I am delighted and honored to have been chosen as the ‘Creative Genius of the Week’ by creativity coach and author Susan C. Guild. I met ‘Suz’ two years ago through a life-changing online writing program called ‘Write it Now’ (WINS), hosted by the brilliant Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy aka ‘SARK’. Every time I read something by Suz or heard her speak on the class calls, I was inspired and felt that I had met a kindred spirit. We share a similar approach to exploring creativity as a path to self-discovery. Suz is an author, entrepreneur and creator of ‘Wake Up Your Magic’. Through WUYM, she hosts an amazing monthly teleshare where she interviews creative professionals, hosts workshops and offers products and services focused on connecting people to their creativity. I love Suz’s fun approach to life and living her purpose through teaching the transformative power of creative practices. And, I am very appreciative that she has been a great believer in my work.
Suz is featuring some of my best and juiciest blog posts as part of the ‘Creative Genius of the Week’ series on her Wake Up Your Magic Facebook page (see Nov 23 onward). Also explore her Wake Up Your Magic website.
This week a colleague of mine sent me an article about productivity, “7 Super Common Habits That Productive People Ditch (Because Who Has Time for That?)”
This is a great article as it highlights behavior that can derail us at work. The author presents compelling research and evidence that the habits listed below make us less effective. However, I also looked at this list and thought that many of these habits can hamper creative work, too. I used the categories as a jumping off point for thinking about how these habits affect our creative aspirations and how we can change them.
1. Checking Email Constantly
Guilty! When I’m not fully committed to writing or I don’t know what to write next, email becomes a constant temptation. It’s so immediately rewarding.
Solution: Take 5-7 minutes at the beginning of your writing session to outline your goal for that time. And make the goal manageable and specific. So, instead of, “I’ll work on Chapter 3,” try instead, “I’ll add sensory details to the second scene in Chapter 3.”
2. Waiting for Things to Be Perfect
Perfectionism is a type of inner critic. Often perfectionism is about delaying anticipated possible rejection or disapproval of one’s work.
Solution: Let others know that you intend to submit your manuscript (or whatever you want to get accomplished), by a certain date. Post it on Facebook or social media where people will hold you accountable. Savor the experience of letting something go. Remind yourself that if something of yours is rejected, that’s OK. You’ll survive.
I find that I multitask when I have anxiety about doing the next aspect of a task, especially if I don’t have a clear sense of what I need to do. Or, if I think that the task is going to be very difficult. It’s easier to do several things to avoid the challenge of deeply focusing on one thing. Multitasking is often a creativity killer. Creativity needs our focus and presence.
Solution: Ask yourself, are you multitasking because you haven’t efficiently budgeted the appropriate time for your creative work? Are you multitasking because you are stuck? If you need help with something, reach out to your creative community.
4. Inviting Interruptions
Don’t you hate when you are in the flow of your creative work and someone interrupts you? It’s imperative that you set up the optimal conditions so that you won’t be interrupted.
Solution: For some people that means putting a sign on their door letting others know that they are unavailable for a certain period of time.
5. Being Disorganized
Being disorganized according to many organizational experts is when you can’t get your hands on needed information within 2 minutes. I like to give myself a bit of a broader time period. I should be able to find something within a half hour or less. Can you find things in your studio? Do you have a record of where you are submitting your stories? Do you capture your great ideas in places where you can easily find them later?
Solution: Schedule quarterly cleaning and organizing sessions. Need more tips of how to get started getting your creative space organized and not get overwhelmed? See my spring cleaning for the creative life posts.
6. Failing to Delegate
This is a hard one as most creative professionals are juggling multiple jobs, a family and other commitments.
Solution: More support is always a good thing. Are there things on your to-do list that you can trade with someone else, even for a short period of time? I’ve known writers who detested writing query letters and so traded this task with another writer. They then completed a task that their writer friend found difficult.
7. Never Saying No
Creative work takes time of all sorts, including incubating, developing and implementing. If you habitually say yes to things that don’t support your creative life, you’ll find yourself frustrated and resentful.
Solution: Practice saying no ten different ways. Eliminate what’s not essential and things that drain your energy.
Do you have any of these habits? If so, how are you working on them?
See the full article here.
If you wish to live a self-directed life, you have to change your relationship to time.
–Marney Markidakis, author of Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life
In July, I asked readers to take a one question poll and answer the following: What is the biggest obstacle you face in your creative life?
The overwhelming response was ‘finding consistent time to work on projects’. Time is always an issue for creative people.
What’s your story about time? Not the predictable one that you say on autopilot, but the one that is authentic.
We often tell a well-rehearsed story about how little time we have and why we can’t get to our creative work. I find that fear, lack of focus, unwillingness to prioritize (especially if it means we will disappoint someone), and procrastination keeps people locked into a story of ‘time scarcity’.
Here are some questions to help you dig underneath what is perhaps a familiar story:
-What’s something that you love that you never have time to do?
-What do you always make time for that you don’t want to do?
-Where is there ease and richness of time in your life?
-What kind of time does your creative life really need (e.g. daily creating time, dedicated weekend time once a month, a two week retreat)?
What needs to change about your allocation of time in order for your creative project to flourish?
Do you have models of creative people that you know (or have read about), that have inspired you by the way they use time?
These questions can bring to the surface thoughts and feelings about your experience of time and suggest new possibilities about how to use your time. As creative people, we must learn to manage our time and energy like a top level athlete. As author Marney Markidakis says in her wonderful book Creating Time, “the beast of time can never be fully tamed, but it can be disciplined, nourished, and cared for.”
Here are 3 ways to create more time:
1) Schedule it in. Yes, time for your creative project needs to be in your calendar.
Getting your creative projects to migrate from the bottom to the top of your to-do list is no easy feat. Ariel Gore makes this point in her witty book, How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. She says that most of us believe that making time for creative work is selfish, so we put it at the end of our to-do lists:
“And then we kick ourselves because the novel isn’t written. We look down at our laps and blush when our writing teacher asks us if we got a chance to write this week. Of course we didn’t get a chance to write—it was the last thing on our list. We had a glass of wine with dinner. We got sleepy. I’m going to tell you something, and it’s something I want you to remember: No one ever does the last thing on their to-do list.”
I write every day. For me, writing every day keeps my momentum going. I typically do an hour of academic writing in the morning and an hour of creative work in the evening throughout the week. My academic writing is scheduled in my calendar. My creative work is scheduled in my calendar. It’s what keeps me sane.
If creating every day doesn’t work for you, find consistent periods of time that do and then schedule them into your calendar.
2) Develop a better reward system. Over the long journey of creating, producing good work becomes its own reward. However, for those of us just starting to pursue a creative path, may need motivation and encouragement to keep saying yes to our projects. Reward systems can be big or small and can be connected to time and/or output. This year is the first year that I have kept an active rewards list for meeting writing goals. About every few weeks, I’m checking that list to see what I have earned. The rewards list can keep me going through the really tough periods where writing doesn’t feel like its going well.
3) Work in smaller blocks of time. Creative people often pine for days of uninterrupted time, but as a coach, I’m often in the position of pointing out to clients that what time they have is not always used well. Creativity expert Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (aka SARK) uses the concept of micromovements to break tasks into manageable segments of 5 seconds to 5 minutes. Very effective! She believes that creative people often assign themselves too big of a task. And, then when they don’t meet that often impossible task, their inner critics come leaping out to point out their lack of completion.
What can you do in smaller bursts of time?
You can do a writing prompt; draw/sketch, assemble your packets of seeds for the beautiful garden you are planning. She refers to micromovements as an ‘ignition system’. Once you are able to get yourself started, you can keep going after the short amount of time is up. Check out her books The Bodacious Book of Succulence and Make Your Creative Dreams Real for lots of information on micromovements technique.
Do you have some favorite ways to create time? I’d love to hear.
Have you noticed a slight chill in the air? Have you been marveling at the changing colors of the leaves? Have you started to think about unpacking your fall sweaters?
Autumn is here and it requests our attention. At each change of season, I turn to Seasons of Grace: The Life-Giving Practice of Gratitude by Alan Jones and John O’Neil. Seasons of Grace traces gratitude through the metaphor of the four seasons, encouraging readers to practice gratitude in new ways. It’s a remarkable book that has taught me so much about the power of gratitude as a foundational practice.
I have found that gratitude is a creativity enhancer. The more that we can cultivate gratitude, the more we can withstand the ups and downs, the boons and dry spells of a creative life.
They begin their chapter on autumn in this way:
“The fruits of the harvest are gathered and stored. The trees shed their leaves and reveal their true forms. The days grow shorter and darker, reminding us of how brief our time on earth really is. It’s autumn: a season for reflecting on what it means to be truly alive, and for giving thanks for the gifts an authentic life bestows.
It’s no coincidence that autumn and authenticity are linguistic cousins. Both share the Latin root aut-, meaning “to increase or grow.” Autumn brings the harvest bounty: the earth’s increase. Authenticity brings the reward of increased self-knowledge and awareness, of a life augmented (another word cousin!) through integrity. As autumn represents the ripening of the crops, so authenticity represents the coming into maturity of our characters. The link is gratitude, which allows us to ground ourselves in humility and recognize our authentic nature. When we live gratefully, we become more truly ourselves.”
Autumn presents us with an opportunity to reflect on our inner and outer harvests. Here are some writing prompts to feed your creative impulses as you explore the gifts of fall:
-Look at the following two words—autumn and authenticity. What connections between these two words do you sense?
-What’s most authentic in your creative work right now?
-When do you feel the most authentic? Alone? With others? At work? In nature?
-Write about the gifts from summer. What came to fruition? What didn’t? What are you letting go of for fall?
-What is your creative bounty?
-Finish the sentence: If I were living more authentically, I would…
-What are the 10 things you’re grateful for right now?
-Explore the list of seasonal words and phrases below. Pick one or two words or phrases that carry the most energy for you and free write about them for 5 minutes. Then choose one or two words or phrases that carry the least energy for you and free write about them for 5 minutes.
I’d love to hear your reflections on any of these prompts!
Seasonal Words and Phrases
Inner and Outer Harvest
Light and Shadow
The out breath
The in breath
Change of color
Change of form
Wheel of seasons
Season of preparation
Living in gratitude
The harvest is stored
Lady of the Sunset
Ripening into autumn
Gathering and storing
Wonder and Awe
Winds of Change