“Have you done any writing or drawing lately?” J asked.
“Not really,” I said, “why?”
“Because you get really crotchety if you don’t create something.”
Strange as it sounds, this was news to me. Everyone has their up and down days but I hadn’t appreciated that not being creative meant I was waaaay more likely to have a ‘bad’ day.
My friend, however, is right.
When I was writing my first book I worked 15-hour days for weeks on end. I finished each day, exhausted, with googly eyes and a brain which couldn’t string a sentence together, let alone do anything as complicated as cook an evening meal (I ended up eating frozen fish cakes and tomatoes several memorable evenings in a row).
I felt alive! I got up each morning with a sense of purpose and direction I hadn’t felt before (or since). In a nutshell, I was exhausted. I was frazzled. But I was deeply, deeply content.
The problem is, I wrote that book well over a year ago and my creative outburst was enforced by a strict publishing deadline. Since then my creativity has waxed and waned (mainly waned).
This is not good for my emotional wellbeing.
As my friend observed, if I don’t write or draw something on a regular basis, I go ‘a bit weird’ (i.e. angsty, restless, fidgety and crotchety, accompanied by the distinct feeling that all is not right with the world).
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love wrote about this recently:
“If you have a creative mind, it’s a little bit like owning a border collie. You have to give it something to do or it will find something to do, and you will not like the thing it finds to do. So if you go to work and you leave your border collie unattended and unexercised in your apartment, you’re going to come home and find out that that border collie gave itself a job, and the job that it gave itself was probably to empty all of the stuffing out of your couch or to take every single piece of toilet paper off the roll, because it needs a job. A creative mind is exactly the same. My experience with having a creative mind is that if I don’t give it a task, a ball to chase, a stick to run after, some ducks to herd, I don’t know, something, it will turn on itself. It’s really important for my mental health that I keep this dog running.”
So… we have to give our dogs a job. Easy peasy, right?
Well, no. This is where things get tricky. Because for many of us, there’s some serious resistance that needs to be overcome; a stubborn internal wall that needs to be knocked down before we can take our border collie out for a walk, let along do anything as daring as throw it a flipping ball!
This is something that has bugged me for years, so I’m amazed to say that I have finally come up with a cunning plan.
I put this plan into action two weeks ago, thinking it was far too simple to actually work… but it did! And thanks to this plan, I have been a-little-bit-creative every day since. (And hopefully, far less crotchety to boot.)
I’ll share this technique with you in my next post.
Important note: This technique is not rocket science. If you happily skip to your desk each day to draw/write/sing/compose/paint, you might want to skip the next post. But if you’re a fellow procrastinator, struggler, and dreamer of long-held dreams, I hope my little technique will help.