It’s spring break and I have finally started sewing the two dresses I originally planned to have finished for the first day of school. The first day of school plan didn’t happen, and I assumed that after the big exhaustion that is September, I would have them finished by the end of October, at the latest. As you can see, that didn’t come to pass. In the months since I completed my last sewing project—the uniform aprons—I’ve had no energy to put in the direction of sewing. My creative spark has been drained. That got me thinking about what I need to be creative.
There are a few areas in my life that I see as my creative realms: sewing, writing and gardening. I think that this last fall/winter/spring, writing has really sucked up all of my creative allotment, leaving no room for sewing or gardening. I’d like to achieve more of a balance among the three, but not at the expense of the amount of writing I’ve been doing. It sounds like a tall order. But here’s what I need to be creative at all.
A regular routine. I first learned the power of a routine from Flylady (www.flylady.net) and her lessons have been reinforced by HabitRPG. (habitrpg.com).* Both of those philosophies encourage me to do things regularly, before they become overwhelming. When I was writing the first draft of the novel I’m working on, I felt like writing 500 words per day was a pace I could keep up and so my routine was that every day I had to write at least 500 words. If I wrote more, that was fine, but if I missed a day, there was no writing 1000 words the next day to make up for it. Each day gave me one chance to do my daily writing, so I had to make the most of it. Most days I enjoyed the writing, so I didn’t need to have a hard and fast time to write, but I did try to do it “first,” either first thing in the morning—writing usurped exercise when I realized that I wasn’t motivated to go out in the cold and exercise—or first thing when I sat down at my computer for the evening.
The details of my life need to be under control. This was also learned from Flylady and is supported by HabitRPG. The dishes must be dealt with, the house must meet a minimal clean state, my finances have to be in order and I have to have adequate food and regular exercise. If those things have spiraled out of control that energy tends to take over and kill any creative energy. When things have gone undone for too long, I procrastinate more, avoiding both the undone task and the fun creative thing I would rather be doing. I can get very stuck this way, and HabitRPG’s daily tasks really do a good job keeping me from falling into that black hole.
I can’t be obsessed with anything. A short list of things I’ve been obsessed with in the past year: The TV show Veronica Mars, Just One Day/Just One Year by Gayle Forman. Every book by Gayle Forman. The TV show Friday Night Lights. Channing Tatum. This is an area I don’t really feel like I have much control over, which disturbs me. We don’t have cable, because it’s expensive and I would rather not be swept up in TV. But I do get entire seasons of TV series from the library and am not very good at putting the brakes on them when I’m enjoying the narrative. The same goes for books. Sometimes I’m successful in setting limits, but not as often as I would like. When I put a lot of energy into whatever I’m obsessed with, not only do I reduce the time I can be creative, I also tend to skip those all-important details which leads me down a very bad path. I’ve got the first season of the New Girl arriving soon, and I hope I can keep things under control.
Easy accessibility. I don’t like to spend a lot of time getting ready to be creative, I just want to jump in and do it. With writing, it’s pretty easy, because I just turn on the computer and go. With gardening, it can be more difficult because the three minutes it would take me to get out the tools for the day can be enough of a block that I can’t make myself start. Sewing is even more formidable because six different things must be retrieved before beginning, then put away when I’m done. For gardening, I’ve taken to leaving out the three most essential things I need. With sewing, I try to make a ritual of the setup and break down. Last spring I fell into a pattern of getting materials out on Friday after school and putting them back Sunday afternoon and that was helpful. It wasn’t something I could do after summer, so I guess I need to refigure how I approach that.
Time. If it’s something I’ve not done before I need a lot of time. And it’s not even time to do the thing, what I need is vast amounts of time to roll the thing around in my head before I even begin. I see this a lot with sewing. If I have a complicated pattern, I need to give myself the space to read the directions and then walk away for a few hours or even a day or two. This can be a problem when weekends are packed full of activities that aren’t sewing. Thus, I tend to start big creative projects (sewing, home repairs, gardening) on my vacations. When I need to do something and don’t have a ton of time, I try to focus on the smallest part of the next step and not think too far ahead.
So that’s what I need to be creative. Knowing all this doesn’t mean I’m super successful in all my creative endeavors, but knowing these things about myself does keep me more productive, rather than flailing. And you?
*I wrote an essay about the basics of HabitRPG which you can read here. The site is even better now than when I wrote the essay. Or you can read about it by just going to the site.
4 thoughts on “Essay: What I need to be creative.”
The #1 thing I need to be creative is to not have the distraction of a "real," full-time job. When I worked full-time, it sapped all of my mental energy. By the end of the day, I no longer felt creative. It was probably best when I worked part-time. I knew that I had my mornings to write and my afternoons to work, so that gave me that sense of routine you're talking about. Now that I'm not working at all, it can be difficult to force myself to sit down and concentrate on creativity.
I also find that I do better when I'm accountable to someone other than myself, like when I belonged to a writing group and whenever I do NaNo. The gentle peer pressure is really helpful.
And I'm with you – I need my life to be in order. If there's something unusual/stressful going on (like moving across the country), I can't write. And I need the house to be clean. I hate a cluttered/messy house. I was trying to ignore the house cleaning while doing NaNo this month and finally had to give in and clean yesterday. It was driving me nuts.
The accountability helps me too. Even if I just tell someone, "I'm going to do X" and they don't remember, I remember.
And, a-to-the-men re: full-time job.
Umm…since I have been at my computer doing ridiculous things instead of what I need to do (these comments – part of my plan for today, falling into the morass of organizing FB pictures – a complete waste…)
I need to revisit this when I can think creatively…
Oh dear, double ellipses/ellipsis?
I will be back.