Finding time for creative outlet

Archived Responses: 

May 2003

I'm about to embark on a master's program in public policy -- and while I'm excited about this new venture, I'm also worried that focusing on such pragmatic and technical issues is going to cause my creative side to feel neglected. Not to mention that I have two kids -- 4 and 10 mos. -- so any spare time (hah!) I have will be dedicated to addressing their needs. And no, making open-faced sandwiches with olive eyes and string bean smiles does not meet the criteria of ''creative outlet.''

I'm already a bit disappointed with myself for not yet having won the Pulitzer for fiction, and considering I haven't even started my novel it's not looking promising. But at this point I'm not even thinking about when I'll have time to write -- I'll be glad to just have time to read a novel in the next two years.

My greater concern is down the line, beyond this degree. What do artistic people who have wonky, technical jobs do to a) find creative release and b) keep their creative side from atrophying? Can you be truly happy in a field knowing that it really only calls upon one side of your brain?

Any experiences and advice appreciated - elisabeth

I went to public health school and found that creative outlets were mandatory. For me that meant taking dance classes. I made sure they fit in my schedule by treating them like appointments or as part of my curriculum and I pre-paid for classes so I'd be less likely to skip. Now I have a job that utilizes the tech/policy side of my brain and I don't expect it to satisfy my creative side (although sometimes I'd love to quit and become a yoga teacher!). I take adult education classes in art at Laney and at Studio One (45th near broadway) and I love them. You can sign up for a one-day per week class and completely lose yourself for a few meditative hours drawing, painting, or in a photo lab. The classes at Studio One are a little more expensive than through the community college system (Peralta). Good luck!
You haven't finished your novel either, huh? You're in good company. My advice to you - one creative sort to another - is to be glad you have a tech/wonky side to exploit! Get your MPP and get a good, interesting, worthwhile day job. Then scratch your creative niche at night after the kids are down, or whenever you can carve out some time for yourself. Be greedy about that time, too. Insist on it, even if it's only an afternoon on the weekend. And remember this They're not underfoot forever. A seven year old doesn't need you to entertain her anymore (but you still have to drive her everywhere). And a 15-year-old doesn't even want to know you. One more thought - your kids aren't getting in the way of your creativity, they're providing rich fodder for the great stuff you're going to write/paint/dance about in later years. Get to it! Julie T.
In years to come, when you have an established job and your children are older and in school, you will have time, if you make it for yourself, to write short stories, or even a novel if you have the perserverance. Until then, try to keep a notebook or file of index cards where you write down story ideas, metaphors, ideas for characters, etc. as they occur to you now. Another thing you can do now, which I found helpful, is to observe other people closely, especially if they have personalities you find interesting, and try to see if you can get down on paper characteristics and such that go into illustrating that personality. Since you will be in graduate school and will have to attend the occasionally boring seminar, this is a good time to do such writing. Or at odd moments on the bus. This should be done more as a whimsy than as a chore, otherwise it will become a stressful burdern.

In other words, for the next few years you can gather material which you can someday use to write that Pulitzer prize winning novel. And who knows, even now if you gather enough material you might be able to hammer out a story or two during a vacation.

Good luck. Dianna

Good for you!

I'm a grad of GSPP. When I attended I was 33 years old and a single mom of a toddler. It was tough -- partly because it kept me very busy and partly because I didn't feel a close connection to the other students.

I feel very strongly that creativity should be an essential ingrediant to policy analysis, and I'm so happy that you will lend your perspective! They (the wonks) don't always get it, but they need to be shook-up.

My current job has unfortunately deteriated into extremely boring number crunching. I'm dying to find something new, but given the economy and my need to remain in the Bay Area, I don't see much hope at this time. So I keep trying to shake things up at work, and I express my creativity through decorating my home, my garden, dancing, etc.

It's not so terrible, as long as I keep my perspective, and realize that eventually the job market will get better, and I'll have more freedom to do what I want.

Just be yourself and you'll find your way! anon