Thursday, July 28, 2016

Basic Creativity Reminders

I met with a couple of new clients this week, to see if we would match for me to help them manifest their creative practice time and/or projects. I have grown to love this work, this one-on-one (secretly my favorite way to interact in all cases) support. It keeps me on my toes, keeps me and them focused, and often makes me interpret, re-state or understanding things in a new way all the time, which is good overall for me as a practitioner and as a teacher, both.

These appointments, as beginning appointments often do, reminded me of some really basic, key things we often overlook. That, combined with having just returned from teaching a week-long contemplative writing retreat, have put the importance of structure back in the forefront of my mind. So I wanted to write a post with some of my favorite suggestions, tools, and ideas for how to make sure you do the things you want to do in your life, but can't seem to find/make time to do.

Overall suggestions:
-Trust structure. A lot of us rebel against schedule, chafe at the idea of planning when to play, scoff at the need to creative dates with ourselves. However, if you show up for work, brush your teeth, go to bed (basically) at the same time every night, then structure works for you in a lot of other ways. Nothing beats structure. Nothing beats putting commitments to yourself on the calendar and, pardon my french, fucking keeping them. Your calendar can act like an external you, someone you are accountable to - even if only you look at it. Unless you are a 100% night owl, do your thing you want to make sure you do (work out, write, meditate) first thing in the am, when your mind is already clear and there's no chance to get caught in "putting it off."

-Do It Together. Join groups or make them. Set dates with others. Especially if just putting it on the calendar for yourself doesn't do it, make a commitment to someone else. Stop believing everyone else is doing it 100% on their own. We aren't. Most of us need external support. Hire a coach (ahem), get a buddy, join an online group or in person group. Jeffrey Davis coined "Do It Together" instead of Do It Yourself, and I think it is brilliant. Write it somewhere big - stop letting the myths of capitalism overtake your creative beliefs.

-Learn to forgive yourself. For real. When you sleep in, just remind yourself you will do it next time. Then do it next time. The further or longer you get from whatever it is you want to do, the harder it is to come back. So make smaller appointments, more realistic commitments, and do them.
On the week-long retreat, I made up something I called "door practice." we were in an old house, with screen doors (at least three of them) which slammed when you didn't close them carefully. So I asked folks to not only close the doors mindfully, but if they did accidentally slam them, to pause for three deep breaths, forgive themselves and move on. Ditto if someone else slammed them. Do this "door practice" whenever you "fuck up" - then move on.

Specific tools:
-Any project management/tracking stuff that helps you: ever note, google calendar, etc.

-Kiwake is my new favorite alarm - it makes me get out of bed and take a photo of something I predetermined to be far enough from bed to make me wake up and go to it; then makes me play little games that wake up my mind; then makes me check off my list of motivations. Non iPhones have similar apps. Don't have a smart phone? The most important thing is to make sure you motivations to get going in the morning are clear, large and visible from your bleary-eyed still half awake state.

-Moment and Time Out - Moment is an app which reminds me I have been on my phone for x number of minutes each day, and stops me (full stop, turns phone off) if I go over my pre-determined limit. So. Helpful. Time Out is a similar app for my Mac - it forces me to take small breaks and look in other directions, as well as longer breaks and get up and move. Don't be ashamed to need programs to help you use your internet/computer/device time more mindfully. They are built to be used mindlessly, without discretion, and most of us need help.

For most creatives, structure seems the opposite of creativity. We can't plan for inspiration, after all. However, if we don't show up regularly, inspiration doesn't know where to find us. And, frankly, after all it turns out what we need more than inspiration is perseverance. Ideas are not hard to find; the willingness to keep going as we revise an entire book for the fourth time, to apply yet again to a conference or show with our paintings or photos - all that effort needs practice. 

Do it regularly, do it together. But please, please, create. And just reading a post like this is often not enough - if you need real, live people to help remind you and keep you accountable, please please please know you are not alone! Try to cut through shame and share your process - with a coach, a friend, a teacher, random people on the internet. 

What you hide will abide.

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