I had a plan, over Christmas. I had two weeks off of my corporate job, and I had a plan. We were visiting family, but I would have time everyday to photograph, to create new work, and to work on my book.
It was a good plan, but it didn’t work. It was missing an essential ingredient for creativity.
Over time, I’ve learned that my creativity craves a few things. Without them, nothing seems to happen.
First, creativity craves time. Had that, check. Lots of time: Hours in the car, days with nothing more than a meal scheduled. That wasn’t the key.
Second, creativity craves an open frame of mind. I was a little low on that, since I got sick for part of the trip and all I wanted to do was sleep or sit on the couch and read. But there was a good part of the trip where I felt fine, and still nothing happened.
But here’s the kicker, what I realized was the key for me: Creativity craves routine. That is the thing that was missing — a routine, a schedule.
You see, without a schedule, having the opportunity to create anytime turned into creating at no time. I could always do it later, tomorrow, whenever I felt like it. There was no hurry, nothing to push me into action.
Without a routine, there was nothing to signal to my brain that now was the time to create. Nothing to help me over the hump that always stands in the way of getting started. Have you ever heard of “creative flow?” Routines and rituals can help you get into a state of creative flow, where creativity and productivity happen naturally. Regular, repeated practices are what help you move forward in a creative endeavor.
That’s what I was missing: the routine.
So when I got home to my busy life, the one full of a day job and long to do lists, creativity finally kicked in. When I was up early in the quiet house, in my reading chair with my tea, I started to create again. Home sweet home! It’s ironic I create better in a life that is jam-packed and where every moment matters, than one that is open-ended. But my life is full of creativity-enhancing routines to use my slices of time, and that’s what really matters.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to advocate staying home and in routine all the time in the future, though. I need breaks from the routine to refresh myself. I need travel to give me new experiences to draw on in my creative practice.
I’m just not going to expect myself to be creative while I’m gone. I’ll save that, knowing its the special treat, the everyday bonus of being at home, in the routine.