Creative Endurance (or what I learned from making tea)
I was having lunch with a friend recently and she asked if I had added anything new to my website, to which I replied..."Nope." I described to her how my inspiration works and what happens (or doesn’t!) when my inspiration goes on vacation. Later that day, I met up with another friend at a coffee shop that sells one of my favorite teas! I had been craving these flavors for weeks and had been intending to make a cold version of that tea to keep in my fridge. The next day, I went to the store at 9am determined to make this tea once and for all! It was so simple to make, so tasty, and now I can have it whenever I want!
Those outings and making that delicious batch of tea set me on a train of thought about the joy of creativity and what stifles it. Why hadn't I added to my website and why hadn't I made this simple tea weeks ago when I first thought about it? At the coffee shop, my friend and I talked about creative endurance. What does it take to stay in the process of creating? I wanted to title this blog so many things (How to Avoid Burn Out, How to Nourish the Creative Soul, How to Navigate the 5th House--for the astrology buffs out there). Hence why the title is so wordy. And the truth is, I don't have a formula for doing any of those things. What I have is my experience and my thoughts about life, love, and creativity. So here we go….
There are a bajillion self-help books on this topic but I've never been good at following step-by-step processes. I prefer to jump in and let my instincts take over! That's how my creativity works best. But what happens when I get stuck in a rut from saying "NO" to my impulses too often? It feels like a lack of inspiration. Maybe even a lack of motivation. But, more accurately, what happens is I begin to repress my creative expression and that's just a horrible feeling.
What Stops Creative Expression
FEAR. Plain and simple. Fear shows up in many ways:
For me, fear has always shown up as procrastination. A great idea comes to me and asks that I follow it through. I, being a dutiful creative, agree to take the idea on. We enter the puppy love phase and nothing could be better; we were made for each other. Then comes the dreaded talk of commitment...and I get cold feet. I like this idea, I'd like to commit to this idea, and maybe I will, in time, but not right now...I NEED TIME. PLUS I've been entertaining other ideas behind this idea’s back (scandal!). I'm a creative. Ideas seek me out. What's a girl to do?!
I used to procrastinate A LOT because following through took a level of commitment that I wasn't comfortable with. I didn't want to abandon any of my other wonderful prospects because I couldn't be sure that committing to this idea would give me a return on investment. And I didn't have the endurance to carry it all out, at once, so I would find myself juggling for a little while then dropping all the balls so I could rest. Then, when I was ready to start again, I'd have to regain momentum and that was so exhausting because I would inevitably stop and rest again. This led to me questioning why even bother creating if I can't carry out all of my wonderful ideas?! Fast forward through many unhealthy choices and many unhappy moments later (don't worry, I've also gathered really crazy and amazing stories to tell!) it came down to endurance and pacing.
Another thing to know about me, I like to move quickly. As Pam from The Office said when asked about her strategy for running a race, "Well I'm gonna start fast. Then I'm gonna run fast in the middle. Then I'm gonna end fast." This is how I felt about almost everything except I didn't care at all about the middle. I'm a love at first sight kind of girl. The process that it takes to get from one leg of the journey to the next used to be so foreign and daunting to me. This made grad school unbearable, at times, but that was where I finally learned how to stick with something for longer than I was comfortable. These days, I am better able to stick it out because I'm more invested in the experience than the outcome.
Be Casual With Your Creative Pursuits
Treat it like you’re dating! I used to enjoy casually dating and if there's one thing I've learned, people are much more appealing when they aren't clinging to you. The point of a date is to enjoy another person's company, not to rush into a life-changing relationship. Avoid that when dating and avoid it in your creative expression. Have more than one creative pursuit! By that I mean, let many things bring you joy and give you cause to celebrate! The phone isn't going to ring any faster just because you're obsessively staring at it (we've all been guilty of this in one way or another so you're in good company).
To keep myself from waiting by the phone, I busy myself with other creative projects. Ones I can control like:
Lunch dates with friends
Chatting with the guy I fancy
I take the pressure off of any one area and I spread the love around. This way my creative fulfillment isn't dependent on any one aspect of my life. Instead it's supported by all the things I enjoy doing.
What About Those Nasty Old Habits That Won't Leave You Alone
On the days when I find that old habit of procrastination resurfacing, I, most times, am able to just do the thing I've been putting off. Other times, I do something else that fulfills me creatively because "that's the yoga, too." It's all about pacing and being happy wherever you are in the process.
Though I still entertain many ideas at once (as you can see from my website), I've figured out how to pace myself and stay in the middle for longer than it feels comfortable. And as new ideas come calling, I allow those ideas to add to and evolve my initial idea (instead of leaving that initial idea, high and dry, at the altar. Yes, the old girl is settling down...so to speak).
If you're feeling stuck, frustrated, and like life isn't moving fast enough, go on another date! That agent, that casting director, that publisher, that job, that significant other, will eventually call you back. They're like all your other exes--the jealous type that want what they can't have and as soon as they see you happy with something else, you become more appealing. And honestly, you feel better too because your fulfillment doesn't depend on them. So fall in love often and with many things!
Be Easy On Yourself
Look, I know all of this, I spend so much of my time telling other people these things, I wrote this entire blog post which means all of this info was within me and yet I STILL found myself procrastinating. It will happen. When it does, acknowledge it, shake it off, and put yourself back out there.
Cheers to making tea and healing old habits!