Cheers to you, Creative Mornings! It’s too bad every day’s 8 a.m. doesn’t look like a fruity pebble donut and a pep talk from the really interesting person of the month. I could leave the crowd of 200 (#introvertproblems), but take the green juice that obviously cancels out that donut. I’ll drink a hot cup of local brewed coffee to that.

A few years ago (location: Greenville, NC; mindset: flee a.s.a.p.), I discovered Creative Mornings while poking around on Twitter. A monthly gathering of art-minded folk, you say? Breakfast with other people who also love design, tech, and/or/probably coffee? It sounded amazing. The concept of having anything to do outside of work, class, and bars sounded amazing. I now live in Charlotte and Creative Mornings started a community here a few months ago. Again, I saw it on Twitter, and realized that my opportunity for reluctant networking with creative minds could happen in real life. The food and brew part isn’t always enough to get me out of the house, but once I saw the speaker, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

A black woman writer was coming to tell her own story. I’d never heard the name Patrice Gaines before, but reading “she became a student of life” and that she “vowed to do all she could to align her life with God” in her bio pushed me to get the ticket and secure my seat at my first real-life creative morning. From just reading about her, I saw Patrice Gaines as a version of my answer when I’m asked, “Where do you see yourself in 30 years?”

I’m writing this post months later to share that her talk really made me think. I’m writing this post months later because I still haven’t quite followed her advice.


December (Time) | Photo by Mitchell Kearney, Mitchell Kearney Photography

She asked, “Have you set goals that restrain your creativity?“ Something in me perked up—I knew the answer was yes.

I love goals, planning, planners, schedules, itineraries, and all of their cousins. I didn’t realize it, but I’m extremely likely to have everything planned out and squeeze myself into these plans so unrealistically that I can’t succeed. Ironically, my plans are normally to make time to create something (write, cook, read, study), but the rigid rules I set for how to get there seem to push creative freedom out of its seat. I’ve been making rules for creativity instead of space.

A few new rules, and points from Patrice Gaines’ talk:

  1. Don’t be a hostage to time
  2. Step outside of the box
  3. Unlock my creativity prison

Gaines shared that years ago, she had to ask herself: “Why did I stop making art?” Our answers will vary, but I encourage you to ask yourself the same question – no matter what your “art” is. For me, it’s not a paintbrush set packed up in the attic but the countless pages of unfinished writing (electronic and physical) that never made it through to their purpose. …And probably a few other things, too. I told myself there weren’t enough hours in the day to be a writer. I locked myself in a steel box of restrictive expectations, threw away the key, and went to work.


The villain in this story isn’t time—it’s the lies that fear told me. In my mind, the clock was against me and there was no time to do the one and only thing I’ve always loved to do. Writing has always been a part of me, and until that December day at Creative Mornings, I was oblivious to the fact that I was locked in a creative prison, arrested by fear. Fear of not being able to regularly keep up a writing outlet kept me from writing anything meaningful at all, even sporadically. Fear of critical, misunderstanding eyes of readers brought any ideas for posts to publish (dozens of them) to a screeching halt. Fear of running out of words and not being able to finish anything stopped me from starting.

It’s not all about art tools left on a table that we walked away from and haven’t returned to in years. It’s shifting the focus back to the person who got up from the table and asking why. By accepting the lies of fear in the guise of time management, not only had I not been making time to create—I hadn’t been making time for me.

Watch “Don’t Let The Time Do You”