Adapted from the book, Tribal Alchemy: Turning What You Have Into What You Need. (2016). Dave Fleming. A Tribal Alchemy Resource.

In the first three sections of the book, I explore a process that ingenious tribes use to turn what they have into what they need–in order to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. In the final section of the book, I explore four practices that individuals can develop to make themselves “alchemy ready” for their tribes. This is a selection taken from that last section on the practice of personal creativity and the danger of busyness.


Stepping of the Road of Busyness

In my late twenties, I spent a little over a year living in southern Maryland, near Washington DC. I worked at a counseling center three days week. As is often the case, I had breaks in between appointments, some- times up to two or three hours. Because the counseling center was quite a distance from my home, I often spent those breaks at local parks.


I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, where a park was a plot of ground with some swings and a basketball court. I was therefore blown away the first time I went to a mid-Atlantic state park. To me, it was like entering a forest. A walk in one of these parks often became the highlight of my day.


One day, I noticed a community garden where people living nearby could rent space to grow fruits and vegetables. This was also a new concept to me—renting space for a garden. I was intrigued. But what intrigued me even more was that no matter what time of day I passed the gardens, I only saw elderly people attending to the growth. Of course I understand that many people were probably at work and/or taking care of their families during daytime hours. I’m also sure there were younger people who also had gardens.


However, my observation revealed an unfortunate reality about life. People often make more space and time for creativity after they’ve retired or as they enter into the last season of life. This does make sense to some degree because earlier in life many demands and obligations assail us from every direction. We don’t have as much time and space. However, this also becomes an excuse by which we justify not making any time or space for things that would enable creativity, not to mention general health and well-being.


Busyness is a favorite justification that keeps us from creativity. We are simply too busy to spend any time on nonessential activity. And nonessential activity often includes space and time for creative endeavors, not to mention simply living a more mindful life. Many people wear busyness as a badge of honor. When you ask them how they’re doing, without hesitation, they answer that they are “busy” with no relief in sight. Unfortunately, busyness is mostly a convenient way to avoid behaviors and activities that either we don’t like or are difficult to do. It is initially much easier to sit on the couch and watch television than it is to enter into a more creative act. It may also be initially easier to “busy ourselves” with unnecessary work in order to avoid creative action that could make a real difference. Some have suggested that busyness is a form of laziness. I tend to agree.


Even when we are in seasons of life that demand a lot of attention and energy—because of our circumstances—we can still make time for creative expressions. And we can certainly infuse more creativity and mindfulness into the everyday activities that occupy us. When we do, we live more personally creative lives. We are also more “alchemy ready” when we turn to the work of our tribes.


Question: Am I willing to devote even small amounts of time to more creative action?

Question: What is busyness keeping you from?