Posted by Deborah Atherton
Leslie and I have both blogged about the importance of establishing rituals and habits to keep working on your creative projects – but what happens when that OTHER kind of habit becomes part of your day to day: the habit of not ever having enough time to paint, write, pick up the camera, invent a new recipe or compose a song? We have all been there – even those of us who make our living as writers or artists – the days speed by us, filled with appointments, business, family concerns, or let’s face it, an umissable Law and Order marathon. Suddenly, it’s a week, or a month, or more. Deadlines may be looming, but somehow, somehow, we just can’t get to it.
It’s easy to edit creativity right out of your life. You don’t miss it at first. But as time slips by, this little feeling begins to creep over you. You’re not quite sure what it is for a while. Your friends start seeming a little less witty and warm. The New York Times appears to be a tad less authoritative. Lenny on Law and Order doesn’t deliver his final words quite as acerbically as he once did. Facebook isn’t half as much fun as it used to be. You feel – oh just a little tired of yourself and the people around you. You begin to think you might need a vacation, or a new job, or possibly a change of significant other.
Before you take up any of these final solutions, check in with yourself. When was the last time you took an hour – just an hour – to focus on your creative work? Labor Day? Memorial Day? Valentine’s Day? Are you beginning to lose your guitar callouses? Have all your paint tubes dried up and shriveled? Are you more than one update behind on your writing software?
Perhaps the most unfair thing about possessing a creative spark is that it demands to be used. If your soul lights up when you sit down at a keyboard or leap out onto a dance floor, it’s going to keep asking you to do those things, and you’re going to end up feeling a little bereft if you don’t. You’re not going to like yourself, and you’re not going to like other people. Life will be a little duller than it ought to be. Nothing will taste as good as it used to. It’s not fair, but it’s the way things are. You can shut your talents up in a box, you can spend your life answering emails from your boss at 1 AM, but you can’t make yourself happy doing it.
On the other hand, you have one little thing you can do that is almost guaranteed to put the savor back into your life. Take an hour. Just an hour. Sit down with your work. Pick up where you left off – or maybe start something completely new.
Not all at once, but slowly, and whether or not the work is the best work you’ve ever done, life will slip back into glorious Technicolor. Everyone around you will gradually become much more amusing – and, more importantly, so will you.