Just do it. Time’s not the problem. Now be creative.
Well, though that’s about right, it isn’t very helpful, isn’t it?
There are two parts to this creativity thing. One is in your head and the other one is physical. For today I’d like to start with the practical aspect of it. Why, you might say, do you do that? What I really need to know is where to get ideas and how to get into the groove and such. Bear with me, just try it from the other side. It will work. And if it doesn’t I will be talking about the head stuff in another post. So in order to be creative you need three things on the physical plane: time, resources and space.
1. Find the time
This of course seems to be the hardest task of all the three. We never have time for anything. On the other hand there seems to be enough time around for everybody and so maybe we just have to learn to spend it wisely.
So, what do you want to do? Compose a symphony? Make a film as a writer/director? Bake a cake? Write a nine novel fantasy series? Which one of those projects do you think is most likely to see daylight? The cake? I think so too. Why the cake? Well, given the right equipment, a cookbook, the ingredients and about 90 minutes of time almost everybody can make a cake.
Does that mean that every one of the other projects needs a year of sabbatical? Most people don’t get to have those and if you are a parent or a procrastinator like me then the sabbatical wouldn’t help you because even a year without your paid job would leave your life pretty full. So you’d have to break your project into nice little chunks. Instead of writing a nine novel fantasy series you better just start thinking about your fantasy world. Wow. That was easy. And when did you do that? In bed before sleep? While taking a shower? While driving? Good. That’s how it should be. In addition to that you could also sit down and make a map. Oh wait, better just make a quick sketch of a map. Write down your character’s name. Or just sit down and write. No time to sit down? Write standing. Get a little tape recorder and speak in there. Or, – why don’t you just open a text editor right now and jot down a little something? Yes, now, I’ll wait. See, you just spent 30 seconds on your novel.
For the part of creativity that consists of making things up in your head you don’t need time as such.
You only need a little room in your head to think about them. Mostly while you’re doing something else. For the actual doing, the painting, the writing, the sculpting you don’t need three weeks without work or interruption. To prove this thousands of people everywhere in the world participate in NaNoWriMo each year. That means in November (of all months) thousands of people sit down and write an average of 1,667 words a day each day on top of their jobs and other responsibilities. They move their lives around to make the time it takes to write.
That’s the sprinter’s approach to creative projects.
Find the time by forcing the creative project into your life. Use the power of the deadline. Surfing the adrenaline surge and getting more and more behind with everything else, neglecting friends and family and not sleeping enough. You can’t live like that every day of the year. Some people can’t even for a month. The good thing is that you don’t have to take it all at once.
So now I’ll introduce you to the marathon walker’s guide to creativity:
Set aside a little piece of time every day to do whatever you want to do. Write, practice scales, make a sketch. Don’t sit down and think, “I’ll do this huge phenomenal project.” it won’t work. Just say to yourself, “Only 15 minutes.” Set a timer if you must. Do it every day. Well, plan to do it every day and then be content with having it done five times a week. That’s life. But don’t plan to do it only five times a week. That won’t work. You can even plan to do it once a week but it probably won’t work either. Sunday comes around, only this Sunday you don’t have time because it’s your grandmother’s birthday and there you are, the month has gone by and you haven’t been creative.
At first I recommend making it a habit like brushing your teeth. You know there was a time when you didn’t brush your teeth. Somebody else did it for you. Nowadays I doubt you would go to sleep without brushing them. But it took a while, didn’t it? You can use all the motivational help you can get. Give yourself stickers, tell somebody and make yourself accountable, or join a group (if anybody is interested in founding “songwriters anonymous”, send me an e-mail).
You can find the time by cutting back on things like reading magazines, watching TV, or running to the grocery store for the fifth time in a week because you didn’t make a shopping list. And a lot of people find that doing the creative thing first thing in the morning helps. Only not if you want to sing. Singing is better after breakfast. Believe me. And then you can spend the rest of your day feeling happy because you already were creative.
And keep in mind that professional artists don’t have the time either.
Look at musicians: they are doing one show after the other, traveling around, doing interviews, taking care of the business side of their lives (or communicating with the people who take care of the business side). But they are writing songs anyway. It’s not like they enter the studio, shut the door, let the song writing begin and emerge a week later with a finished CD. I think they too have to squeeze it in. They write on the road, in hotel rooms, on buses, and during sound check.
It’s not like I’m the first one ever to write about this, but usually the advice goes like, “set aside an hour each day”. When you’re a parent, or a parent with a paid job, this is where they lose you. You hear “set aside and hour”, laugh hysterically and go away. So I say, “Just sit down for a minute or two.” Just start somewhere. And if you manage to do something creative then it will be better than having done nothing. And soon enough you will find yourself immersed in your creative project.
Come on. Five minutes. You do have five minutes, don’t you?
So you say, “But I can’t write an opera in five minutes!” No, you can’t but let’s do the math: 5 minutes a day, 5 times a week, that’s 25 times 52, well maybe two weeks off for vacation and Christmas, that’s 1,250 minutes a year, that’s 20 hours. If I’m really working on it I can write about 600 words per hour. So that would be 12,000 words a year. Not a novel but a short story for sure. And do you really think you would stop at five minutes? Because let’s face it if it goes smoothly you’d surely spend up to 15 minutes on your writing at one sitting. So, maybe not an opera. But a song for sure. See? Okay. I know these kind of calculations are ridiculous. But keep in mind that doing a little every day helps a lot to get results. If you doubt it go to woolgathering. A woman wanted to learn how to draw. So she bought a notebook and a pen, sat down and drew. One drawing a day. You can see how her skill evolves. And you can do it too.
For how to find resources and space, see part 2.