Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Creativity Energy Leftovers Left Me Undernourished

Somewhere around mid-Spring last year, I began to acknowledge I felt overwhelmed when accessing my creative energy required navigating unexpectedly rough terrain that had once been a joyful jaunt. At first I couldn't see that the problem lay in my support of other people's creativity at the expense of my own. I kept wondering why I had no creative energy left for my work at the end of each day, but it never occurred to me that I was giving it away. After all, we hear all the time that creative energy begets creative energy, so if I was sharing my creative energy with others, I should be increasing my creative energy, right?

Somewhere in there, I signed up for Christina Katz's Unwrapping Your Creativity Challenge (no longer available) with every intention of participating. She emailed a challenge each day to those who signed up. I didn't even start the challenge. The emails went into their own special folder on in my Inbox, and I felt guilty each day that I didn't get to it. 

At the end of the challenge, Christina sent a request for feedback. As I responded to her email apologizing that I couldn't give her feedback because I hadn't had time to do the challenge I paid for and that was supposed to be for me, I actually felt guilty

I sat at my desk wondering why I felt guilty. Then it hit me, I'd signed up for the challenge for the wrong reason. I'd signed up for the challenge to be supportive of a fellow author not for my own creative enhancement.

I felt a knot in my core. What was I thinking? What was I doing? It wasn't the first time I'd taken on something to support someone else rather than to actually benefit from it, and I knew it even if I didn't want to admit it.

As I pondered why I'd made such a commitment when I already had a full schedule, I couldn't find a good answer. I took yet another look at my priorities and where I was putting my time. In essence I'd fallen into a habit of supporting other people's creative endeavors first and leaving mine for whatever creative energy happened to be left over at the end of the day. I'd review someone else's book, give feedback on someone else's work, offer encouragement to someone who was struggling with their current projects, write detailed comments on poems posted on social media by poet friends, take classes I didn't need to take, volunteer to beta read a friend's book, and.... 

Then if I had any creative energy left I'd work on my projects.

This had been going on far too long, and it needed to stop. But I realized something else... There's a certain kind of addiction that happens when other people tell you how much your feedback, your reviews, your comments mean to them. I felt a bit high on the idea of knowing people valued what I had to say and that I was being helpful!

I quietly started to back off. Not because I didn't want to support my friends and colleagues anymore but because I needed my creative energy to go to my projects first and then to others. 

My work deserved more than leftovers...

Now that I've got my creative energy priorities back in order, I can feel grateful for the epiphany that came about as I contemplated why I'd been so resistant to start the challenge after I paid for it.

It' s amazing how these little things add up until one forces you to make a change.

Interesting how life circles back around sometimes. As I considered writing about this, I read Christina's recent blog post, Filling & Refilling Your Inspiration Tank. I could relate. I did relate.

To all my creative friends who felt like I pulled away a bit in 2015, I did, but it wasn't about you, I promise. It really was me. I needed a break. I needed to get in touch with my creative self. I needed to adjust my priorities. I needed to find my creative footing. I needed to put on my creativity mask before helping you with yours. I needed to nourish my creativity with something more nutritious than leftovers...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Transitioning from Inertia to Kinetic

Inertia... We've all fallen prey to inertia...

Recently, I discovered I missed one of Kristin Nador's blog posts, 5 Ways To Get Rid Of Inertia, back in October. As I read through it, I thought about how often the problem isn't the doing, it's the getting started.

It's amazing how often just writing that first word seems to create a kinetic energy all its own. The first word is down and then the second and then the third and then... the next thing you know, you have a whole sentence, then a paragraph, then a page, then a chapter, then a book... But it all starts with breaking the inertia.

This doesn't just hold true for writing but really for anything we want to do.

Hiking a trail starts with one step and then the next and then the next until the movement feels natural and not overwhelming. As we follow the path, we discover new beauty and reawaken our appreciation for the world around us and the fact that our bodies allow us to take these journeys. At the end one finds the peak of a mountain or a beautiful waterfall or the depths of a forest or an astounding view or sometimes just the ability breathe more deeply.

But it all begins with breaking the inertia of standing at the beginning of the trail.

As I read Kristin's five helpful ideas for breaking inertia, I thought about all the projects that often languish as I convince myself I don't have enough time to work on them right now. X needs a certain block of uninterrupted time and Y needs an equal amount of time and Z needs my undivided attention and... and... and... Inertia sets in.

Usually, all it takes is a few minutes to change the inertia. Once I start, I find a rhythm. Once I find a rhythm, the project tends to take on its own energy. Once it has its own energy, the process finds the time it needs. It's all a matter of getting setting things in motion.

One of Kristin's tips is to find a change of scenery. While I agree with her that going someplace new is a great way to activate the motion to break inertia, I've discovered that sometimes that change of scenery can be as simple as moving to a different room in your house. 

I have a wonderful office in our home. It's spacious, and it's my space. The room has art on the walls and books on shelves to inspire me. It also has piles upon piles of projects in progress spread around the room.

Lately, I find it difficult to work on either of my two current major writing projects: a novel I'm revising, Red, and a nonfiction book on gratitude, My Year in Gratitude, that I'm editing in my office. Every time I sit down to work on either of these projects in my office I feel distracted and perhaps a bit overwhelmed.

A few days ago, I took a few pages from the gratitude book into the great room to edit because I wanted to sit in front of the gas fireplace. I sped through the pages. Pleased as I felt, I didn't make the connection right away. A few days later after I stared at the pages for my novel for far too long without making much progress, I took my laptop and hard copy of the next chapter I needed to revise to the great room and worked in front of the fireplace. Again, the editing went extremely well. So I tried it again yesterday. I worked on both these projects while sitting in front of the fireplace instead of in my office. It worked! Progress! So for now, I'm editing in front of the fireplace. Other work will remain in my office, but I have to do what works for these two projects and working in front of the fire burning in the fireplace does - at least for the moment.

Another thing I've discovered that helps me with inertia is music. Something about music, particularly empowering music, sets me in motion. Yes, I love to dance, and, yes, I often take a dance break when I feel stressed, but that's not what I mean. I mean that when I turn on music that makes me feel energized, I find it easier to take that first step, particularly for chores, like cleaning or filing, that I don't want to do, but sometimes even for writing if the music fits the project.

Inertia invades all our lives from time to time, but there's something about setting things in motion that changes everything. It changes moods. It changes self-confidence. It changes our perception of life. It changes how we interact with others. It changes what we think we can accomplish. It changes what we can actually accomplish.

I hope I can remember to just take that step forward the next time I feel inertia settle in for a visit whether the inertia appears in the form of watching mindless television shows, playing games, wasting time on social media, giving away my creative energy to others, or whatever excuse feels like a good reason to not take that first step forward.

Kristin's post resonated with me because, as much as I hate to admit it, inertia gets me good sometimes. It sticks me right in the writing and fools me into thinking it's writer's block or an overwhelming schedule or some other task I need to do but want to pretend I don't need to do or or or... 

In reality, all my excuses for my unproductive days come down to inertia.

Inertia tends to sneak up on us all as we go about daily life...

It's up to me to turn my inertia into kinetic energy...