A friend of mine recently asked me how I manage to find the time to write. She has young children, younger than mine, as well as a start up business, and it seemed to her that she’ll never be able to steal a moment for her writer self. She’s wonderful, this friend, passionate and committed to her craft but life is getting in the way.
What I wanted to say to her, was creativity ebbs and flows, and sometimes, committed though we are, life gets in the way, and the best we can do is be kind to ourselves. It’s easier said than done though, isn’t it? It’s disheartening when you need words to process the world, and somehow time alludes you.
What is more, writing can be all-consuming, in that it never feels like we have enough time. Or perhaps I’m just greedy. From the moment you decide to be a writer, you wonder whether you’ll be able to get your stories into the world in time, before, you know, The End. Like the Grim Reaper is somehow already plotting to slay you. That rascal.
In this sense, one of the worst things about writing is that it is infinite. Sometimes, to move ahead, you have to give yourself little goals. Today I’ll write one paragraph, one blog post, one log-line. And soon you’re chugging along like Thomas the Tank Engine.
I texted my friend back to tell her I understood how hard it is, that this phase too would pass, and perhaps the best thing I had learnt as a young mum was to be creative on command. It sounds blasé, doesn’t it? She must have wanted to throw something at me.
The truth is, I believe flow can be magical, but I don’t believe in muses. I look forward to periods of uninterrupted writing, build them into my weekly schedule, but I also always have my computer, a notebook or my phone to hand, so I can jot down thoughts during slithers of time, when before they would have passed me by. Especially during housework. The mundane can be our friend.
There is no answer to the question of how long it takes to write something of value. There is no formula in this game. Sure, practice makes you more proficient, quicker, even, but creativity is not maths. The next door neighbour might have written her novel in two weeks, but it took me three years, dammit. I’m ok with that. It’s the movement I am proud of, just as much as the finished manuscript.
Creativity is most akin to feeling our way through a fog. It’s gratifying to get to the other side, to finish a project, but in the midst of your journey, what do you say to family and friends who have been waiting for you to arrive? Especially when the artistic value of what you have created (or even emotional and learning value) may not equate to monetary gain? The answer, for me at least, is: please be patient. This journey is more about growth than arriving.
There are little habits, though, that we can foster to help boost our creativity. I’ve listed below the things that help me. The ones in bold are my non-negotiables. The others I use often. The ones in italics are the ones I need to make happen.
▪ Ignoring my ‘I am not good enough’ thoughts
▪ Protecting my scheduled writing time
▪ Setting intentions, goals, deadlines
▪ Blogging each week
▪ Having writer friends (almost entirely through Twitter/Facebook, blogging and critique groups)
▪ Knowing how I work best: at my desk, with my headphones in, on my laptop
▪ Reading other bloggers, benefiting from that hive consciousness, the learning and support
▪ Submitting work to a critique group and critiquing others
▪ Da Vincian ideas diary
▪ Going on artist dates à la Julia Cameron to museums, gigs, galleries, new places
▪ Writing poetry on the days I don’t want to be logical
▪ Pinterest to bookmark what inspires me
▪ Collecting comments about my writing in a pot to give me a boost when I feel rubbish
▪ An hourglass on my desk to stop me from day-dreaming too much and remind me life is fleeting
▪ Pretty stationery because it’s a joy to create with
▪ Not letting perfectionism, despair and pride ruin me. Seeking consolation after a knock back but then getting right back on it
▪ Early morning yoga before sitting at my desk
▪ Knowing where I want my writing career to be in the future
▪ Reading a mixture of classics, traditionally published and indie books. Having a Kindle
▪ Celebrating successes
▪ Reading self-help craft books and taking classes
▪ Submitting my work to journals and anthologies (just starting with this one)
▪ Seeking a mentor
▪ Attending a writing conference
▪ Pursuing other creative outlets more: for me, painting, guitar, sewing
What keeps you in a creative frame of mind? What tricks do you use to move forward if you are in a rut?