Balance and a Creative Lifestyle
This morning I woke up in the middle of a sneeze. Once I recovered from the shock I tried to go back to sleep. Within thirty seconds I was sitting up in bed, iPad in hand, editing a piece of writing I had started the night before. My eyes struggled to adjust. I had not taken the time to even turn on a light.
For the last couple weeks I have slept poorly. I dreamed of mishaps, accidents, travelling, and writing. Some days I awake to find paragraphs composed and ready to meet the page. Last week I woke up in the middle of the night to use the washroom. As I slowly walked half asleep down the darkened hallway an idea for a play nearly made me trip with surprise and crash into the wall. The story, characters, setting, and the finished production exploded in my mind like fireworks.
As I shoveled snow on the weekend I wrote poetry in my mind, moving the words around like magnets with the rhythm of the shovel. When I made a cup of tea five potential collage themes flushed me as the steam warmed my face. Creativity begets creativity. Once we open ourselves to listening to our creative spirits possibilities arrive at an unpredictable rate.
For five months I have listened to audio books during my thirty minute drive to and from work. Since starting The Creative Mind I have had to drive in silence. I look out at the rolling hills of Northumberland and somehow arrive on time and without harm. My mind wanders from planning my day to starting the next blog post to contemplating the way the sunlight reflects on the snow.
The dust seems thicker on my television. The laundry sits neglected in the washer and dryer, on the floor in my bedroom. The mail rests unopened on my front hall table. The piles of books appear in new places, on the kitchen table, on the bathroom shelf, on the floor by my desk, on one side of the couch.
The idea to begin The Creative Mind Online Workshop for Writers appeared fully formed like a Greek god one Saturday afternoon. Within hours of a flash of insight as to how the project could unfold I had begun mapping out the course. However, I do not believe the idea came out of nowhere.
For years I have dreamed of opening a creative writing school. For years I have taught creative writing to high school students and I have facilitated writing workshops for adult learners. For years I have thought about the phrase “sunshine in a jar” and how it relates to this site, to my work, to how I would like to contribute to my art and communities. For months leading up to the flash of insight that led me to start The Creative Mind, I reflected on my next steps. I rested between projects. I prayed for direction. I whispered gentle requests to the universe to provide me with the right idea at the right time. When the idea arrived I gave myself permission to run with it.
New ideas arrive every day. If only we had enough time and opportunity to chase every good idea. It is too easy to lose a sense of balance. I work full time. I bring work home. The issues of the day can be complex and require processing time. I feel a great sense of accomplishment for making it to Lesson #14 of The Creative Mind, but I also feel exhausted. To keep up with the pace of posting daily lessons I need to write for at least three hours a day when I get home from work or in the morning’s before I leave.
A friend once told me that “busy people get things done.” There is truth in this statement. But to extend it one step further we need to add “busy people get burned out.” We must remember to take care of ourselves. We need to trust that the ideas will return again.
My ideal work-life-writing balance is to write once or twice a week, just enough to feel writerly but not enough to get much work done. By writing once or twice a week I have time for chores and friends and collaging and television and naps. My life feels managable, orderly, focused, balanced.
When I am in the middle of a creative project (like this one) I give the work the space it needs. I write every day no matter what. I let the dishes wait on the counter. I show up to the page and type as my arms and fingers cramp. When my eyelids droop to protect my eyes from strain, I let them close and continue to type. I have learned my best work happens when I push myself off balance, out of my comfort zone, and into the creative process however it materializes. Writing everyday is hard work. Although writing brings me joy it takes effort to make it a priority.
In the summer I go away with a group of writers for a week on retreat. We call ourselves the Madawaska Ink Alliance. We aim to write twelve pages double spaced by noon. At lunchtime we distribute our morning’s work to each other for afternoon reading followed by a critique session in the evening. We immerse ourselves in the writing process and make each other accountable for getting words on the page.
For a week my ears feel like they have cotton stuffed into them from the silence. In this creative space we have no sense of balance. We write, we read, we discuss. Occasionally we engage in pleasantries and small talk, but the focus is the work. Some days our minds are so engaged with the work we laugh because even the simplest of conversations hit dead ends and blank stares.
Getting to the core of your creative spirit means you need to relinquish control, you need to allow yourself to be off balance for a time. Remember to add periods of rest. I will write a new post every day no matter what, but at the end of the month I will need to rest. I will need to put my house in order, reconnect with friends, reacquaint myself with the kitchen, and give myself permission to watch television or read the latest Haruki Murakami novel guilt-free.
In this video Michael Winter discusses his writing process:
Here is today’s audio clip:
Set one or two writing goals for the next month. What do you plan to write? How long do you hope to spend writing every day? How will you push yourself out of your comfort zone? Write a promise to yourself. Begin each sentence with: “I will…”
Just for Fun:
This video demonstrates how the world is changing. There are still many opportunities for writers to reach audiences.
I know for some of my writing friends a writer’s life is all about procrastination. This video is excellent. It explains why we procrastinate. Enjoy!
What does your writing life look like? Add a brief description to the comment field.