Creativity is a Marathon
One of the challenges of living a creative life arises after the initial thrill of creating disappears.
How do we keep the work interesting to ourselves?
Because I think we can all agree we find ourselves thinking from time to time how lovely a desk job would be, right? Because the glimmer faded awhile back, maybe between shopping, marketing and cleaning. And I’m not strong like J.K. Rowling who apparently could let the housework go while she scribed the Harry Potter series.
With the thrill gone living a creative life becomes living with emotions American’s deny at every turn: frustration, boredom and loss of confidence. We are not, in the end, Americants. We’re Americans.
We deserve peak experiences every minute of the day.
But a living creatively guarantees we exist in the most un-American of spaces. We find our work uninspired. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t particularly good, either. We find our work uninspiring to ourselves. We’ve been at this creative thing long enough to know that we don’t find inspiration in our work no one else will, either.
I spend most of my creative life thinking why the bonkers am I doing any of it? Trivial things become important: the correct writing instruments; the right attitude (as in I can’t push my pencil across the page unless I’m in the right frame of mind!!!!!); or even perfect weather (I know, right??).
Now I’m learning to game my little infinite feedback loop. Oh, so you can only write on the iPad? Do it on the iPad. You can only shoot with the iPhone 6 or Ricoh or only film? Then do that. You must clean the house first? Just sweep the wooden floors then get started.
Sweeping the floors seems to have become a ritual to help me when my creative discipline fails me. I recall Twyla Tharp discussing the value of rituals in her book The Creative Habit. She exercises quite early in the morning and rightfully acknowledges the difficult of doing this, even for her, a dancer by training. The ritual she devised to get her to the gym was contracting with a particular cab driver to be outside her apartment at a designated time. Once she got in the cab she knew she would work out.
I have less lofty aspirations. So I sweep or straighten up the kitchen. The ritual eases me into the work of creating. It’s like my version of the long-distance runners water break.
If I were to ever run a marathon, I think I could do it only if I could kill all my thoughts about the end. Crossing the finish line; a hot bath after it’s over; how I will feel taking off my shoes; these thoughts and the others like them would need to be gone from my mind.
I could run the marathon if my only thoughts focused on putting one foot in front of the other, holding my upper body in the correct position and breathing.
Living the creative life is kind of similar, I realize now. The focus is on this article or that photograph or a new story. One word after another. One more photograph from a different perspective. Right. Left. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Welcome to creative living for the next fifty years.