity-series/497876

I’ll lead with my best take-home idea and fill in the context afterward. It’s to schedule in something(s) consistent that has to happen on a particular time cycle and, perhaps, makes you accountable to others. This all risks making your leisure feel like more labour, but drastic times and all that.

My examples are taking a lesson (I took guitar lessons a few years ago, for instance) or setting a standing dinner (we have a Sunday potluck tradition with another family that is allowed to be as brief as it needs to be – everyone’s gotta eat some time, after all – or as long as we’d like it to be).

I think these are both viable approaches, but the one I want to advocate more for (and this is where the platitude to find work/life balance gets a little more interesting) is finding a way to treat an appointment with just you yourself, alone, as equally important to one with a music teacher or family friends.

Why? The reason is personal, but I think it might translate: I’m beginning to think that what was responsible for the qualities I liked about myself when I was younger – clear, fast thinking, the ability to analyze everything in real time – was that I had so much quiet time and uncluttered space. I was alone a lot of the time. I had a ton of time to myself. And I would spend it drawing – which as all drawers know is a kind of meditation – or otherwise thinking up projects I did want to do.

I think there was more of a symmetry between what I was taking in and what I was putting out.

In fact, I think I needed more stimulation during most of my childhood and adolescence. But now, it rains and it pours. (No wonder I research boredom and overload). And it’s not just an excess to take in, but a lot to put out, too – teaching, grant applications, publication proposals, etc.. These are the subjects of a constant performance.

Creative outlet stickers by Matt Caliman http://fab.com/product/creative-outlet-stickers-39848

The visual pun doesn’t get old. More “creative outlet” stickers by Matt Caliman http://fab.com/product/creative-outlet-stickers-39848

It has occurred to me that it might be possible to begin to dull creatively and cognitively even in the middle of a university. And so this is why I advocate making some “creative outlet” time sacrosanct, and making it one where you engineer a reencounter with the genuine nothing-to-do boredom of childhood (artificial though the circumstances of the encounter may be) so that you can catch up on processing and maybe eventually begin filling it up with something new.





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  1. […] the background parts of our lives into the foreground. Sharday had some great ideas about building creative outlets into our lives; Amanda wrote about where to find food in Kingston on the cheap; and Jeremy gave […]

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