There are three stages to being creative, ideas, action and respite. Caregivers, writers, artists and creative types seem to share a common flaw, we love to give, to do, to act, to create and we often neglect our own self-care, our own respite in the process. Respite is essential to our writing, our work, our art and our lives. Let me tell you why.
Stage One: Idea Generation
If you are a creative type then you are probably accustomed to jotting notes down on a napkin as the muse hits you, seeing a new knitting pattern in the way the leaves move or carrying around a journal to doodle new projects. As a counsellor I often come up with my best strategies for helping a stuck student while I am doing the dishes. Idea generation is the wonderful part of the creative life.
Today at lunch my co-workers and I were chatting about vacation plans. Oh, now that I have time I can…(fill in the blank). We talked about reading, camping, de-cluttering, visiting, and so on. Expectations came up as a topic of conversation. Somehow when we buy a new book or jot down a project idea, or in my case sign up for another online course; we think we are buying the time to actually read. In fact, we can get stuck in consumerism.
One of my colleagues said, “I make time each day to read and three times a week to go to the gym”. I looked at her with admiration. I realized I am awesome at the idea generation stage, not so great at the follow through.
I am currently participating in 21 Secrets, which is basically an online program of 21 art projects that you can participate in at your own pace. One of the teachers, Hali Karla, suggested carrying around a journal that holds all your project ideas, doodles and to do lists. The main criteria, it fits in your purse. I think this is a great suggestion to keep track of ideas as they come to you. She suggests taking the time to prepare a couple of pages early in the week so you can create an art collage page when the muse hits.
Stage Two: Getting Projects Done
I find if I don’t schedule project completion time, my canvas sits empty, my blog post unpublished and my gym bag collects dust. Getting projects done is an essential component of the creative process. All those ideas need a place to be expressed, to be shared with world so our own special voice can be heard, seen and witnessed. It is important to share in our radiance.
What stops us from getting projects done? Life does. For example, my Dad has been in hospital since May 6th. He is recuperating well but I spent a lot of time driving back and forth to see him. My blog life got neglected and my writing practice suffered. Now I am trying to rein everything back in and get some of my ideas onto paper. I am also making space to watch some videos I have missed.
A little bit at a time can work too. Often as employees, partners and parents we don’t make the time to create because of competing demands. However, when we do create we are more energized and truly ourselves in those other roles.
Creating time in our schedule is important. I also suggest making a creative space in your home. If space is a challenge due to little hands that like to take over consider sharing the activity so while you paint, they paint. Or, keep a bag or container of tools handy and portable so you can make creative space wherever you are. I wrote a poem last fall in the car with the heater on while my son ice skated for two hours. He got to exercise and I got to write-win, win. I am all for yearly retreats where creativity is your number one responsibility, especially with support and community. However, if you can’t do that then make a retreat at home. Even making room for a “Sacred Ten” where you set the timer and for ten minutes you write or paint.
Stage Three: Taking a Break
The balancing act is a challenge. I needed to take that break when my Dad was in hospital to remain sane and now I need to get back to production. So, respite time does not naturally follow action; it can also follow idea generation to allow ideas to germinate. I see it as more of a spiral, an ebb and flow. Sometimes we need a break each day if we create daily. Other times we need to take a vacation from creating so we can focus on practical tasks at hand, like a move or a renovation project. Remember, returning to your creative practice is just like greeting an old friend; you will be able to pick up right where you left off and be renewed, reconnected and refreshed as a result. Happy creating and remember, just breathe.