What’s in it for me? Carve out and defend your creative time and space.

If you’re one of the millions of hardworking, selfless people who feel as though you’re continuously putting your own needs on the back burner, then Eve Rodsky, the author of Find Your Unicorn Space, has a challenge for you: carve out some time in your day for a creative pursuit.

Rodsky believes that by denying ourselves priority time in our own days, we’re actually hurting everyone around us. Instead, we should be taking on creative pursuits that energize us, awaken some passion and excitement, and make us feel more valuable in our world.

And that’s exactly what this Blink aims to do. We’ll explore what unicorn space is, why it’s so hard – particularly for women – to claim this space, and how you can make sure you get this essential time in your life here and now.


Unicorn Space as Self-Expression

Overwhelmed and overworked individuals often have the bad habit of denying themselves the time to pursue a creative form of self-expression. Not getting to spend an afternoon baking, writing, gardening, singing, knitting … too often seems like the least of your problems.

You’ve got work, family, kids, pets, social obligations, housecleaning, cooking, laundry – and by the end of the day, you don’t have the time or energy to be creative.

But actually, we all should. And that’s where unicorn space comes in. It’s the dedicated time and space you give yourself to do what you love.

Unicorn space isn’t the same as self-care. It isn’t the same as work even if you love your work. It isn’t coming up with creative tasks for your kids to do. It’s about finding an activity you’re so excited and in love with that you can’t wait to get back to it.

At its heart, unicorn space is about taking a little bit of time to be you. Just you. Authentically you. It’s about finding a creative pursuit that comes purely from your own curiosity and passion and then sharing the results of that pursuit with the world.

But is this really a priority? Aren’t hobbies and vanity projects for when you have spare time?

First of all, terms like “hobbies” and “vanity projects” are reductive and can lead you to sideline your creative pursuits.

That’s why the term unicorn space was created. This is more than a hobby, it’s an opportunity to further develop the you that existed long before work and kids and laundry.

Studies are very clear that people who take the time to prioritize their creative expression feel better, act better, and live better.

So if you’re worried that taking some time to do what you want to do might be selfish, take comfort in the fact that your family is much happier when you’re happier.

It’s time to stop thinking of unicorn space as an option and start thinking of it as a necessity.


Why Women Can’t Find Unicorn Space

Unicorn space is historically more difficult to come by for women than for men.

Studies show that the burden of unpaid domestic work is higher for women in spite of whether they work or not. The pandemic didn’t help. At one point, unpaid labor for women rose 153 percent and three million women dropped out of the workforce.

These aren’t new problems, either. Women have historically shouldered the burden of work, domestic responsibilities, and child-rearing at a rate higher than men. On top of that, when it comes to taking time for themselves, women feel guilty more than men do.

Rodsky once had a conversation on a plane with a gentleman who was reading a book about work-life balance and taking time for yourself. When she asked him if the advice from the book was working, he admitted that he already had a lot of free time. When she asked if he ever felt guilty, he said that in spite of his wife sometimes being unhappy with him, no, he didn’t feel guilty.

Granted this is just one random story, but studies show that men tend to feel less guilt than women.

Factor in that to carve out your unicorn space, you’re going to have to create and hold boundaries – which takes communication, energy, and a willingness to let other people be upset with you – it’s no wonder women have a harder time getting this space than men do.

Unless you’ve already mastered the skills we’re about to talk through, chances are the idea of telling your family you’re going away for a few hours feels like a pretty big deal. Hopefully, by the end of this Blink, you’ll feel confident in claiming your rightful space.


All’s Fair in Housework

To find your unicorn space, you need to have fairness in the home. Women are statistically likely to be shouldering an unfair share of the unpaid domestic work it takes to run a household and family.

The first thing you need to do to begin claiming your space is to realize your own value. It’s good to be compassionate, generous, and kind to the people you love, especially if you’re a mother. At some point in motherhood, your children are pretty intensely dependent. But this doesn’t last forever, and eventually, the time comes to restore balance.

You need to understand that the other people in your home are valuable – and you are just as valuable. It doesn’t make any sense for one person’s needs to be treated as less important than another’s – even if that person is you.

Once you’ve accepted that realization and understood that your needs matter just as much as everyone else’s, it’s time to create the framework for your time in the home.

Start with clear communication. When talking about your boundaries, make sure you’re not bringing in any resentment or frustration. Speak matter-of-factly and clearly.

After you’ve established your unicorn space – for example, every Sunday afternoon I’m going to classes to learn how to play the piano – be sure to hold your boundaries. It’s your partner’s job to watch the kids during that time or it’s your kids’ job not to text you during that time. Make sure to be clear about your expectations.

The benefits of creating this space for yourself are many and include feeling better about yourself, reducing resentment for your partner, having more energy, and being more clear-headed when dealing with work or family issues.

Besides all this, it’s only fair. Everyone deserves to have this time. Even you!


Loss of Identity

Now that you’ve carved out some unicorn space for yourself, you may be wondering what you should do with your time.

If you’re drawing nothing but blanks when asking yourself this, chances are that over years of too much work and too much caregiving, you’ve lost connection with yourself. Loss of identity means a disconnection from yourself and your passions.

This doesn’t just hurt you, it hurts your relationships. You don’t give yourself away without consequences, and those are usually in the form of bitterness and resentment toward your partner.

Loss of identity can also result in experiencing mental and physical health problems. Living out of alignment with yourself and your passions puts wear and tear on your psyche and builds up unhealthy amounts of stress. There’s nothing to feed your passions and no way for you to grow as an individual.

So, back to the question of what you can do with your time. The answer lies in getting your curiosity back.


Curiosity Drives Creativity

Following curiosity is the path to creativity and self-expression but it can take a while to find that path.

Curiosity is the itch or desire to explore. When you’re in a state of curiosity, you’re engaged, you’re in the flow, and when you have to leave, you can’t wait to get back.

So, if you’re out of the habit of following your interests, you may need to just expose yourself to different experiences for a while. For example, when it’s your unicorn time, take yourself to a movie you wouldn’t normally watch or attend a class on painting or audit a class at your local university.

Just start finding things that might interest you and trying new things. As you’re doing this, pay attention to your feelings – they’ll tell you when you’re on to something.

If, when you’re painting, for example, you feel a deep down sense of excitement, a desire to continue, or you start to get ideas for other kinds of artwork you can make, you’ve found a state of flow. You’ve found your unicorn space.


The Three Permissions

In order to actually maintain your unicorn space once you’ve found it, you have to give in to three critical permissions.

Permission number one: you’re allowed to be unavailable. This is so hard, particularly for moms. We think we need to be on call for everyone all the time. In fact, we probably judge other moms when we see them not being available for their kids.

But the truth is, your family needs a strong, healthy you more than they need a burned-out constantly on-call you. So think long-term, prioritize your health, and give yourself permission to be unavailable. You’re the only one who can do this. Your kids certainly won’t do it.

Permission number two: let go of regret, guilt, and shame. They serve a purpose sometimes, but once you’ve learned from your experiences, regrets and guilt can only hold you back.

Think back to that man on the plane, blissfully taking his free time away from his family with no guilt at all. Rather than being mad at him for not feeling guilty, why not try to be more like him? Obviously, all things require balance and you’re still an employee, wife, mother, sister, friend, and whatever else. But when it comes to your designated free time, there’s no shame in your game. Be your unicorn self without worry.

Rodsky was once at a nail salon and had a conversation with the woman doing her nails. Rodsky told her that she’d left the kids with her husband and turned off her phone. The woman seemed astonished and made a judgmental comment about how she could leave them with him all day.

Letting go of guilt is difficult when it’s built into our gender biases and cultural identities. It’s even more difficult when we’re throwing it at each other. Give yourself permission to free yourself and others from that guilt.

Permission number three: use your voice. Speaking up for yourself is never the problem. It’s how you do it that can get you into trouble. Using kind words and a gentle tone goes a long way. And being “nice” doesn’t mean being a pushover. You can hold your boundaries and behave respectfully at the same time.

It’s probably a good idea to write these permissions down somewhere until they become a part of your belief system. It takes time to change gender paradigms in your home – but once you do, everyone will be happier.


Take it to the World

Once you’ve discovered your passion, it won’t be enough to keep it to yourself. Something inside of you will call out for you to share your gift with the world.

This may be intuitive. Perhaps your creativity led you to knitting but you want to use that passion to connect with others. So you use some of your unicorn time to take your knitting to a local retirement home to knit with and teach the residents.

This is an example of connecting your values with your creativity.

Other ways you can take your creative self-expression to the world include sharing on social media or blogging. Gathering a following for what you do can be very fulfilling and is a healthy way to connect with others.

Maybe you’re making something or offering a service that can be monetized. That’s okay, and it’s also a way to connect. But don’t feel that your creativity only has value if you can put a dollar sign on it. It’s important to keep reasonable expectations around what your art is capable of producing in terms of income.

When you connect with others through your creativity, it makes your time feel more meaningful and purposeful which in turn generates more passion for your project. Pursuing meaning through creativity is a way of connecting with something bigger than yourself which seems to be a fundamental need for humans.


Time to Be Done

Completion is more important than perfectionism. In fact, perfectionism can hold you back and even kill your project. Sometimes you just have to choose to be done. Sometimes the project timeline will end itself.

For instance, if you’re doing a dance in a recital, when the recital is over, your dance project is over whether or not you’ve done a good job.

Obviously, you want to do the best you can, but striving for perfection will only cause you stress.

Whenever possible, follow your own pace. Let your enjoyment of your project drive your pacing and unless you have a deadline – like the recital – just work toward a point when you feel your project is complete, even if it isn’t perfect.

If you can break down your project into smaller pieces so that you have different points of completion, you’ll be more likely to finish the whole thing. If your big dream is to bake a wedding cake, break down the small steps and take breaks in between. Bake the layers and freeze them. Make the frosting. Decorate the cake. At each stage, you get to feel a sense of closure as one step is finished.

Another way to battle perfectionism is to give yourself the freedom to experiment. Consider every “failure” an opportunity to learn something new.

Apply discipline. Even though this is your unicorn space where you’re free to be yourself and pursue your passions, you still need to experience completion to get the full benefit. Don’t be afraid to apply some self-discipline or create deadlines for yourself.

When it’s all over, take the time to celebrate your accomplishment. Maybe this marks the end of this particular pursuit. Maybe it’s just the beginning. Either way, enjoy the fact that you’ve done it, you’ve enjoyed it, you’ve learned from it, and you’re a better person for trying it.


Final Summary

When finding your unicorn space, remember that you matter just as much as your family does. You deserve to be a priority in your own life. Your first step is claiming the time and space. Though this may require some negotiation with your partner, keep firm about the fact that you deserve and have a right to this time and space. Once you have that time, hold your boundaries and reject interruptions. Follow your curiosity until you find your passion. And avoid perfectionism so you can enjoy the benefits of completing a project.