I’ve read a lot of blog post about the nuts and bolts of scheduling time for a creative practice. It doesn’t take a whole lot of tweaking to find what time works for you.
But the biggest problem for me wasn’t scheduling; it was a whole slew of emotional issues. My head would say “I don’t have time”, but it was really just covering for my heart, which was scared shitless.
Here are a few of the things I struggle(d) with:
1. Letting go of the outcome.
Can you imagine a midwife in the middle of labor asking, “Now, tell me how you’re going to take this kid from squalling infant to successful CEO.”
That’s what we do to ourselves when we start thinking about how we’re going to brand, market, package, or otherwise send off into the world something that doesn’t even exist yet. Something we’re laboring to bring into the world. It just impedes the whole process.
We believe if we can strategize the perfect way to present what we make to the world, it (we) won’t be rejected. And until we find that perfect strategy, it’s safer to not make anything.
But there is nothing safe about creativity, and while there’s a place for branding, marketing, and packaging, it’s not in the initial labor stage.
2. Working through the initial onslaught of emotions.
Whenever I start a new workout regimen, I prepare for this phenomenon the first week or so: emotions, get stored somewhere in my body. If I don’t exercise, they just sit there. If I don’t exercise for a long time, there’s a lot of emotions I have to face when I start up again. Those first few workouts I experience feelings that have nothing to do with the present moment. They could have been stored weeks or months ago.
Starting a creative practice was the exact same thing. If you’re trying to start and are overwhelmed by what seems like a tsunami of emotion, know this: It will not always be that hard. Once you have a practice in place and are releasing all that junk daily, it will be no big deal.
I found it helpful to set a time limit. For one hour, I’d show up and deal with whatever came at me, and then I’d be done for the day. The next day, I’d work through another hour. Eventually I dealt with the buildup of emotion and the creative process became a lot easier and a lot less dramatic.
3. Calling myself what I am.
You don’t want to be a writer/painter/poet/expert scrapbooker/musician. You are a writer/painter/poet/expert scrapbooker/musician, on account of your writing/painting/poetry/scrapbooking/music.
You don’t have to prove you’re good at it to earn the title. You just have to make something.
Naming is powerful. When I started calling myself a writer, I started writing more, because that’s what writers do.
4. Seeking daily connection, not a product.
Creating is prayer, a way to connect your deeper self to something higher. That connection makes life so much richer.
Of course I want what I make to be meaningful in a bigger context. Who doesn’t? But when I just see my creativity as a vehicle to a product instead of a way to connect, it tends to be counterproductive.
5. Honoring my rest days.
An integral part of my creative practice is taking a break on Sunday. Now that I write daily, there is almost always a point in the rest day where I’m grumpy about the boundaries I’ve set for myself. But it is work, even if it doesn’t feel like it, and it requires rest periods to stay productive.
6. Finally, my practice.
This is just an example, but this is my practice. It’s super simple.
Unless I have to get up before 4 a.m., I wake up early enough to write for an hour every day. That’s it.
I used to write in the afternoon because I’m way more awake then, but my practice started getting shoved aside because I stayed late at work or had social engagements or was simply exhausted when I got home. So I moved it to the morning where the time is more protected.
I couldn’t tell you later in the day what the hell I wrote at five in the morning, but half asleep writing is infinitely better than no writing.
So now, I’m curious – what does your creative practice look like? If you don’t have one, what do you want it to look like?