What If It Seems Like You Don't Have a Single Good Moment to Create? | Len's Lightbulbs

by Len Wilson

A fellow creative wrote because he doesn’t have any time to create. He said, “I noticed that you have 4 children. Is that correct? How have you handled being a father, a professional, and keeping up with side projects? It’s very hard for me to handle freelance work on top of my normal job while parenting three children.”

Oh Lord yes this is a thing.

Here’s what I wrote him:

Yes, I have four beautiful kids. On one hand the arrival of the fourth child was no big deal. My wife and I had no more spare time left to sacrifice, so we just invited the little guy to join the scrum and fight for spare crumbs. Which incidentally I am cool with. Nothing wrong with being scrappy.

After he arrived, though, I felt depressed. Because I believe part of the joy and calling of fatherhood is spending a lot of time at home with family, I knew his arrival meant an additional few years before I could anticipate creative margin, or spare, discretionary time with which to make something.

Does this sound selfish?

I used to think it did, and some days I still do, but I also have recognized something.


I have cobbled together a creative theology the last several years about how we’re made to create and if we don’t do the thing that God has designed for us to do, we’re denying God pleasure and ourselves fulfillment and the world the benefit of our contribution. Now, part of what I am creating is a 30-year long project to grow four healthy adult humans. But there are also other projects I’d like to do – am made to do – in that time, if possible. And, if I do these things, they’ll actually help me do better at my job and grow healthy humans. A theology is a good rationale against competing demands, either real or in my head.

A lot of mornings, though, it’s not the theology that drives me to create, but something much more basic. I create not because it’s lofty and righteous, but because I need to. Without a creative outlet, I’m partly dead.

Throughout my twenties and thirties, I juggled several income streams and professional and personal activities and interests. My growing children and my worklife steadily eroded my ability to pursue side creative projects. As the little parasites stripped it all away, I went through a bit of a personal crisis. I need time to create!

So I asked myself a question:


For me the answer is writing.

I decided to let go of many of the things I was doing. I made an announcement to myself and to those around me: “Writing is my hobby.”

Now I should clarify the word “hobby.” A hobby sounds on one hand like a sad reduction of a dream. An old fart that tinkers around in his basement but never actually delivers anything.

But on the other hand, a hobby is quite freeing. Everyone needs a hobby, right? Some outlet to spend the last spare minutes of your day on?

Before Invite Press, I published my books with Abingdon Press in Nashville. The most prolific writer in their history is a consultant named Lyle Schaller, a man who had four children and yet managed to write 55 books and sell over a million copies. Late in his career, when asked how he juggled it all, he said, “Writing is my hobby.”

For me, a creative hobby isn’t just a distraction to tinker on.


Calling what I do a hobby clarifies how I choose to spend my free time. For example, my wife knows I am serious about writing and helps me find space.

Or, at the end of a day, when faced with a decision to write, watch TV or surf my phone, calling writing a “hobby” helps me to choose. For example, I am typically “off the clock” as a father around 10:00pm. That leaves me 8.5 hours until I get up and go again the next morning. Since I sleep about 6.5 hours a night and need 30 minutes for grooming and such, that leaves me a maximum of about 90 minutes.

Many nights, my wife and I take a walk for about 30 minutes, which leaves me 60 minutes to do something. Do I veg out with the TV, surf social networks, or do I do something related to my hobby?

Whereas before I adopted the word “hobby” I might have wasted an hour on phone games and chided myself for not being a more perfect person, with this perspective, I am free to choose my writing 4-5 nights a week and relax on the other nights.

What is your favorite creative activity? How much time do you have for it lately?