Thursday, 10 August 2017

Being Creative While Being Busy

A while ago in the comments somebody asked me to write a post about how I manage to juggle work and family commitments while also making RPG material. The pat answer is "with great difficulty" but the long answer deserves more than that. While not wanting to hold myself out as being an expert or guru of any kind - I can barely tie my own shoelaces - here are my tips for staying creative while being busy.

  • Quit social media except for what's necessary for work or you have some special overriding good reason (I use G+ to keep up to date with the RPG world, for example), leave your phone in your pocket or bag unless it's ringing, and don't surf the internet unless you have a specific reason for it. I am not perfect at following this advice, but I am working on it and gradually improving; I haven't been on Facebook for six months and am close to deleting my account, and I deleted my Twitter account ages ago. I don't know anything about Instagram or Snapchat and I have no intention of ever doing so. I am also planning to switch to a dumb phone soon. Cutting down on internet use frees up huge wide vistas of time stretching out before you as far as the eye can see. You might think you miss it when it's gone. Trust me, you don't. 
  • By a similar token, control your email use. The best way to do this is not to check emails until noon. This gives you a productive distraction-free morning, but you can do something similar in the evening, giving yourself free time to do creative things when you get home from work.
  • Get disciplined about leisure time. On your death bed you're not going to regret the fact you didn't watch enough TV. I don't live the lifestyle of a monk but I don't touch boxed sets with a barge pole. I watch a lot of sport but that's the kind of thing you can have on in the background while you do something else.
  • Do a little bit of something every day. It doesn't matter what it is or even if it's just writing a sentence or two - force yourself. You can find time. If you take a break for a day or two you lose momentum surprisingly easily.
  • Take time to think. This is related to the first bullet point, but freeing yourself from your phone is great for this. I spend quite a lot of time on the train while commuting, or sitting in a cafe, or waiting for my wife to do something or other, just sort of gazing about myself. I get lots of ideas for things that way. 
  • If you have a baby, you basically have to tough things out at times. If I'm at home I can work on something while my wife and the kid have a nap, for example. It means I don't get to take a nap myself but it's worth the sacrifice. 

I hope that's helpful and that the person who asked sees this (I can't remember which post the comment was on and Blogger doesn't provide a way to search comments).


  1. As someone who works two jobs, and has a wife and 2-month old baby at home, I can attest to the fact that quitting social media is a great idea. "huge wide vistas of time stretching out before you as far as the eye can see" is an apt way of putting it! Facebook will not be missed.

  2. The iPhone is a creativity killer. It will eat your free time alive!

    Keep your mind open to RPG inspiration as you go about your day.

  3. Superb advice - I watch very little tv and gave up console gaming 15 years ago because I realised that I wasn't getting any miniatures painted.

  4. One could flip it and say that banging out stuff for the REF is what affords one the opportunity of reading RPG blogs for pleasure.

  5. Hi noisms, and thank you so much for this post (I'm the person who originally asked about this a while back)!

    All of these suggestions make sense, and seem very helpful. I've recently tried to do at least a little bit of creative "work" a day, since something is better than nothing. I'm currently focusing on writing fantasy short stories and worldbuilding an RPG setting, since my other hobbies—painting models and drawing—require too much set-up and clean-up time and I find they’re both difficult activities to do without dedicated spaces in my home for them. To write, all I need to do is open my laptop whenever I can steal a few minutes!

    I also like your idea of trying to be more “present” and observing the world for ideas. For example, now I’m on the lookout for creative RPG ideas during storytime with my little boy (as you mentioned in a previous post).

    Cheers, man, and all the best to you and your family.