Three Must-Read Articles on Building a Creative Life

Like many of us, I subscribe to a handful of newsletters and TinyLetters; earlier this week, writer Rosamund Lannin’s newsletter It Means Rose of the World included a link to an essay by actor John Sharian titled “On how to be a creative person with a job.”

This piece, published at The Creative Independent, is both lyrical and practical. After sharing his thoughts on the work required to build a creative career around a day job, Sharian provides a list of tips to help people balance all of this work and life, beginning with:

Set a sleep pattern. Sleep is the parentheses of your day; decide how much you need (I recommend 6-8), then be religious about getting that exact amount. Disable your snooze button and address yourself in harsh terms if you don’t get out of bed immediately.

(I love love love “sleep is the parentheses of your day.”)

Sharian’s writing reminded me of an essay I’ve read many times since it was originally published in 2011: “On Discipline,” at Comment Magazine. Author Carey Wallace writes about her decision to spend one hour of each day in prayer and two hours each day in creative work, and the lessons she learned as she put that habit into practice:

I thought of this as a simple commitment, something that could be fit into the context of any life, with enough discipline. I was shocked to discover how much it actually demanded. The problem is this: creation requires firing on all cylinders. If people carved out time on a Saturday morning, but were out till three on Friday night, the time was compromised. If they hadn’t been eating well, the time was compromised. If they were distracted by other pressing worries, the time was compromised. Part of an artist’s task is to shut out these distractions and listen only for the voice of their work, and no artist can survive without that species of discipline. But many of the problems the artists in the program faced were genuine, too visceral to be ignored. In fact, introducing discipline in one area seemed to exacerbate problems in the others. “When I push on one area,” one artist said, “the rest of my life seems to go crazy.”

There is no such thing, we discovered, as disciplining one corner of a life. There are only disciplined or undisciplined lives.

Read both pieces, and see if either of them resonate with you—and if they don’t, I suggest you read economist Tim Harford’s Financial Times piece “When it comes to productivity hacks, are you an Arnie or an Elon?” The Financial Times won’t let me copy a paragraph from this essay to share with you (like, literally, they’ve got copy/paste disabled on their site), but here’s the gist: sometimes it’s okay to leave your life unscheduled. In fact, Harford—and Arnold Schwarzenegger—prefer it that way. ❤️

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