Creativity is a Drug

CBD creativity quote

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!



{The Daily Creative} Where Creative Inspiration Lurks: Escape

{The Daily Creative is a regular-ish series of blog posts that explore finding creative inspiration in the everyday.}

One of the methods I find most effective for getting the creative juices flowing again is to get the hell out of Dodge. Or in my case, Wilmington, NC.

So I did that recently.  I met up with a good buddy in Tybee Island, GA for a few days of sun, fun, fried seafood, boatloads of stimulating conversation, and Happy Hour on the patio every day at 5:00 p.m. (I think that last bit was my favorite.)

And boy, did I ever need this trip.

You know those inflatable figures you see on the side of the road that dance around in the wind, trying to call attention to some small business with their goofy herky-jerky movements?  And how if they’re not inflated properly or the wind isn’t cooperating that day, they kind of bob around listlessly?

That’s a little bit like what I was feeling like.

But my Tybee trip changed that.

beach at Tybee Island, Georgia

beach at Tybee Island, Georgia

Because how liberating is it to be able to plan your days based simply on what you most feel like doing that day – or what you most decidedly do not feel like doing?  Like, say, dressing up in your monkey suit and showing up at a building to sit in front of a computer all day and have someone else – I’ve heard they’re called “bosses” – dictate what you do for the next 8 – 10 hours.  {Shivers.}

That’s the beauty of getting away.  Your days are your own to do with whatever you please.  And that kind of freedom breeds creative inspiration, which ideally carries over into your everyday life once you return home.  It’s as if something has been shaken and stirred – you can’t quite put your finger on it, but something is different.

The creative doors are blown off, and the ideas start knocking around in your head so fast and furious you write them down hourly in the Moleskin you carry with you everywhere you go, or in that tattered notebook in the bottom of your purse, or in Notes app on your iPhone.

I’m reminded of a passage about a character named Lily from Virginia Woolf’s novel To The Lighthouse:

Certainly she was losing consciousness of outer things. And as she lost consciousness of outer things … her mind kept throwing up from its depths, scenes, and names, and sayings, and memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting.

That’s been my reality since I got back from Tybee.  Fingers crossed the ideas and inspiration keep on a comin.’

What about you?  How does getting out of town for a few days, or at least away from your normal surroundings, affect your creative output?  And how do you keep that good creative vibe going once you return to your daily life?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about your experience with this in the comments below, so go on and share.  You know you want to.  : )