A few years back, I drove to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (OBX) and attempted to beat writer’s block and generate something interesting. Writing isn’t magic, although it can feel magical. It’s intentional and takes great effort, which is why I didn’t sit around waiting for lightning to strike. In my downtime, I took a bunch of yoga classes, ate eggs benedict with extra hollandaise sauce and no meat, and went on long hikes.
When I arrived in OBX, I spent time on two exercises: I listed qualities about myself that are genuine and self-affirming, and then I spent some time thinking about my barriers to creativity.
So here’s what leads me to believe that I can live a creative and fulfilling life without running out to OBX every six months for a detox.
First of all, I’m an athlete. I’m not only a marathoner, but I’m fit and healthy. Even when I’m lazy and shoving Girl Scout cookies in my piehole (or cookiehole), I’m more active than most people. I can push through adversity, which means that I can also push through writer’s block and cloudy thinking. I’m also an ambassador for the things I love. It applies to everything from brands to people to animal rights, so I can certainly use that dynamic energy to advocate on behalf of my artistic endeavors.
That’s all pretty good. I sound like a badass, right? Well, then I created a list of barriers to creativity. Good grief, I have some challenges.
Everybody knows that I’m cynical. It’s an informed cynicism, but sometimes it’s also unrelenting and obsessive. It gets in the way of everything. I also know a lot about my work ethic, and none of it is very good. I work fast, not hard. I rely on my natural abilities. When those fail me, I play the blame game. I like to blame the internet, my colleagues, and even George W. Bush. When I’m not blaming, I’m complaining. That’s just shameful.
Good news? I can see a path forward. The first step is to craft a writing schedule that incorporates my strengths but addresses my weaknesses. For me, that means planning time during my day to write quickly and let it go. I will also schedule a time where I can get outside, be an athlete in some capacity, and work with my cynicism in a very physical way.
Those are easy fixes on paper, but harder to address in real life. We’ll see how it goes.
But here’s what I learned in OBX that might be helpful to you.
- However you do it, it’s essential to experience and express your natural abilities on a regular basis. Those attributes that make you marvelous and spectacular are the very same tools that will help you tolerate uncomfortable moments and roadblocks.
- Even in our overscheduled world, you have time to express your gifts daily. Your calendar might feel like an enemy, but it can be your best friend.
- Deliberate, daily efforts will facilitate creativity. Take out a sheet of paper right now. Get an old fashioned pencil, too. Get over your distaste of hippie-dippie team-building exercises and write down a few qualities about yourself that are genuine and self-affirming. Now take a minute and marvel at your badass self. When you’re slogging through a crappy meeting or telling your kids to clean their rooms for the fifth time, peek at your list.
You don’t need to plan an expensive retreat or a week away from your kids, although that never hurts. You just need to start by making a commitment to creativity in some small way on a daily basis. Start small. Keep your list of natural abilities handy. And invest time and effort thinking about how tomorrow can be a little different than today.
It works. I promise.