The Importance of Creative Habit, if You Want to Write
I spent all day Sunday preparing for a big week of focused work on the book first and foremost. I made several meals to freeze, organised clothes for the week, set up activities plus a few secret surprises for the girls, bubbles, chalk, bits and bobs.
Summer holidays mean longer days, later bedtimes, more meals, more cleaning, more laundry, and ninja levels of focus and organisation just to keep things at ‘normal’ level.
Unfortunately on Monday it just didn’t work. I found myself still ‘going’ from morning to night without getting anywhere, or at least that’s what it felt like. I had to admit defeat. The way that works best for me is to view whatever I’m doing, or have to do in the moment, as ‘supporting the whole.’
Tuesday was better. I woke at six and not feeling a bit tired sneaked off to my writing cave. I managed a few hours before Adrian had to leave. With a start like that I’m guaranteed a good day.
This got me thinking about creative habit and how I got to the point where no matter what happens I still write every day, even if it’s just a page or two in my notebooks. Believe it or not it wasn’t always like this.
If you’re reading this and wishing, wondering how you could make writing or art part of your daily life here’s some food for thought. One thing I’ve noticed is that when people are under pressure, when life gets messy, the first thing to get bumped is creative work.
I have yet to hear anyone say, ‘I’m having a hard/mental day so I’m staying off fb/not watching tv/not cooking/not doing housework etc and I’m going to write/art instead. ‘What they more often say is ‘I’m having a hard day today so I’m not going to write/paint.’ And this is people for whom writing/art is their passion, the thing they say they most want to do, that gives them most pleasure. So why?
Aside from the fact our culture doesn’t support the creative mindset, writing is really hard, even when we love it. It’s easier to turn to fb or tv than to sit down and write, unless you’ve made writing a habit.
If you have a full and busy life it can seem impossible to make space for writing but that’s simply not true. I spend very little time on FB now, I rarely watch tv, I get up earlier, and I created a daily habit no different or less essential to me than brushing my teeth. I would prefer now to write than to eat, and often do.
Start small, set a timer for 20 minutes and just force yourself to write about anything, or buy a new notebook and commit to filling one page every day.
What are the benefits of this? Major, varied, and often surprising. You will find any number of studies that extol the health benefits of art, dance, music and writing, even as an appreciator, with no regard for skill whatsoever. I have found all of these to be true.
Other benefits too, you may find you have less needs and wants, I’m easily pleased with pens, paper and books. I’ve become very mindful, conscious of every hour of my day and how it’s spent. I watch time. I resent things that feel like a waste, and so often are.
If you sit down and try to schedule every hour of your day it seems long, impossible to fill. But as you go through your day the hours and minutes can slip by without ever been seen. Writing changes all that.
Part of this is probably getting older, part is the writing itself. On the age front I see myself getting older, and as Bette Davis said, ‘Old age is no place for sissies’. Good time to have a rich internal world. To get to this relative zen, as zen as any sentient being can be, I had to go through a period of existential angst that comes to every writer I think.
Writing is not a way of hiding from life it is a way to sharpen your individuality, something the world needs more of I think, a way to find out what you really think, a way of exploring deeper truths. I suppose not everyone wants that, Carl Jung said “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul.
So while there is definitely something to the idea of writing and art as escape, spend enough time and it becomes a deeper way of seeing, understanding, awareness, of consciousness. All society is built as if the individual life never ends, a series of quick fixes, of running, superficial band-aids that never go deeper than surface level. While art, as Picasso put it, ‘Art is the lie that reveals the truth’.
It took me 39 years to start writing, the thing I had wanted to do all my life. Why? For me it was because I had no frame of reference and didn’t know how. For others it’s that they get to a point where they think it’s too late. What does that even mean? If you really think about it you will know how wrong it is and yet this is something deeply ingrained, even in very young people. But isn’t now more important than yesterday? I have to keep saying it, if you want to write or paint please do it, don’t make excuses, don’t wait, and don’t say it’s too late.
And if you think who am I? Who am I to do something like this? Well that’s not you talking, for who am I for that matter? Who is anyone? I’m just another ordinary person, a creative, born in a non-creative time, but it’s still my time. I’ve spent years now working on my book, is it three or is it four? Will it be one or two more?
Is it hard with small children? Yes! Is it daft to have spent all these hours writing? Surely no dafter than spending that same time on housework, watch a few soaps maybe. Yet no one thinks anything of a life spent that way.
It is taking me a long time to finish my book because I want to do the best work I am capable of. I am at the stage now where I’m having to accept that I’m close to the end and the best I can do. As a fan of literature this is painful let me tell you! The work can never be as it lives in your heart and your head but I have made peace with that. As a writer you have to. The next one will be better, and the one after that.
If you’re serious about writing, if it’s important to you, you’re going to need a daily habit. Once you have that the only days that don’t feel right will be the days you don’t write, and that’s something that’s available to anyone who wants it, regardless of ability or talent.
That’s all for now friends. If you don’t follow on fb here’s two things you missed this past week…
- I changed my hair, it’s lighter which I think suits me better than my usual ‘black as my soul streaked with grey’ natural colour. What do you think? FB gave it the thumbs up. Actually I was this bright as a child but grew ‘witchier’ as I grew older…
2. So good I put it in a meme, a letter from a reader following my last day in court. I had to edit it to fit but I think it loses none of its effect! So great, and written before the latest attack, thank you Maria. My mum says I should frame it.