I planned to start this essay by saying that creativity is like oxygen. But it’s not really like oxygen. Creativity is not actually necessary to live from a physical standpoint, but it’s hard to imagine a rich and fulfilled life without it.
So I think Cecil has it right. Creativity is like a drug one cannot live without. Once you begin to experience the pleasures of it, you can’t imagine not having it in your life daily.
(In my mind, I’m pronouncing his name Seh-suhl like the character Cecil Terwilliger from The Simpsons, not See-suhl, the way it’s usually pronounced. I feel like that works better here. But I digress.)
Creativity is also like a muscle that must be used daily or it will atrophy.
I created a “commandments” list a couple of years ago, ala Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project and on it I wrote “do something every day to make myself happy,” which for me more often than not means a creative project of some kind – writing, brainstorming ideas for articles and essays, cooking a fabulous meal, rearranging a corner of my apartment, capturing images with my iPhone, freeform daydreaming, and so on.
For many months I didn’t practice creativity daily in any real way. This was when I was working a couple of part-time jobs while getting my freelance writing business off the ground. All my writing at that time was for clients; I didn’t write for myself daily like I do now. Instead I worried daily. Fretted. Felt myself pulled daily further and further into the mesmerizing undertow of living below what my true inspiration called me to do.
I was not happy and fulfilled in my work then. But happiness is a choice, so looking back, I can see that I participated in my unhappiness by buying into the false notion that creative fulfillment is something “over there,” something that has to be put off until all one’s other ducks are gotten in a row. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.
As long as I believed that creative fulfillment was something that was unavailable to me while I was slogging away writing what I didn’t want to write and doing work I didn’t necessarily love to do, then that’s where it would stay – “over there.”
But the truth is, there are ways to assure you get your daily creativity fix, even if it’s in small doses. If you’re a writer, you write. If you’re a photographer, you make beautiful images. If you’re a painter, you paint. And so on.
So I started writing for myself for 30 minutes daily, longer on weekends. Writing that had nothing to do with client work, and nothing to do with blogging for my writing business website or weekly newsletter either. I simply opened up a Word doc in June of 2013 and started “journaling” there daily. Then later, I began writing in a physical journal again, writing my way through one journal, then another, then another after that.
And that practice is what pulled me out of my creative cul-de-sac. It’s an ongoing project, this trying to make more space in my life daily for unfettered creative practice, and sometimes it takes a back seat to client work, or marketing my business, or those boring but necessary admin tasks one must do each day to keep the wheels on the bus going round and round.
But what I notice is that if I’m not committed to accessing that well daily, the sometimes elusive substance known as creativity will shrivel, or evaporate altogether, and I’ll be staring into the abyss of the “mehs” once again.
What about you? How do you make space in your life for the creative work that fires you up? I’d love to hear how you make your creative practice a priority. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!