Discover more from Things I Wrote Down
Approaching creativity like some approach love, just waiting for lighting to strike?
Pro tip: Get organized. The frustratingly freeing paradox of creativity.
This is the second article in a 4-part series on strategies that can help creativity flourish. Last week I wrote about how to keep going when faced with forces that disrupt your creative flow. You can read that article here.
There’s a myth about creativity that it’s an elusive and transient thing. Vaporous. A grace that falls upon a person without warning only to leave as it came, unexpectedly and without a sound.
Sure, the lightning does strike and there can be spontaneous, unexpected moments of creative energy and output. But that’s not a sustainable way to approach the writing life, or any other creative discipline #IMHO.
You can’t treat your craft like some people approach “love.” Falling in. Falling out. Seized by passions and so enamoured by the idea of spontaneous romance that the moment anything mundane, rote, requiring self-sacrifice or commitment (read: real life) the passion gets quenched because the “feeling is gone.”
If I haven’t lost you yet, the reason I wrote all that 👆🏻 was to clear the way to affirm a second strategy (Check out Strategy 1 here) for achieving creative goals in the midst of a busy schedule: get organized.
That sounds so utterly dull. So non-creative.
You need to be prepared enough so that lightning can strike. And if it doesn’t, then you have the tools at your disposal to create lightning on your own.
For me, this is what getting organized looks like:
1. Have a specific place where you practice your craft.
It doesn’t need to be your own space. I’ve used a hundred different coffee shops from which to write. A good pair of headphones and a table in the corner by the window where you can shut out or let in the world, as needed, can be the perfect place to create. It’s your own creative oasis for an hour or two, free of charge.
It doesn’t even have to be a space different from your regular work or life space, though. For instance, if you work from home (like I do) or are a stay-at-home parent, then you don’t have to leave the house.
I have an in-home office where I do all my work.Perhaps you have an unused space in the house you mortgage or the flat you rent. Clear it out and make it work for your craft.
The type of space you need depends on the person you are.
2. Keep the work or project open.
As much as is possible, don’t re-invent the workflow every time you re-enter the space. Having a spot that’s dedicated to the particular output is ideal. You don’t want to have to dedicate 10 to 20 minutes simply to get your space to the point where you can start up again. Aim to set up your work space so that you can simply show up and start.
Annie Dillard said it this way:
When you are writing full-time (three to four hours a day), go in the room with the book every day, regardless of your feelings. If you skip a day it will take three painful days to get to believing in the work again. Have a place where you can leave the work out and open, so you don’t have to get it all out and spread before you can start again.
— From “Notes for Young Writers” in Image Journal of the Arts
Words to write and create by!
3. Use at-hand resources to organize your creative life.
As I thought about this point I realized I’ve really turned a corner on the resources I use, especially to track ideas. For most of life I was a sticky-note guy. I’d scribble thoughts on little pieces of paper. They riddled my desk. I’d jot notes on scraps of looseleaf and leave them in folders or boxes or drawers.
But now this is the exception. I’ve embraced the digital tools and drop most lighting strikes on digital notes. Google Keep is my go-to. Here I write down notes, inspiration and can also record voice memos, snap photos then keyword and organize them in groups. It’s a digital sticky note. Apple has its version and there’s other great apps like Evernote, etc. Find an app you like and use it, especially if you want to avoid clutter.
Because I write in a lot of different forms (short for scripts for Skit Guys), longer form screenplays and stage plays for my work with UnveilTV, weekly content for Things I Wrote Down and also need creative ideas for my day job, I find the digital integration to be a massive time saver. I love that I can access the app on any device, wherever I am, so I can always track and reference and jot.
I take sermon notes on my phone too, and often, during the service a truth will drop and I’ll write down a line that I can think about for a future skit or concept. It’s stealth, it’s readily available.
You get it, so I’ll stop.
4. Keep your life and heart open as you permit yourself to create within clear boundaries.
As I reflect on my creative process and the recommendations above, I recognize what appears to be a contradiction. “Practice your craft in a specific place” and “always jot ideas down, everywhere.”
I don’t think I’m speaking out of both sides of my mouth.
A quote from Alexandr Solzhenitsyn that I love and lean into is that the artist’s duty is to keep themselves available to that “one word of truth that outweighs the world.”
Our antennas need to always be up. I try to keep my heart, mind, self open to truth, to observation. Like a spider, construct a web so that I can catch things. That’s the kind of stuff I write down (and I notice that I’ll forget it by lunch even if it seems like a truth that outweighs the whole world, because it’s so easy to get pulled away from deep truths by text messages, doom scrolling on social media or a bathroom emergency by one of the kids).
So I’ve learned to stop for a moment, write down the idea, the observation or the thought as a digital note, then return to it later. I can pursue those ideas in a time of deeper focus, especially if it accumulates or sticks. And I do that in a more concentrated time of focus in my own creative space.
Wherever you are in your creative journey, I hope these 4 suggestions are helpful to you.
Grateful to be on the creative journey with you!
We just moved and now my office overlooks enormous walnut trees, which is an absolute joy for me.