Sometimes people – mostly moms – ask me how I stay motivated to keep ‘on top of’ my interests and do ‘all these things.’ And my response is quite profound. It’s usually a blank stare. Then a stutter. And often ends in a shrug.

I figure that’s not very helpful, so I am going to attempt to answer those questions here. Because they are really important questions. It doesn’t matter if we know that pursuing our interests leads to a healthier, happier life. It doesn’t matter if we know what we are passionate about. If we don’t act on these things, then we simply can’t benefit.

So, here’s my more (hopefully) eloquent response:

I’m interested in many things. In fact, I once made a list of things I am interested in and came up with 67 items. That was more than 12 years ago so I am assuming that list has changed and probably grown. I don’t pursue all those things.

Writing is more than an interest – it’s a vehicle for me to show up in this world. Like my own personal stretch limo. It’s my microphone in which I speak about issues that are important to me. It’s my stage on which I stand and scream words like ‘creativity, authenticity and kindness.’ It’s been a part of me for so long that I wouldn’t be able to separate myself from it without feeling like I lost my shadow. In fact, here’s the clincher, when I did put writing aside for a little over a year when my first baby was born, I was direction-less, resentful, sad and disconnected.

So, I don’t stay on top of my writing any more than one stays on top of their eating. I’m not trying to be dramatic and be like, I am nothing without my art. But truly, without my art, a huge chunk of me would be missing. And if you ask my family, they’ll tell you that that huge chunk of me is really some of my best parts.

Yes, it’s also my work in terms of how I earn money so that’s motivating – gives me one more reason to pitch places for paying gigs, stay on top of my workbook sales and keep creating. But I write for more reasons than that.

The ‘all these things’ part kind of confuses me. We all do many things. And we all have a choice in what we do, even when it feels like we don’t. How I do ‘all these things’ is I make choices, every single day. Like, if I want to read for pleasure then I have to choose: Should I fool around on my phone for the last 30 minutes of the day, or should I get in bed with my novel? Or if I want to create another page in my art journal, I have to choose: Should I watch a show or should I sit my butt down in my studio and play with my art supplies? Or if I get invited to an event, I have to decide: Is this something I am really interested in? What is my motive for attending? If it’s a valid reason (which includes pure fun), I go. If it’s not a valid reason (like ‘fear of missing out’) I don’t go.

I don’t always make the best choices but I try not to beat myself up about it either. I can’t get to everything in a day, and some nights I do just want to let my mind go to mush (enter: The Young and the Restless or Hawaii Five-O) but if at the end of the week I feel like I did some of the things I really wanted to do, I’m happy.

I’m an introvert by nature. This means I recharge by being alone. But I do love me some social time with people I feel most myself around. And when I can combine my love of art with comaraderie, it adds to the motivation factor.

It’s why I host a monthly writing group – I get to write and be with people who love writing. It’s the same reason why, when I was trying to get out of my funk 7 years ago by getting back to writing, I sought a group of other writers and found that in Pandora’s Collective. Group creativity can be motivating.

My friend, Angie, guest posted right here and talked about the very same thing. She and her best friend have a weekly sewing night, complete with wine and conversation. There is something to be said about having to show up. If you need a push to pursue the things that truly make you happy, try doing it with someone else.

I guess we can boil it down to this:

If you want to ‘stay on top of’ your interests and do ‘all these things’:

  1. Choose how you spend your time. Even 15 minutes a day doing the thing you love can be rejuvenating. If you’re a mom wondering how you’re going to find that time, I know how you feel. It can be really easy to say that you’ll get back to your interests when your kids get older. And yes, in many ways it is easier to carve out time for yourself when your kids are more independent. I have an 8 year old, 5 year old and a pretty-much-2-year-old, and I know how much easier it is to do things for myself with just the older two around. (Or how lovely it is when they are playing at their friends’ homes). My 2 year old is still with me most of the time. But I also know how I am when I don’t have my ME time. It’s not pretty. And it’s no good for anybody. Do what you can with what you have, and always find ways to make the time. Sometimes this is where creativity comes in, or simply a new way of spending the minutes in your day.
  2. Join a group, start a group, or partner up with someone else. Committing to something on a regular basis can be easier when we’re accountable to someone else. And, depending on how we’re built, the social aspect of it alone can be enough to have us follow-through. If something doesn’t already exist that suits your needs, create it. This goes for book clubs, painting parties, social activist get-togethers (what would those be called?), or anything your heart desires.

I hope this has been more helpful than a blank stare, stutter and shrug! And if you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear them! You can comment on the post or contact me privately.

Have a beautiful Tuesday!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative