Every creative is challenged with how to best structure their life to engage in creative pursuits. Just how do you get the work done? Do you require yourself to spend a designated amount of time staring at the computer no matter what? Do you write a certain number of words per day? Do you schedule time in the morning? Do you set aside a particular day?
Currently I am spending a week at the beach with friends. It is a time of rest, renewal and and relaxation. It is also however a time of productivity, creativity and focused work. How do you meld the two? I’m reading a fascinating book: Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Each chapter is written by a different author who outlines a plan for some aspect of organizing your time and talents. I have learned several new techniques.
Spend Time Disengaged
Scott McDowell advocates for the process of disengagement to facilitate creativity. He shares examples of individuals who routinely schedule activities designed to engage their mind in thinking creatively outside the realm of the normal. Joel Gascoigne, founder of Buffer, goes for a walk every night at 9:30pm so that he can reflect. Musician and producer, Brian Eno, spends time relaxing, reflecting and playing which in turn energizes his work time. George Harrison of the Beatles used specific prompts to direct his creativity. He wrote While My Guitar Gently Weeps when he decided to write about the first thing he saw upon opening any book and the words he saw were… “gently weeps”. In order to be productive, we need time to refuel and energize through unfocused and unstructured time that opens us to the possibilities of creation.
Spend Time in Unnecessary Creation
Although there isn’t a chapter written by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, she is quoted about the necessity of writing “morning pages”. This practice involves writing pages each morning about literally anything. You may be inspired on a particular morning to write on a particular topic or you may fill the pages with moans, groans and complaints about the inability to write. It doesn’t matter as long as words are making an appearance on the page. Learning about this practice has been an incredibly freeing experience for me. While I don’t always challenge myself to write three pages, just knowing that I can write without restraint on anything has been freeing. Sometimes I write and write and close the computer thinking “that was a bunch of drivel” only to return at a later date to be amazed at the quality of the work. I tweak it here and there and voila, I have a piece of work that I can share and be proud of. Todd Henry, author of the Accidental Creative, advocates for spending time in what he calls Unnecessary Creation, developing material that is not required or on the road to publication. Thus, you have an opportunity to discover your talent and passion through a process of trial and error, play and work that won’t often be available to you otherwise.
Spend Time in Structured Rituals
Finally, on the subject of superimposing routines that feed into creative work, Stefan Sagmeister advocates for structuring rituals that develop creative rhythm. Here are a few of his suggestions:
· Do the most difficult things early in the morning
· Structure the big projects as first priority. Don’t let the urgent supersede the important.
· Think about a problem from a totally different point of view-change your perspective
· Work on a project where you know about half of what you need to know. When you know too little then you aren’t learning. When you know too much, you aren’t open to learning.
· Set aside a particular time-frame as your creative work time. Stick with it religiously… for example: Fridays are for writing never for appointments or other activities.
We all need to be reminded that creativity happens best within a certain structure. Sometimes that structure involves simply allowing free time to be creative. Sometimes it involves scheduling specific time to do the work. The important thing is to develop the structure that works best for you.
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