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There are a handful of blogs I have been reading, when I can, for a few years now. They are written by people who I knew were going to be amazing writers. Not that they weren’t already writing really well, but the writing was technically fine, mostly factual, holding the writer’s voice yet somehow separate from the person. It was sort of like observation from a near distance. But, I could tell that these people had stories and the personalities to tell them so I knew the wording would come over time. Of course, I am not any great holder of knowledge or writing ability or in any way in a position to judge, but this was just my own feeling. The words did come. And they did begin to make beautiful formations and express the most amazing stories. They are the type of stories that you feel lucky to be reading. You feel lucky that you saw the writers getting ready to write great things…and then write them. And then that writing has led to more self-reflection and further writing ad infinitum. It’s like being a teacher when a student hits their own goal, only I had no more experience than these particular writers at the time I first came across their writing. But while I can still enjoy losing myself in that writing, I wonder what will become of my own. I’ve been on a bit of a break.
Creative non-fiction. Is that my genre? Who knows, but I am not talking about the small bits of writing for work I have been doing since I have become a Mum. I am talking about this, this not fiction creativity that I used to like, well, need to indulge in. My mind continues to indulge in it because a brain like mine is doomed to indulge. Any person labelled as ‘creative’ knows this. The thoughts and ideas do not stop coming just because you can’t write them down.
But can the ability to form the lovely sentence disappear from disuse? Because it feels like it. It feels like there is a slow leak somewhere in my brain where the ability juice is sneaking out. I almost don’t even notice because I don’t have time to stop and indulge in thoughts of what I’d also like to be doing these days besides raising my cheeky son. But then I catch a lucky evening when he’s fallen asleep in good time and I have enough energy left to read something. Wow. This is what I miss, I think to myself. I know how the writer felt when they were writing this. Not the feeling in the story, but the feeling of the story whooshing through the body and out the fingers.
Sharp black letters.
I want to get there again. I want to find a way to tap into my adult language use that I’d built up of all those ridiculous academic years. No, not ridiculous. I loved those academic years! But where has that mind gone? How can I get my mind back? More specifically, how can I get my writer’s mind to open up the doors and let everything flow out into the orderly channels that make sense to others?
I haven’t done an “I Love Mondays” in a while, but I’m inspired because I’ve been doing fun things in the kitchen using kim-chee as an ingredient. Normally I just scoff it down with rice or noodles, but just think of the spicy salads. And it’s a great probiotic, too. Those clever Koreans!
I’ve been off my game. Writing, but not really writing, if you know what I mean. Working but not achieving. Running in place. And the things that have distracted me are creative and beautiful. For example, when looking for a photo of the Queenstown gondola for work, my eyes get distracted by a photo of a local tree taken from a new angle. This, of course leads me over to the person’s photo stream where I’ll see a cup of tea…and then need to make tea. But, oh, I can not just make tea! I have about a dozen sorts so I need the right tea for the mood. And, of course I need the right cup and pot. I’ll need to find the right sized strainer for that teapot, you know. I can enjoy the brewing process for the full 3-5 minutes before sitting back down with my tea in front of the screen.
But the idea of tea with work makes me sad. Tea is for breaks, so I can’t work yet. I make deals with myself. If I have my tea and a real break, I’ll surely feel refreshed and be able to get back into production. So, it’s OK to just enjoy the moment and then it’s back to work! Flickr surfing, cooking things to write about, staring out the window and wishing it would stop bloody raining. Winter is depressing in New Zealand, I find…until the sun comes out again, then it’s great. I mean, who else gets to sit out in the warm sunshine in the middle of winter (for 10 minutes, anyway)? I am deep in distraction.
Halfway through the cup, what do I discover on the interuniverse but Tumblr. I’ve never looked at it because I’d assumed it was just another blogging platform. That was until I noticed that one of my photos had been used on there without permission. While that situation was rectified (I asked her to take it down and she did) another came up. Hmmmm, Tumblrrrrrrr. Tumblr is basically procrastination crack for creatives. It’s something akin to Stumbleupon in that one thing leads to another, but you get to build it yourself with all the lovely things you come across and make it beautiful. Grrrrrrrrr. Keep this away from me! Before my last sip of tea, I have built a page like only an addict could do. And I love it, but I will not be passing on the link. Not because I am secretive or hiding my addiction, but because doing that means I would become involved in another network and networks feed the procrasti-monster. No more networks. Except the one I am building, of course.
Here’s the funny thing. Since then, my productivity and focus has improved tremendously. What does it all mean? Isn’t it obvious? It means I need some sort of creative outlet. Or maybe it just means the sun is out today, but I’m quite sure that I can’t go long without creating something or I lose it. ‘It’ is my focus, my drive and my joie de vivre. So, here’s the plan. From now on, I will take more tea breaks.
being a writer.
Sometimes it means that I’m not here even though I’m here. I’m at my computer, but some (graciously accepted) project is taking me away from my blog or other writing. Sometimes, I have to do the money-writing when I’d rather be doing the more exciting and beautiful creative writing. Sometimes I have to look at the sunny day out the window instead of going out and sitting in it. Sometimes I have to tell my friends to have a good time, rather than join them for an afternoon coffee and cake session. But that’s par for the course and I accept it. I love being a writer.
I always knew in my heart that I needed to do creative things in order to make sense of my place in the world. I suspected that I needed creativity in my job, too, as I always relished the creative aspects of what I was doing more than the more ‘orderly’ ones. The ‘orderly’ bits were just for surviving and the creative bits were for living. Some of us just have more of a need to nurture the creative bits in life than others and it can cause problems.
Last year I made the move from my partially creative career, to an entirely creative one. Hooray for me! I can be creative all day long. Well, guess what? Using creativity is very different than being a creative thinker. I love the fact that I can use the right side of my brain, but I didn’t know that my right side would be so moody and averse to demand. I tell it we need to write this thing by such-and-such a date and, cheekily, it refuses! It doesn’t like that rule, the one about deadlines. In fact, my right brain doesn’t believe in rules at all. It prefers to be creative and busy at night and sleep during the daytime. Dare I indulge it? Dare I change my entire life to the opposite of what the world does just to make my right brain happy and content? Well, I’d love to do that for you, right brain, really I would but there are things that stand in the way of your little plan to have me all to yourself like my relationship and the idea that I might want to meet up with friends now and then.
I need to work out a way to tame the creative beast that dwells in my top two inches.
I know what you are thinking. Don’t even say it. Don’t go to the ‘d’ word. I’ve felt guilty my whole life for not being disciplined enough. But, I’m over that now. The new creative worker-me doesn’t believe that word applies to everyone. I’m supposed to be creative, right? I don’t need that convention. I just need to find a creative solution to the problem. Or is that my right brain talking again? Stupid anarchist.
I sort of hope that this is all a part of the settling in business. I’m still pretty new at this game and I’m optimistically thinking that it will all pan out and my right brain will eventually let go and let me do creative things whenever I wish rather than just the hours of 7am-10.30 and 5pm onward. I’m hoping that if I just keep forcing my brain to write in the un-writey times that it will eventually just give in and let that daytime writing change from mundane to inspired. I need to shift the way my brain sees time. I need to give my myself creative jet lag.
I started thinking about this when I read a post by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits about The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People. I agree with what he says about solitude and creativity, but I realised that it’s not the creative thinking that is a problem. My mind is seemingly always in that place. It’s the production aspect. How do I get those creative thoughts out of the space in my head and on to the ‘paper’ at time when my anarchic mind does not want to cooperate?
What do other writers do? Are there any tricks of the trade I’m missing here? Do most people write only during creative times or are they able to do it when they need to.