How to: seize every opportunity {31 Days}

Like we talked about yesterday, even if it feels like you have zero extra time, if you look for it, anyone can find little opportunities to create. Maybe not every day, but some days!

One small but new-to-you recipe completed is better than nothing. Writing for five minutes is better than writing for zero minutes. A handful of photos taken off of your back patio are better than an empty memory card.

Here are some specific life hacks for making time for creative action.

  • Quality time and creative time can be one in the same. Creative action looks different in busy seasons, because we must be faithful to our priorities. Exploring ways to naturally mix creativity into daily life can help with this. I think that one great way to do this is make creative activities part of quality time with your family or friends. A few weeks ago, Garret and I made a photo block together and it was a great combination of his wood-working skills and my photography work. The quality time together was great, and it made me happy to have one of my photos made into an art piece! I’ve also seen friends with kids do this mixing of life and creativity in lots of wonderful ways. Even small things that might seem silly can help us keep our creative and problem-solving muscles in shape!
  • The timer trick. Do you feel like you never have time to write or draw or take pictures? Most folks can find a 10 or 15 minute chunk of time per day to create.Find a comfortable place, set the kitchen timer, and go.
  • Create for a social, ministry, or outreach activity. This is similar to the first point, in that it follows the theme of integration, but this might feel a little riskier. It takes a different sort of bravery to volunteer your creative skills. Examples: plan a scrapbooking party with friends and friends-of-friends; instead of all going out to eat again, organize a pillow-case dress making party with girl friends to benefit a local non-profit; help plan a Compassion letter writing party (I’ve done that – it was a blast!).
  • Always have a notebook. I know this is not at all a new concept, but it’s a big one for me! I hate it when I forget an idea because I didn’t write it down! So, keep a small notebook with you so that when random ideas or stories jump into your mind, you can capture them instead of half-heartedly filing them in your brain.
  • Free write. This is for when you find a pocket of time, but you don’t feel inspired to write about anything in particular. So write about whatever comes to mind. Introspection, poetry, wishes, stream of consciousness—whatever. JUST GO. Write for sake of writing, for the sake of practicing. Practice matters. Discipline is valuable.

 What do you think? What tricks do you use to carve out time for art?

{31 Days of Creativity Babysteps}

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112 Responses to How to: seize every opportunity {31 Days}

  1. Free writing has been my best plan of action when I’m not motivated or stuck. Love all your ideas 🙂

  2. Annie says:

    I love parties/gatherings with friends, and for a while I’ve wanted to have a day where my friends — who are more creative than they’d like to admit or realize — each plan a small, easy DIY activity, and we teach them to each other. A crafting day, but where we also get to act as teachers/experts. And I love the idea of creative time as quality time. The wheels are turning… 🙂

    • Yes, that sounds like a fantastic idea!! In college we used to invite friends over for sort of “bring your own paint and canvas” nights at our big house full of girls, and it was so fun to just be together and talk about real life, while also encouraging each other in creative expression. I really miss things like that, and have been brainstorming plans for this fall, too! Now we just need to *act* 🙂

  3. I love this! As a newly full-time freelance writer, I need these reminders — so thank you!

    I bought a 30-minute hourglass (half-hour glass?), which I have on my desk. That way I can track my time in increments. It definitely helps.

    Also, sometimes when I free write, I turn my monitor off so I can’t see what I’m typing. It’s a fun technique to getting to the inner thoughts … as long as your fingers are on the right keys, that is!


    • I love your ideas Mikalee! I do something similar to turning off the monitor – I love typing with my eyes closed! I don’t think as much about spell check and details that way. Thanks so much for reading! 🙂

  4. Ooh…yes! You should always carry a notebook! That’s a great point, and one that I wish I had thought of a few years ago…haha. I bought got one about a month ago because I was so sick of always coming up with brilliant ideas and then forgetting them later!

    You have some pretty fantastic ideas here! Great job and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 😀

  5. kayawilson says:

    Hi Leslie,
    You are a fresh voice to me and very inspiring! this post has made me realize i do have lots of ideas, news and stories to tell. Now to get me off my butt, so to speak and onto my computer to write,write, write! thank you for your help and encouragement. I just changed themes on WordPress so much to do……

  6. The last two are especially important. I sometimes feel like I am being lazy not getting anything done, but look back at the week or month and realize how much I did get done. Lately, I have found I accomplish much while multitasking. I work on things while I watch a sports game, and read or write when I go to the bar.

  7. some nice pointers in your blog, and i support all you say. Congratulations on being freshly pressed. well deserved.
    Kind thoughts,

  8. ilse watson says:

    Whaaaa I love this!!! I will definitely post a link to this when I write another article about being creative. Thanks for this – such good writing.
    Kind regards, Ilse

  9. Sometimes we have to make time to create. I knit, crochet, embroider, and sew a little, and just about every time someone learns of these hobbies of mine, I get this response: “I wish I had time to learn/do that.”

    But then, when I ask how many TV shows they are “addicted” to–it’s 5 or 6 each week. Or how many hours they spend on the internet or complaining that they are bored or playing Angry Birds on their phone… hm, now all of a sudden, it’s not that you don’t have time, it’s that you didn’t MAKE time!

    • Sara says:

      This is so true, and I’m definitely guilty of wishing my life away!

    • The Doll Master says:

      This is very true. I get that response like 8 out of 10 and the other 2 were things like ‘Wait till you start your own family’.
      I feel it is healthy for anyone (whether having your own family or not) to have your own ‘ME’ time. It’s therapeutic.
      Busy (with other things) is actually a very convenient excuse NOT to do anything.
      Fear is the other excuse BUT if you don’t try, how can you improve on your own craft? I get belittled all the time but I believe people who belittle my craft can’t even do 1/4 of it well. It’s their own Fear talking.
      Trust yourself and don’t let people take what makes you happy away!

  10. Good ideas. It’s so easy for ‘real life’ to get in the way of creating, and I know I’m guilty of letting my own art take a back seat way too often. I like the idea of the timer; tomorrow I’ll set myself down to do 15 minutes of drawing and see what happens.

  11. chuckzach says:

    Hey, love your ideas. I am currently working on a blog about improving myself and others. You should check it out.

  12. I have found that you will make time for the things that are truly important to you (regardless of what you say the important things to you are). In fact, time is a great test of a person’s true feelings and passions.

  13. Marc Schuster says:

    I discovered the timer trick over the summer and I love it! I usually give myself about five minutes to free write and then follow it up when I can with an additional five minutes of focused free writing that builds on an idea from the first five minutes. I’ve even suggested that my students use this trick, and for many of them it’s a great way to generate ideas.

  14. Pingback: Inspired by a Blog. :) « Tushar's Blog

  15. Turn off the T.V. We could all do with a little less T.V. and a little more creativity. Thank you for the reminders today.

  16. Sara says:

    I’m really trying to sort my blog out and get my writing up to scratch… little tips like this help so much! And you know, as soon as I say ‘just 15 minutes’ I find myself writing for a great deal longer.

  17. Notebooks are like my new best friend. IDK what I would do if I don’t have one around! Thanks for sharing these great tips ^_^

  18. Anh Lê says:

    I also come up with some ideas:
    – Live with open eyes. Pay a little bit attention to things and people around. Those are a great source of inspiration. I know some people are quite indifferent to what is out of their lives. I wish they could have known what they missed by living with their close eyes.
    – Imitate. Actually a rare amount of people can be creative by nature. I believe people have to learn it. Let’s start first with imitation and ideas will come out from such a base.

  19. myndmlt says:

    Very interesting post. I think creativity can be expressed in numerous ways. I remember reading somewhere that if you pretend that you’re always carrying a camera around, you’d notice things around you that you normally wouldn’t. It’s quite amazing and you don’t even need to make dramatic changes to see things a little more creatively.

  20. Setting the timer has been a revelation for me in the past few months. I hate getting out of bed earlier than I have to, but I love going to work knowing I’ve already taken time to write today. Plus, I’m actually finishing some stories!

  21. Wow, inspiring blog post. I skipped two month’s of blogging because I “didn’t have the time”. Reading your blog makes me think back of all the quality moments I could have used as creative moments as well. I’ll definitely try free writing as well as I usually plan my posts and visuals in advance. I might just come up with fresh new stories if I just start typing…

  22. Yes! True points! I think that we generally do have time to create, we just need to look at our time differently. Sometimes doing something like taking the bus instead of driving myself forces me to sit and think/write while i’m “transported” (and is also good for the environment!). I find my 30 min. lunch breaks at work are great times to be creative and write–and I return to work refreshed and energized. And I always try to get my co-blogger to come sit at coffee shops with me. We both work well silent, but together and in a different environment, and we still feel like we’re creating in community. -Abi

    • Thanks for reading, Abi! I love your ideas, and I totally agree with your lunch break point – writing during my lunch break is always enjoyable. It refreshes my brain!

  23. Rae says:

    I never leave home without a notebook!!! Worst case, all the notes could go into my iPhone. You’re right about the process of just taking those 15 minutes of time. Thank you for sharing these!

  24. newsy1 says:

    I have the opportunity of being able to work from home most days but still feel the time crunch because I just don’t always have my priorities in the right order. Your ideas are great.

  25. aparnanairphotography says:

    hi Leslie: Actually my blog forces me to be dynamic with my photography so that I can faithfully keep posting my new ideas/creations/photos. Thank you for sharing this – it’s a very nice reminder!!

  26. Pingback: Post in English: Finding time to make art / live a more creative life… « Wild Writing / Délire d'écrire

  27. smockerybee says:

    Hi Leslie, thanks for the great ideas – I’m definitely going to try the timer trick! I often make use of my tram journey to work to get some stitching done. I get some funny looks, mind…

  28. Jess Witkins says:

    Hi Leslie! Great ideas for bolstering your creativity. I know I’m someone that likes to integrate when possible if it means having fun and getting rid of that guilty feeling I know we all get when we are enjoying ourselves but thinking of a project we should be doing. My honey and I just got some quality time in this weekend while we went hiking in the bluffs. We got in our exercise (believe me, he made me scale part of a mountain!) and we brought books along, so I perched at a scenic spot and read the first chapter of a new book before hiking down again. It was a wonderful romantic day that combined three things on my “life list”: quality time with my honey, exercise, and reading 2 books a month. Though not every opportunity will be so lovingly synched together, the key is to prioritize and carve out those niches of time, like your ideas with the egg timer or taking notes till you can put all your ideas together.

    Thanks for the fun post, this was an exciting AND REFRESHING read after a long day at work. Congrats on being FP!

  29. You’re blog is so inspiring and I will be sure to link when I do a post about the Etsy Labs and other free “Art of Craft” sources for my next blog post this Thursday. I love crafting and I set up an Etsy account over a year ago with little listings and no updates. Now that I’m getting into the swing of things, I want to put more time into my art and blogging.

    My favorite idea is definitely the “art party”….I’ll have to try it out soon!

  30. coribaum says:

    I’m a fellow 31 Dayer, and I had to drop by after seeing you were freshly pressed! I’ll definitely be back ! What a great series!

  31. 7cakes says:

    Great post! I often try to bring stuff in the car on longish trips. Right now, my “car project” is crocheting fingerless gloves =D You can check them out here:

  32. A notebook? Hm great idea. Totally i agree

  33. Ty says:

    I kind of needed this post. Thanks for the loving reminder that creativity is something we owe to ourselves and those dearest to us. Keep sharing you gifts.

  34. Jane & Carin says:

    I’ve been carrying around a notebook for the past couple of months and it’s definitely been keeping me in a better & creative mood. Carpe Diem (with art&writing)!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
    – Jane

  35. dadispen says:

    Awesome! Eating out is good but doing creative activities together with friends yield a better bonding result!

  36. Eva McCane says:

    great blog! my notebook never leaves my side, and it’s my savior. whether it’s a reminder of something i need at the store, an idea for a christmas gift, or a good blog topic, it all ends up in my notebook. if i lost that thing, anybody who found it would probably think i’m a complete nut. but i like being a bit of a nut.

  37. starlight says:

    that’s right! i always have a handy-dandy lil notebook in my bag where i write anything that interests me, and sometimes include it in my blog.. writing is fun and relaxing..

  38. Rob says:

    I have a personal blog and a music blog. At this point in my life, these are my main creative outlets. Blogs, or a public voice, have the ability to make all sorts of people feel a little more important I think.

  39. I’ve started turning off my music during my 30-45 minute commute. It’s amazing what comes from having a little quiet time every day. It actually makes traffic more bearable. Sometimes I even have to pull out my little notebook and jot down a few notes when I come to a stoplight.

  40. Jan Simson says:

    This post is awesome! Truly inspiring. I love all of the points you made. Thank you! And congrats on being FP! Cheers.

  41. Pingback: Failure is your friend {31 Days} |

  42. Russel says:

    Leslie, I take my camera with me every morning at 7am when I take a walk to the bakery here in our mountaintop village.

  43. RaI says:

    I like to work on art projects and watch TV at the same time. I feel so productive, even though I am actually am being the opposite of productive.


  44. aeonmagus says:

    I wish I had thought of the notebook thing when I started writing, it would have saved me so much trouble trying to remember the great ideas I came up with back then. Now, I even sit at work with a notebook, taking down the odd thought to ponder over later. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can always spare a moment to jot something down. Thanks for the great read, Leslie, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  45. Kai says:

    awesome post..its very inspiring

  46. Tooty Nolan says:

    Wise words indeed. Whenever I complete a writing project (usually takes months – I’m a ham-fisted typist) my writing utterly ceases, and it can be weeks before I find the time to start again. Methinks I’ll take your advice, and hopefully get back into the groove much more quickly. Blogging helps of course.

  47. Krzysiek says:

    This post contain positive energy. I wil try to do this.

  48. niasunset says:

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed. This is a wonderful post. Creative world fascinates me always and I love to create something… Keeps me energic and alive. But also opens million windows too… never ending. How beautiful your inspirational writing and your encouragement. Thank you, I am so glad to meet with you and with your beautiful blog. With my love, nia

  49. ilse watson says:

    I like your site and your posts – you are full of life and very inspirational.
    I’ve posted a lot of articles about journaling, curing creativity blocks, working with attention and intention, working with your intuition and so forth – maybe it will be of some help. Also see the article “the artist’s way” – a 12-week program to rediscover your creative self.
    Have a super day.

  50. Marc Lougee says:

    Great post! My creative butt is effectively kicked into action…where’d I leave that timer… BTW, congrats on being ‘Pressed–

  51. Kemi says:

    Yeah, I’m gonna need some “free writing” time as I’ve unwittily signed up for NaNoWriMo2011. Fantastic tips you got here! Cool blog. K

  52. Saqib Gilani says:

    Being a professional, I would always like writings and reading as well, about accounting and finance. It really inspires me to get enough knowledge and skills of my profession and share the same with others.
    Good Day….!


  53. twogirlsonebookcase says:

    I’m just recently trying to use my free time to be more creative, I’ve been making sock men, bags, drawing and trying to find time to read. I honestly feel much better doing this instead of just sitting in front of the TV of an evening, if i have a lazy day now and just sit in front of the TV i actually feel like i should be doing something! It’s great! This is a great blog, great ideas x

  54. meganchapple says:

    If your like me and creative ideas pop into your head all the time the notebook is the best option. Android phones also have an App called ColourNote which is an electronic notepad pretty much. When I got to about my 80th full notebook I realised I need something more organised.

  55. wow, i like this …..

  56. chaks says:

    Cool writeup! Apart of noting down the points, in my view it is also important to note down the context we got the ideas at that particular minute. In my personal experience (yea, i do maintain a note book) when i review the points taken at later stage say after a month, i was not able to recollect the context. Now i realized that i need to add sufficient information to the points so that even if i look at that after few months, i should be able to use them.

  57. It’s definitely hard to carve out that creative time in a busy schedule, but it is so worth it if we do. Thanks for the tips!

  58. Love the positivity and motivation behind this post!! 🙂 Nicely written

  59. Carlie Chew says:

    I love your post. I work all day on other’s art work, yet I never get the time to work on my own. I have so many ideas about things i would like to do that my brains about to explode. Thank you for your article, maybe now I can incorporate my art into my life too.

  60. Debie says:

    I love it! Thank you 🙂

  61. K.S. Schultz says:

    My loved ones are my first priority so I carry my camera and tiny notebook with me always to capture candid moments, funny insights, and great ideas I find in every encounter. I often find an idea while doing chores, i.e., The Joy of a Short-lived Clean Bathroom 🙂

  62. Sharvil says:

    Cool Idea and I am sure people would love creativity and making time for them? def! 🙂

  63. candress says:

    This is just what I needed to read this morning as I force myself to write something on my blog. My life has gone through the most extreme changes in the past year and I am trying to find my new normal. Writing has always been a way for me to put things in perspective but my discipline is out the window. You have encouraged me to make time for my creative happiness today. Thank you and congrats on getting on FP. Gotta go write now. 🙂

  64. Cathy says:

    Free writing is always effective. :>

  65. renka23 says:

    Free writing. I will keep these in mind, thank you! 🙂

  66. saskateacher says:

    Great ideas! Thanks.

  67. abelovedone says:

    YES! I especially agree with making it a social event. I think bonding happens most when friends are just doing things together, side by side. I’ve been having a semi-regular craft night, and it is SO much fun to make things, but the best part is all the bonding that takes place :).

  68. Hey Leslie! A lovely post out there! Thanks for sharing some great ideas! I’ve always thought to carry a notebook EVERY TIME, because, really, sometimes I forget new ideas and I regret that I didn’t copy them down the instant they came to me..!
    So.. I’m planning to do so after reading this blog of yours…. 🙂 thank you!

  69. smashlynn says:

    Exactly! Your writing is fresh and entertaining as well as informative. Thanks for the reminder to bring a notebook – I’ll be packing a sketchbook with me from now on =)

  70. Yes, always carry a notebook! It’s one of the best pieces of advice. Sadly, I wish I brought one with me more often.

  71. Female Anecdote says:

    I’m a writer and can wholeheartedly agree to all of this. I love it!

  72. soulcherie says:

    “Writing 5 min is better than writing zero!” Gal, you`re absolutely right! Once you started everything flows to you, comes to you like a waves will come to the beach. That`s the Law of Attraction, I assume. However, write, write, write…till your head is empty, till everything is said, till all thought were brought to paper….I wonder how long that could take 🙂 Cheers, Sonja

  73. gaycarboys says:

    You’re right I’m going to make sometime just for me. No music, no TV no computer.

  74. tsizzles says:

    Leslie your post is very inspiring! Great ideas. You’ve pretty much said everything. Looking forward to more of what you have to say. A job well done!

  75. Hi,
    I loved your post. I’ve been finding it difficult to have time write and your ideas are great. The timer is definitely something for me and you have inspired me to give free writing ago once again.

    Thank you!


  76. mochamc says:

    Amazing blog! Funny enough it’s quite similar to mine, just getting up and going with the ideas you have day to day. Check it out and see what you think!

  77. sarkisartist says:

    Hi Leslie, I like this post as a lot of the time, I have the same trouble that you’ve described. As an artist who’s also studying and working part time I find it incredibly difficult to create… Personally, knowing I have only 15 minutes doesn’t inspire me to get my paints and paintbrushes out (setting them up and cleaning them takes about 20minutes in itself). Do you have any advice for me?
    Thanks 🙂

  78. Hi there, very inspiring tks very much. I am struggling for more time. I am addicted to creativity at the moment and neglecting everything else in my life. Sigh.

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  80. Love this! 😉 Keep up the good work and ill keep following you!!

    -Chris Styles

  81. great post, I get random ideas all the time and forget to write them down! This is so true for many people x

  82. Adriano says:

    I see it to believe

  83. Randy says:

    Fantastic topic! I find that some of my best work, be it design, music or writing often occurs late at night. This can be tough given that most mornings I have to rise at 5:30am to get to the office in time. My solution? I’ve learned to ‘sleep fast’ 🙂

  84. cedds says:

    Great post! I like drawing but sometimes I get stuck and feel that I don’t have enough time or that I’m not inspired by anything. I’ll follow your advice and see what comes out!

  85. Jessica P says:

    I love this concept! I totally agree that it’s important to try and be creative every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes 🙂 I have found great for this, and try to do a daily doodle every day. They only take 5 minutes but it’s gets the juices flowing and helps keep me in a rcreative mindset!

    Jessica P xo
    My Latest Blog Post: Staycations – Staying In is the new Going Out!

  86. bwgalerie says:

    hi, you’re totally right! we all have enough time, we just have to use it! a few weeks ago i had a project on the run where i would paint a picture everyday for 28 days. it was tough to manage, but i made it! =)

  87. Candice says:

    These are great! Thanks so much. Having a notebook with me at all times has been so helpful in creating new ideas or just reflecting on my day.

  88. On the bus/train or any travel is a great time to grab a notepad and doodle or write!

  89. Ashley Holly says:

    This is why I blog. It is my creative space to embrace for just a few minutes each day but the beneficials are endless 🙂 Thanks for the great post!

  90. This is great! I just recently started integrating my passion of drawing into my life again after close to a year. Even just taking 15 minutes to do some life drawing at work is getting me into that creative zone again.

  91. bebestyles says:

    I can’t believe how much time I’ve wasted in my life….sometimes it’s too hard to force yourself to even commit just 5 minutes to do something effective (of course you don’t really like doing it). A lot of times I found myself laying on the sofa watching TV and like: What am I doing with my life? I’m wasting time!! Thoughtful post though.

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