Written by Leo Babauta
Our days can be overwhelming, and because of this, many people put off their creative work — it just doesn’t feel possible.
If you’re in this camp, one or more of these will sound familiar to you:
- I’m too busy right now, I can always do (insert creative work here) later
- Things have to be just right before I can do (creative work)
- When things are settled, that’s when I’ll start
- I need to clear out my desk, my office, my life before I can start
Of course, the time never comes when you’re feeling settled, when you’re not busy or stressed or overwhelmed, when your life is cleared out and things are just right. So there’s always a reason to put off the creative work. Conditions are never perfect.
So the opportunity is to work with the conditions just as they are. So that you can create no matter what the conditions around you.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
How to Create Despite Overwhelm
The first thing is to notice that you’re feeling busy, stressed, overwhelmed, etc. What does it feel like in your body? Can you bring some breath, presence, or love to help calm it down?
Once you’ve gotten present to the stress in your body, then decide if you’d like to take responsibility for creating what you want to create in your life. Are you up for choosing into something new?
If you are … then create the space. You can create it right now, or block off some time for later. What do you need to do to create the space? Set things aside, clear off your desk, close apps, play some music?
Now that you’ve created the space, see if you can calm down your nervous system some more. Breathe. Sit in stillness for a minute.
Now take a single step: one brush stroke, one sentence, one note on the instrument.
Notice that you can take that one small step in the midst of chaos — that means you can take another. And possibly another!
And soon you are proving your old narrative wrong — you can create even when you’re overwhelmed.
How to Practice
I suggest a daily practice — possibly every weekday, or several times a week. Something that’s regular and more frequent than once a week.
Commit yourself to creating something specific — writing blog posts or a book, painting, sketching, making music, making videos, writing a research report, making a marketing campaign, etc.
It also helps to commit to sharing it with someone — an accountability partner, a group of beta readers, an audience for your work. This will call you forward when you’re feeling resistance.
Create the space — every morning as I’m having coffee, every evening after I close out my work day, every day at lunch, etc. Block it off on your calendar, clear out distractions as much as you’re able to. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Then practice as described above — show up and start creating despite your overwhelm and chaos.
Notice when you get pulled away by distraction, or shut down by overwhelm or not knowing. Just notice, no need for harshness. Breathe, and come back. Over and over.
Create a new story for yourself — a powerful one where you can show up for yourself and your art in the midst of a storm.
Zen Habits is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness. My name is Leo Babauta. I live in Davis, California with my wife and six kids, where I eat vegan food, write, run, and read. Source
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