The Turkey Trap

Posted by Deborah Atherton

The end-of-the-year holidays are not generally known as great spurs to creativity, unless you are Martha Stewart. All those people to whom you are related–all those turkeys which you will have to stuff and roast–and all the presents which you will have to buy–tend to weigh you down by mid-November, a weight which does not really lift until you make New Year’s resolutions to finish the book (film, painting, script, you fill in the blank.)  Plus, holidays tend to be depressing. Nothing is ever as much fun as it was when you were eight, and that gift you hoped for but hardly dreamed you would get actually magically appeared in the pile of presents.

So what are we to do about the holiday Turkey Trap, that keeps us from doing the work we love?

I think we need to ask ourselves: what is the least we can do and still keep a connection to our creativity, our ongoing projects, and ourselves during these challenging holiday weeks?  This is not the moment to begin the mammoth project you have been thinking of since last New Year’s; this is definitely not the time to tell yourself you will be spending hours a day you aren’t going to have in your studio/workroom/study.  No matter what the calendar says about days off from work or school, you aren’t going to have extra time; you are going to have less time.  And in that little time that you do have, you will likely be tired from all the festivities, and hung over from all that good cheer and sugar. Please, please, please don’t think this is going to be the moment you finally get through that pile of stuff that has been blocking your workspace – trust me,  you will get a third of the way down the pile and be urgently called away, leaving a worse mess than before.

So let’s think realistically about that teeny little bit of time.  Maybe you won’t be able to carve out an hour. (And wouldn’t it be nice if you really could carve out some time, just the way you carve out some white meat from the turkey?)   But perhaps, realistically, you can find a half hour a day.  (Maybe not every day – probably not on the holiday itself – but most days.)

You can do a surprising amount in half an hour. You can write a paragraph or two. You can lay a little groundwork for a painting.  You can make entries in a written or film or audio journal vilifying your friends and relatives.  You can download some of those subversive photos you’ve been snapping and take a look at how they might fit together.

You can do a short blog post, and let us know at The Intuitive Edge, so we can help spread the word!

You probably won’t be able to do a lot, what with that bowl of eggnog and all, but even on the worst days, you might be able to do a little. And usually, a little is all it takes to stay on course and keep connected to your work and to yourself.

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4 Responses to The Turkey Trap

  1. I remember hearing some therapist on a talk show telling busy couples to schedule time for sex. It seemed like odd advice. If you really wanted to be having sex, you’d be having it, right? This whole creativity thing is making me rethink my thoughts on that because there are times I lust for an uninterrupted stretch of writing, but something gets in the way and before you know it, the day is gone and there’s not a scratch on the page.

    I think you’re exactly right about doing a little something just to stay in the flow. Sometimes that bit gets you energized and you end up doing even more than you thought you had time for. (And you don’t feel so miserable when you have to return to the more mundane chores, like bill paying or laundry.)

    For me, the thing that’s working to keep up my creative momentum is Azzi’s two-day rule, which I mentioned in my Procrastination blog. I had originally used it successfully to get myself into a regular exercise routine. But it can be applied to anything in life, creative pursuits no exception.

    Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Deborah. Thanks for another great blog.

  2. Richard says:

    You’re not a proper writer unless you can rattle off a blog on the laoptop with a turkey leg shoved in your mouth. 😀

  3. deborahatherton says:

    What? They swore there would be no pictures! 🙂

  4. Cathrin says:

    Run a warm, comfortable bath. Allow your head, neck and shoulders to float freely. Now think about a character you’re stuck on, or a setting, etc. Free associate ideas as you gently rock your head side to side on the water. Don’t inhibit any crazy thought.

    Another thing that worked for me before my dog died. If you have a dog, go for a long walk but take a path you wouldn’t normally follow. Let your thoughts ramble in the way that a dog does.

    On another note: we Canadians have an easier time of it. Our Thanksgiving holiday is in early October. There’s lots of time to recover before the Christmas holidays.
    Good luck.

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