I've been working on entries and realized I needed to get this burst of advice out, first, before I can go on in my narrative. Oh, I've been feeling so wonderful and happy and creative lately, and hope to pass these feelings along to you!
“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance. “
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Sitting down to work is, for me, the hardest part.
Once I sit down, things flow. I may hesitate a bit, or feel some resistance, but am working — paint on my fingers, sketches drawn, pieces created.
(For more on resistance, I really do recommend Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. It is one of my top books on creativity.)
On some days, even getting up can be a challenge. When we’re not feeling well, or are blue, or may be sore, we snuggle down into a comfortable position, perhaps in blankets or on a couch, and don’t want to move an inch. Perhaps work has been extra frustrating, or that drive home has sucked up the last of our energy. And when we’re in these periods of low energy, whether physically or emotionally, the last thing we want to do is get up and make art.
I know, for me, it’s a battle of wills — that is, me, the artist, and me, the woman with FMS. I want to do things. I want to get up and work in my journal. I want to throw paint on that big canvas I haven’t even taken out of the bag after three months. But the idea of getting up is difficult because it means moving and an outpouring of energy I’m afraid I don’t have. And when this happens a few days in a row, we’re apt to get angry at ourselves for not “doing more.”
There’s the urge to rationalize; I can work over the weekend. I was tired and couldn’t get up. I had too many things to do.
Then there’s the urge to blame someone else. Anyone close to us can become the reason we didn’t get to do all those creative things we were planning on doing — others impose on our plans and we jump at the opportunity to get out of working on something, only to regret it later.
Then there’s the urge to simply be angry with ourselves once we take a moment to look back — either prompted by catching sight of our creative space in the corner of our eye or someone we see online.
And suddenly, we wonder why we didn’t get up in the first place.
“So you see the imagination needs moodling — long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”
Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
If You Want to Write is another of my favorite books on creativity, and on those days when I don’t seem to make it to my creative space, this quote calms me. It’s one of quiet reassurance, that maybe, just today, I did all my creative work in my head.
Do you remember daydreaming as a child? Do you still find your mind wandering to color or image or far-away lands? What would our creative dreams be without those dreamed up while awake, prompted by a color or image or beautiful piece of fabric?
When it comes down to it, if we were all action, all the time, we’d soon run out of things to craft and paint. Instead, we’d be moving, moving, but never really saying anything at all.
“It’s vital to establish some rituals — automatic but decisive patterns of behavior — at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.”
Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
I think Twyla Tharp says it best. Without a ritual, without that push against resistance, we’re more apt to let the days pass without paying any attention to our journals and paint brushes, markers and scraps of paper. If each time you make a cup of tea, you sit down to write, then soon, you’ll easily make tea and write. If you get up and walk across the room, you’ll be more apt to sit down and get to work.
Or get to play. Whatever it is that brings you joy, you simply need to get up, walk to your creative space, and take a seat.