It seems my creativity and my productivity both sag when I have too much time on my hands. How so? In a world where we constantly complain about the demands on our time. So many competing priorities -- write the next book, write a blog, do social media, study a craft book, take a course on marketing. There is never enough time to do all the things a modern-day writer is expected to do. How can I have too much time on my hands?
There are a few answers. One of them is holidays. Over the Christmas period, I put away any pretence of writing. Physically my time is consumed with dozens of tasks that must be completed in a short time frame. Mentally, my mind is whirling with all the lists and people I must remember. There is no time or room for dreaming up a story. I can barely keep up with personal e-mails.
But once the holidays are over, I feel lost. The cooking, cleaning, visiting, entertaining, singing, worshipping, partying and decorating that consumed my days are finished, but I've lost my normal routine. I wander from room to room, pick up a book, put it down, stare at the left-overs in the fridge and close the door without taking anything out, I look at the pile of bills on my desk and walk away. I'm unsettled, anxious, irritable and frustrated. My well of creativity may not be dry, by the lid is firmly nailed down.
Since this situation repeats itself every year, I've discovered some coping mechanisms. First, I look for a small, concrete task that I can finish in a short time, something like balancing the cheque book. Having accomplished that one thing, I look about for the next. At this point, I often make a list, including short-term, long-term, small and large tasks. Then I start with the smaller items, gaining confidence and satisfaction as I tick them off, one after another. I pick up the rhythm of work and rest, physical and mental exercise. I re-learn how to make decisions, how to prioritize and how to let my mind wander.
When I'm ready to go back to writing, I usually start with editing. Words already written. As I read, re-write, move paragraphs around, find a better word, hammer out a satisfying phrase, my imagination wakes, crawling out from under the pile of "must do's" that have held it captive. I move into new writing, blogs, morning pages, a new scene in the wip.
The well is filling, ideas tumbling over each other in their race to be first; words, soft and mystical, strong and heroic bubble up from the bottom, blowing the lid off. My well is deep and turbulent, rich and diverse. My fingers fly over the keyboard, my spirits soar. I am writing!
Morgan finds her inspiration in the headlines. Diane dreams over the ironing board. I thrive on routine.
What about you, dear readers? Does the "shiny new thing," beckon you, does inspiration strike when you're busy with something else, or do you ground yourself in the stability of routine? Please share your strategies.
The cat? She likes routine too, mostly it involves a lot of sleeping on my bed.:-)
Alice Valdal lives in Beautiful British Columbia, Canada