I had one of those epiphanies a couple of months ago about the creative process. Or life maybe.
I always thought that if you are a real artist you enjoy the whole process of making art from start to finish. I thought for example that real musicians (unlike me) enjoy practicing. Maybe not every single minute of it but seven out of their eight hours a day of it for sure. I have to force myself to play. And every day I have to do it again.
I have heard that it takes 27 days to form a habit. Haha, really funny that. I have had practiced daily for months or years without it becoming a habit.
But back to that epiphany: Lisa Liam wrote somewhere in her blog that she dislikes cutting out the pieces for sewing. And she loves sewing so much that she has made it into her profession. I had thought it was only me! Disliking the cutting, swearing all through the sewing and leaving the almost finished piece for months without sewing on the buttons. Or dreading blocking and sewing the knitting together so much that I’d rather stop knitting the sweater with half a sleeve unfinished.
Or having to kick myself to practice by setting a kitchen timer and saying, “You won’t leave this keyboard until the bell rings. No, no daydreaming. Play. – I can hear that you’re not really working. Get back. Do your scales.” And it’s even a little harder with making music because you’re never finished. It’s just like being an athlete in training.
Or never writing anything but the beginning of a story. Only signing up for NaNoWriMo made me finish a first draft. I recently spoke to a fellow NaNo-participant about signing up for the next one (I’m still undecided, but this time I’ll tell my husband first.), and he said, “The hardest part is starting to write for the day. Once you have written a few sentences it just keeps going.”
Ha! As if! With every writing project apart from writing blog posts I had to force myself to write every single paragraph. Not that I didn’t have periods of free flowing prose where all I had to do was typing fast enough to keep up but once I reached my quota for the day I couldn’t get away from writing fast enough.
So for me doing something that fills me with joy isn’t necessarily about doing things that are fun or pleasurable. The question is why I keep on doing these things even though I find them tedious and hard? There comes Robert Heinlein to mind who said that he felt awful when writing but even more awful when not. (That’s somewhere in his biography which I can’t access now because it’s in the room my son is sleeping in.) I always compare this to climbing a mountain (or going for a walk) versus plopping down in front of TV all day.
The difference is how you feel about life and yourself at the end of the day. The climb or the walk makes you feel strong, confident, happy, and tired in a good way. Sitting on a couch watching TV all day might be pleasurable but at the end of the day you feel sluggish, drowsy, and unsatisfied.
Still, even knowing this, I’d like to change my perspective in a way that I could just enjoy the walk, or the process without feeling bad most of the way. That’s why I made “effortlessness” my word of the year. And I don’t think this is all about being blocked, or my inner critic giving me a hard time. Maybe this is about me thinking that life should somehow be easier. Maybe it’s time to grow up. Without becoming all dead serious and dividing my days into tiny little slices, into a sequence of to-dos. I tried that and while I got a lot of things done it never was enough and I managed to squeeze the joy out of life.
So, do you have any ideas? Are you good about enjoying the process? Did you learn that somehow, or were you always like that?