I’ve been less than satisfied with my creative output lately, and it’s no one’s fault but my own that I’m lacking (and slacking) in this department. With a self-imposed busy schedule that allows for very little downtime during the week and my desire to do little more than relax and cuddle on the weekends, I seem to have put my creativity on the back burner, and it’s not having a good effect on my overall mood. (Also, being sick this week hasn’t helped. Sickness makes me want to revert back to babydom and assume the fetal position while complaining about it.) To be honest, I’m feeling a little useless and maddeningly helpless. The things I want to get out of life seem out of reach with no clear direction as to how to get there. Just writing about it makes me want to shut the laptop and have a glass of wine instead… like a real writer! I’m sure my upbeat attitude doesn’t exactly make you want to keep reading, either.
BUT. I read a book over the past couple of weeks called The Creative Habit, by world-famous choreographer Twyla Tharp, which has been good for a little perspective shifting– something I absolutely need on occasion to get out of whatever funk I might be in. Though Tharp is a choreographer (and I struggle with the complex moves of “The Electric Slide”), the book is not about dance, and it’s as useful to any creative type as it is for someone who strikes deals for a living. Basically, Tharp aims to get you out of a tendency to make excuses for why you’re not actively pursuing what makes you tick (I’m too busy, I don’t know where to start, or I can do it tomorrow), and gets you INTO the habit of making that thing part of your regular routine– as you would exercise, sleeping, and eating.
Even if you don’t struggle with self-discipline, Creative Habit is a good refresher course on getting out of a rut, dealing with well-intentioned but bad ideas, and drawing inspiration from the successful, creative people Tharp cites in the book. If you do have a hard time getting motivated and staying motivated– like I do– it’s a kick in the butt and a much-needed reminder that the only thing standing in your way is you.
And honestly, we can all benefit from hearing that once in awhile. It’s in the back of my mind when I think, “I should really do this, but X is making that hard.” Actually, my refusal to occasionally move X to the side is what’s really getting in my way, and I’ve finally learned that lesson when it comes to exercise. There are days when I’m so busy that I don’t get home until 6:30 and I still have stuff to do at home, but often going for a quick run is really the one thing I need to refocus, reenergize, and feel like I didn’t totally neglect myself in the course of a whirlwind day. I never regret inserting that quick “me” time in the middle of other important tasks, because that is just as important. Why shouldn’t the same principle apply to my need to write?
I should learn from example how it’s done. My mom– busy as she is– writes almost daily. It’s more of an obligation than a habit (and it’s a happy obligation), but she takes it seriously and doesn’t let it fall by the wayside. To her, there is no other option. She’s told me many times, “No one cares if you write. Only you do.” That’s why she writes. And more often than not, she’s in a groove.
John gets groovy, too. When he’s not writing, he’s practicing his guitar. If a day goes by when he doesn’t spend at least half an hour warming up his fingers and exploring both new and familiar scales, he feels as if he’s missed the opportunity to improve. I hear him playing constantly, and it pays off at his live shows. (His solos, ohmahgah!) I’m pretty certain that he’s a better guitarist than he was even just three years ago, and he’s been playing for awhile.
The thought of filling a blank page doesn’t scare my mom like it occasionally does me. John doesn’t have to force himself to get up and practice like I sometimes need to. But it’s true with writing as it is with anything– the more regularly you do it, the more confident you are doing it. But first you have to start, and you can’t let the fear of failure be the reason you never pick up the pen because, well, that’s pointless. Considering failure as a possibility isn’t an option, or else you might as well give up before you even start.
I know all this, and I can say this with conviction, but it’s acting it out that matters. I have the tendency of giving myself (and therefore, by association, you) pep talks like this on this blog and immediately falling through on them. That last post? Where I talk about stuff? And how I only need one bathing suit? Yeah, well I went ahead and bought a second bathing suit anyway. Which is fine (cute things!), but then I feel the need to admit that so I’m not a fake. The same applies here. I can’t just keep talking about something without actually doing it. I’ve realized this is the least complicated my life will ever be. That makes me want to go back to the fetal position, but it’s reality. If I don’t make writing a priority now, it’s going to seem much harder down the road when I have other things on my plate. So I need to stop waiting for the perfect moment when I have lots of extra time and nothing on my mind. That will likely never come. Do me a favor and remind me of that every now and then.