The Posture of Creating

I am a failed Artist’s Way student. I had been faithfully doing my Morning Pages and Artist’s Dates for the 90 days as part of a book study earlier in 2019. I continued my stream-of-consciousness writing for a few months more while the Artist’s Dates fell by the wayside. Then the Universe threw a giant wrench into my Day Job wheel. Work days got long and complicated. I quit Morning Pages because I “did not have time.” And I did feel like a failure. I felt like I was letting down the creative me that had been on a huge winning streak this spring.

But alas, the theme this summer was Survival Mode. Intense schedule in my Day Job and family travel shoved my creativity aside like the dead grandmother in the Vacation movie. I still puttered around with quilting but even that was about finishing projects I started rather than immersing myself in creativity. Nothing was getting traction.

Around Labor Day my Day Job shifted into a different season. I moved out of Survival Mode and noodled with the idea of recommitting to Creative Me. The Creative Me that the universe intends me to be.

Recommitting to Creative Me

While I did recommit, I took careful consideration to learn from my earlier mistakes. I did not jump headfirst back in for a couple reasons.

1 – Learn from Young Susan

I spent my teens (and 20’s if I am honest) hoping my love interest would notice me and want to spend time with me. Pining away and waiting. Making myself available “just in case.” My heart hurts for Young Susan, and I am working my ass off with a therapist to heal her.

So the last thing I want is treat my Creative Me like careless crushees treated Young Susan by only visiting when it was convenient. I want to carve out time for my creativity, not make it live in the cracks. I want to feed my creativity, not fuel it with cast off crumbs. Which leads us to the second hesitation I had about recommitting without being mindful.

2 – Learn from Overcommitting

Time management is my jam, Bending time to fit the will of my to do list is my super power. Until a round house wallop of reality kryptonite knocks me on my arse. Around here we call it, “Ten Pounds of Shit in a Five Pound Bag.” I don’t want to rise at 4:30 am to write / meditate / journal / create only to be a uselessly exhausted zombie by lunch and tearing my people’s heads off by dinner. I want a morning routine like it seems everyone does these days, but none of my days look the same.

  • Some days the kids are at our house, some days they are at their mom’s.
  • I have meetings and deliverables jam packing some days; I have days filled with giant, wide open swaths of time.
  • Some days I work from my home office, some days I work onsite at various office locations. Some days I do both in one day.

3 – Learn from Past Success

Turns out there is a part of my own brain that is manufacturing the kryptonite that is kicking my ass. Its like the call is coming from inside the house. My kryptonite is rigidity. I strongly believe that anything can be broken down into small, repeatable tasks. It is the consistent repetition of these tasks that makes for success. For example, years ago I had a Day Job where I managed vendor relationships. These vendors were (naturally) super upset about outstanding invoices over a year old. I spent a week or so getting my arms around the problem. Then I set up systems where on a regular basis I would check on each stage of the process:

  • 1 hour Mondays to see if projects completed last week and invoices were released in the system.
  • 1 hour Tuesdays to add new issues to research or close out resolved issues. This also gave the vendor a cue to send me the list by end of day Monday.
  • 1 hour Thursdays to confirm checks went out as expected.
  • 1 hour Friday to submit report to my manager about the progress.

I generally scheduled these sorts of tasks for unpopular meeting times – like 8:00 am or 4:00 pm. Unpopular time means it is unlikely to be scheduled over. The key is to actually DO the task when it pops up on the calendar. PS – yes, I know I skipped Wednesdays. Once the list of 200+ issues was wrangled into repeatable tasks, it was easy to maintain in 4 hours/week. Often it did not even require the whole hour on that dedicated day. And I want a morning routine that is similarly time boxed to the Nth degree.

4 – Learn from Failure

My rigidity was killing that plan. Let’s use an example where I had to be in the office at 7:00 am and the location for the day was an hour away. There was no margin for the time box of “Morning Page – 6:00 to 6:30 am.” Or another day where I set my writing window between 7:00 am – 8:30 am but it was a day the kids were at our house. It’s a non-starter to try to write while there is chaos of them getting out the door to school. Yes, they’re old enough to take care of themselves, but there is the bickering, loud music, and last minute panic when homework won’t print that can interrupt the writing flow.

My rigidity was telling me a morning routine was impossible for me. Creativity just wasn’t in the cards for me right now. So I threw the baby out with the bathwater. {really, where did that phrase come from?!}

5 – Learn to Adapt and Adjust

I was contemplating my rigidity over about 6 weeks this fall. During that time, I was carrying on with the rest of life, which includes a weekly hot yoga class. The instructor mentions the “intention of the posture.” I always appreciate this because seriously, I cannot imagine a world where my body actually lifts off the ground or bends like that in some of these postures. But in my mind’s eye it does. And to my mind it matters! Then in my writers group, someone mentioned the posture of a “real writer” because we are a group filled with writers who have imposter syndrome. It is not really “fake it til you make it”, but more like: If you want to be something, act like it.

And the number one thing you have to act on if you want to be a writer… WRITING. The number one thing you have to act on if you want to be creative… CREATE. At the risk of filling this post with pithy sayings to stitch on a pillow:

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Or if you prefer its casual country cousin: Don’t trip over a dollar trying to get to a nickel.

What Commitment Looks Like

So I began again. I got up when the alarm went off instead of falling back to sleep for 30 minutes. I left my phone alone instead of scrolling social media for 30 minutes. I got up and went to my office and did Morning Pages, meditated, and my PT stretches. And Bixby and I still made it out the door for the dog walk at our usual time. I was feeling proud of myself for sure. Then I did my daily reading. I felt the Universe was proud of me too when I read this at the end of the passage:

The direction of the mind is more important than its progress.

Joseph Joubert

It was like the Universe shed light on the path to confirm that I was going in the right direction. And I find the more often I tap into creativity, the more often these rays of light show through the dark.

Are you wrestling with a question or decision? Could you be resisting the faint light that you see on the path just because it’s not a flood light illuminating the dark, scary corners? Use the comments below to acknowledge it and shed some light on it.