This is the second blog in a 4-part series on Strategies for Creatives amidst a busy life
There’s a myth about creativity that it’s an elusive and transient thing. Vaporous. A grace that falls upon a person without warning only to leave as it came, unexpectedly and without a sound.
Sure, the lightning does strike and there can be spontaneous, unexpected moments of creative energy and output. But that’s not a sustainable way to approach the writing life, or any other creative discipline, #IMHO.
You can’t treat your craft like some people approach “love.” Falling in, falling out, seized by passions and so accustomed to the heat and rush of romance, that the moment anything mundane, rote or requiring self-sacrifice or commitment (read: the realities of “real” life) then the “feeling is gone.”
If I haven’t lost you, the reason I just said all that was to clear the way to affirm my second strategy for achieving creative goals in the midst of a busy schedule, which is to Get Organized.
That sounds so boorish, so utterly dull. So non-creative.
If you’ve set goals for the year and are aiming to create something or a series of somethings, then getting organized is key. Getting organized is much more than finding and implementing time to be creative, as I noted in Blog 1 in this series.
You need to be prepared enough so that lightning can strike. And if it doesn’t, then you have the tools at your disposal to create lightning on your own.
This is what getting organized looks like:
1. Have a specific place you can write or practice your craft
It doesn’t need to be your own space. I’ve used a hundred different coffee shops from which to write. A good pair of headphones and a table in the corner by the window where you can shut out or let in the world as needed can be the perfect place to create. Your own creative oasis for an hour or two, free of charge (but please pay for a coffee).
It doesn’t even have to be a space different from your regular work or life space. For instance, if you work from home (like I do) or are a stay-at-home parent (like I am for part of the week), then you don’t have to leave the house. I have an in-home office where I do all my work. Perhaps you have an unused space in the house you mortgage or the flat you rent. Clear it out and make it work for your craft.
The type of space you need depends on the person you are.
I’ve noticed that I can just move from one time block to the other without taking a break or clearing away my space. I’ve learned and am still learning that the more uncluttered my space is, the more creative I will be because I will be less distracted by mess or crumbs of other projects kicking around.
2. Keep the work or project open
As much as is possible, don’t re-invent the workflow every time you re-enter the space. Having a spot that’s dedicated to this usage is ideal. You don’t want to have to dedicate 10 to 20 minutes simply to get to the point where you can start up again. Aim to set up your work space so that you can simply show up and start.
Annie Dillard said it this way (the same Dillard who wrote the staggering Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and won a Pulitzer Prize in her twenties for doing so):
When you are writing full-time (three to four hours a day), go in the room with the book every day, regardless of your feelings. If you skip a day it will take three painful days to get to believing in the work again. Have a place where you can leave the work out and open, so you don’t have to get it all out and spread before you can start again.
— From “Notes for Young Writers” in Image Journal of the Arts
Words to write and live by!
Great resources that have helped me get organized in my creative life:
Google Keep: A free App that comes with Google’s suite of products where you can write or record ideas, snap photos and keyword and organize them in groups. A digital sticky note. Apple has its version and there’s other great Apps like Evernote, etc. Find an app you like and use it, especially if you want to avoid clutter
A good journals to write in: It’s taken me awhile to identify this habit, but I really like having two types of journals at hand: 1) small, thin journals to write down ideas on the fly that can fit in my pocket or in a backpack 2) hardback journals that are a way to collect my thoughts in the morning as I pray, after I walk, and sort of are an inventory of all the thoughts and underthoughts of my life. I typically use one such hardback journal every year or two years.
Well organized files: If you look at my computer’s desktop, you might not believe me, because it’s the one place I leave all the temporary files I don’t know what to do with (usually screenshots for social media). But overall I tend to file things very comprehensively (according to writing type—play, prose (academic, blog/social or fiction) and poetry—or design type by project, whether for personal/professional use or for clients. Having well organized folders is a huge head start to “keeping the work open.” Easy to find and saved in a way that is quick to locate and open.