You can either be someone who’s creative, or someone who answers email

You can’t be both.

Unfortunately we often pick the lesser of the two when we don’t have to. For example, I talk a lot with creatives who don’t spend their days doing any sort of creative work.

They instead have day jobs, working for “the man,” slaving away on soul-sucking tasks in order to pay the bills or live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. That’s not the rule of course. There are a lot of creatives who have day jobs (or school) that they enjoy doing to some degree or another.

But when I hear them say they don’t have time to pursue their craft, I think they have nobody to blame but themselves. If you’re not doing creative work, you, have no one to blame but yourself.

Imagine a copywriter saying she doesn’t have time to paint, as much as she absolutely loves to paint. Or a sandwich shop employee complaining that “if only there were more time in the day” he could start that novel he’s been meaning to write. Or, my favorite, the medical student who says there’s no way she could do anything creative because her work relies on her being right – not creative – 90% of the time. Surprisingly these types of complaints often come across on Twitter, or Facebook.

It’s surprising because, “You don’t have time to put at least five minutes into something you want to do, but you have a few minutes to blast status updates on Twitter or over chat?”

The problem of creative motivation is commonly one of how we decide to spend our time. That’s it.

You could be more creative, and you could be a published novelist (if only an independent, self-published one), if there were more time in the day. Sure, but no. Wrong mentality. Right here you should imagine that buzzing sound from TV game shows where contestants do something wrong.

Instead, you could be doing more creative things if you simply made it a priority to do so.

Even if you find yourself in an environment that doesn’t fully encourage creativity, like the medical student, you can still find ways to be creative at the job you’re doing. You just have to make it a priority to do so. Taking time to sit and ask yourself, “what could I do to make my work more creative?”

Five minutes is all you need.

Five minutes every day to sit down and turn off your phone and ignore your email and maybe try some creative exercises.

Because nobody is going to give you the time to just sit and think. There will never be more hours in the day, the sun just doesn’t work on your schedule unfortunately. You have to make the time yourself.

I’m reminded of this great quote from writer and productivity genius Merlin Mann. Merlin wrote:

“I can either be a guy who writes novels, or I can be a guy who answers email. Realizing I cannot be both, I’ve made the decision, and now I live with it.”

So which are you: someone who is creative, or someone who answers emails?

Photo by Tristan Schmurr.