Constant Creativity

05Jul09

Imagining is like feeling around

in a dark lane, or washing

your eyes with blood.

You are the truth

from foot to brow. Now,

what else would you like to know?

(Rumi, Birdsong)

Coming off the back of last week and a bit of reflection on the year to date, I feel like I’m getting into a good rhythm of activity, and feeling like I have a fantastic balance in my life between family, work and play – of course, it helps that for me the two ‘work’ elements pretty much *are* play.

Balance Beam, Sheilaz413 (Flickr Creative Commons)

Balance Beam, Sheilaz413 (Flickr Creative Commons)

Of course, my balance is not perfect. I have wobbles, days when I can’t even find my own centre of gravity, let alone balance anyone else’s needs with my own, and I have great days, when I just float with practised ease through a sequence of apparently physically impossible manoevres to get from the beginning to the end of the day. There are days when I’m too tired to remember, or want to remember, what I’m supposed to do, when I’m stupid and sluggish, and there are days when the behaviour of others pushes me to the limits of what I can tolerate, leaving me physically exhausted and emotionally and mentally drained.

But, on the whole, I am getting closer to a balanced life, when each part is coming together and I feel that I am living a complete existence.

There are three factors at work here.

The first is understanding and acknowledging what’s important to me, the ‘headline’ items that I can’t do without. For me, those things are family, writing, textile arts, home, and garden. Defining this list has allowed me to disconnect from any activity that doesn’t come under one of those headings, and that has freed up huge amounts of time and energy.

The second part came when I moved away from writing lists to ‘time-blocking’. Instead of having an enormous, overwhelming to-do list, I block times of day for certain activities. To give an example: I get home from the school run at approximately 9 a.m. every day, so I spend an hour on general housework and ‘daily’ chores, but instead of having a list or rota or routine or whatever, I will do a quick ‘tour’ of the house and just decide what to do based on what needs doing most. What doesn’t get done in the time available, doesn’t get done – it might get done tomorrow, if it’s higher priority than the other things that need doing. 

And this is where the third element comes in.

Being in touch with my creativity, allowing myself the time and space to express myself, is something that runs through everything I do, and is so closely connected with the ‘enjoy’ element of the intention I set myself at the beginning of the year.

It’s taken me a while to understand how closely the two are connected, and how creativity comes into play to generate enjoyment even in the most tedious of housework tasks. But viewing my life in terms of constant creativity, and trying to make sure that everything I do is driven out of that creativity, has transformed the way I see a lot of things. I read somewhere that artists are the only people in society who are permitted to not grow up, who are allowed to carry on playing way past the time when everyone else has gone out and got a sensible haircut and a safe job, as if we are the guardians of the dreams everyone else has had to set aside. To see my life in terms of a privilege granted, in terms of something that is worthwhile both for my own sake and for others, has let me approach what I do much more lightly, with more sense of play about it.

Because, for me, creativity is so closely allied to the sensual side of life, the transformation of a room from a messy, dirty, cluttered space into an ordered, sensually appealing space is an act of creativity, and I am able to focus on the pleasure I get from a completed chore whilst I am doing it, and at the same time see the chore itself as a worthwhile act that feeds my own sense of wellbeing, and that of my family. Gardening is a creative pleasure, because there not only is the anticipation of the taste of the food, but there is also the visual appeal of a well-planned garden and the fragrances and textures of the different plants that combine to make a coherent whole.

In other areas of life, my creativity lies closer to the surface, but it is interesting for me to start seeing how it feeds off itself.

For example:

At the moment, I am in a ‘learning’ phase with my writing. I’m working on Holly Lisle’s ‘Survival School for Writers‘ and I’ve just come off the back of a month or so of administration, editing, short story submissions and critique group work – all these things are good and necessary, but they are not the same as writing – the actual process of sitting down and letting a story flood out onto the page. At the same time, I’m experiencing huge levels of doubt and insecurity about my writing, because of course the higher level of submissions and critiquing activity is leading to more criticism and rejection: whilst I can’t shake my belief that my *writing* is strong, it does all make me doubt my ability as a *storyteller*, but that’s not for discussion here.

What I have found is that, at the moment, I’m generating fewer story ideas than I would normally, but both the ideas and productivity in my textile arts are off the scale. The number and quality of ideas I’m getting is astonishing, and I’m almost resenting having to do paid work for others because it’s interfering with my desire to get on with the work I want to do for *me*.

I figure, in a pretty simplistic way, that my creativity runs at a pretty constant level, though perhaps slowly and steadily increasing the more I use it. What I figure as an extension from that thought is that because it’s not being channelled into writing, it’s diverting itself into textile projects and busying itself over there. This is a good thing – the last few weeks have generated some fantastic refashions and stock items, and some wonderful ideas for bigger projects that I want to try, as soon as I get a space in between commissions ;).

When I think back, and compare textile art idea generation currently against that in a period when I was heavily involved in a novel first draft, I can see that there’s a corresponding curtailment (I keep a separate diary/sketchbook for my textile work, everything that goes in there gets dated) in the volume and quality of ideas and desire that is generated for new textile experiments.

I’m quite taken with the idea that the apparently unrelenting rush of ideas swirling around me does have its own rhythm and balance, too.

What’s useful for me is to see that the creativity I bring into my writing and the creativity that drives my textile arts are not two separate elements that I draw on as and when needed, but part of the same whole, and that acknowledgement has been like fitting a couple of jigsaw puzzle pieces together and suddenly seeing them fuse together to make a single, complete, picture.

Seeing beyond that to how I can allow creativity into the other areas of my life and let them get absorbed into that same complete whole is something I get in flashes, like a puzzle piece I know fits somewhere here, but can’t quite join on yet. It will come, but it will take more time and more patience and more testing until I get there.

I am optimistic, though, that I *will* get there.

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One Response to “Constant Creativity”

  1. 1 Erin

    Great post!

    I don’t think that’s quite how creativity works for me — sometimes, when I’m stuck on the writing, I’ll go play with yarns or colored pens or something for a while, and just the act of being free with it helps me with the writing. So being creative in other areas *increases* my creativity in writing, I think. It’s a positive-feedback loop.

    I like the idea of “headline” items. Sadly, although my work isn’t always something I love, because family is, I have to do the work, even when the stuff I’m working on isn’t thrilling me or even keeping me awake in the afternoon. I’ll admit that I would dearly love to have full-time writer be my only paying job. However, I’m not there yet. So I take what pleasure I can in my work — and some weeks, it’s quite a lot — and keep going.

    Great job on moving toward balance. I think realizing that you’re after dynamic balance, not static balance, is a big step.


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