I would love to say that I can write this blog with the assured knowledge that I have completely cracked the balance between these two things and that I am a joyous creative soul who produces a decent amount of work without feeling burdened by it all. Alas, this is not the case.
What I can talk about, however, is the four main things I’m focusing on to help create that balance. Some of it has gone well, and some I’m hoping to do better with in the future. We’re all on a journey, after all.
1. HAVING FUN
I put this in capitals because I think it’s probably the most important thing to keep creativity alive. There’s a post-it note on the back of my desk that says, ‘Maybe you just need more fun than other people!’ with a smiley face.
The reason I’ve failed to do this enough is because of two things: guilt and fear. Guilt because I feel like I should (I hate that word) be sitting at a desk and meeting targets and goals like I’m some sort of office robot. Fear because there’s nothing like actually making progress and getting somewhere with your creative life to shuffle you back to making a list or going on Twitter. Fear of success, fear of failure, they both ruin the enjoyment.
Art is supposed to be fun. Slowly I’m getting on board with the idea that I shouldn’t be whining miserably to other people about the rejections and the hardship and just feel extraordinarily blessed that I get to make stuff up and play around with words.
In order to do this, I need to have FUN. Last month there was ‘Adventurous Thursday’ (sign up to my mailing list to hear more about that) and last week there were cheese and pineapple on sticks. I want to give into fun, enjoyment, silliness and euphoria, in the full knowledge that it is NOT a waste of time and that it will eventually produce some beautiful words on a page. Do let me know how you’re having fun. I could use some more ideas.
2. Getting a Rhythm
On the other side of free play is the need to make sure that things don’t take too long. Posting on social media, blogging, promoting, fiddling with the website, looking through opportunities and deadlines – all of these things are useful but they won’t actually help me become a better writer. I’ve got strict little windows of time in the afternoon and am forbidden from going too far either way. When I found I was looking at the clock and realising I had thirty minutes left of my glorious afternoon where I would get SO much done, I decided to set an alarm. I don’t have a school bell anymore, so chopping up the day into pieces like this is starting to help me from gazing in dismay at my to-do list at the end of the week. Which leads to…
3. Being Realistic
In October I wrote a short story and two flash pieces. In November I didn’t write any new short stories at all. Then I looked at the word count for my memoir. I wrote 20,000 words about three different countries. While I’m certainly hoping that having fun and spending more time on writing means I’ll have more and varied ideas, writing is not a production line. If I’m creating a memoir, it’s not massively surprising that my short fiction has dried up. And vice versa. I can’t sit down and force a new story into being whenever I want to.
I’m trying to choose a couple of short story submissions I’m really interested in and starting to think about them at least three or four weeks in advance. That way I don’t end up staring at the screen thinking ‘I Need A Good Story Now!’ when the deadline is in a few days. I am a couple of months into writing full-time, and only seven years into writing ‘seriously.’ Seeing as I could only squeeze it between work and parenting, that’s not really a long time. Which in turn leads to…
4. Being Curious
It’s very hard not to measure myself against others. When everyone I follow on social media (pretty much) is into writing it’s hard not to think that the entire world is winning competitions/getting agents/publishing their seventeenth book/generally winning at life. What I don’t want to do is spend all this time waiting for some unspecified ‘success’ that will make me feel better about what everyone else is doing.
The thing is, I am successful. I have to feel like that otherwise why would I be doing this? Whether or not other people agree is hopefully a matter of time. The other thing is, I’m on a particular moment in my journey. Looking back at stuff I wrote years ago comparing it to now, it’s so interesting to see the way I’ve tried out new things, got fascinated by new topics or delved into an area of human life.
Writing is just so interesting. How other people do it, how I do it, what it can evoke. If, instead of measuring this journey against some sense of achievement, I just enjoyed it and got curious about the process, how much better would that be? Deciding to be interested instead of judgemental should lead back to my very first item. A lot more fun.
How do you balance your creativity and productivity? Please let me know @sarahtinsleyuk
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