The Practice of Creativity

If I Move You Up On My To-Do List, Creative Self, Will You Be My Valentine?

Posted on: February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m delighted to welcome writer and She Writes friend Juliet Greenwood to the final installment in the ‘Love Your Creative Self’ series. My reflection and the follow-up to the exercise ‘Welcoming the Creative’ follow.


By accepting her for what she is. Understanding there are times she needs to hide away on her own, in solitude and silence. Knowing this is the way she works, and is not an avoidance of the world. Having faith that she will return to enjoy the company of others, when she is ready.

By knowing that she cannot live without the food of beauty, good books, laughter and, at times, wine.

By loving her in all her moods: without makeup, her hair unbrushed, and just slightly fragile round the edges.

By loving her the way those who truly love, and would not have me any other way, love me.

Juliet Greenwood is the author of ‘Eden’s Garden’, published by Honno Press in March 2012. Check out Juliet’s website:

In the ‘LYCS’ series, I wanted us to asses our relationship to our creative self and creative projects. Juliet’s post reminds us that the creative self has its own needs and desires. Just like any other relationship that we value, we must make time for our creativity. And, just like any other relationship, feelings of pleasure, kindness and affection make us and others feel good. By starting off with feelings of love and friendship for our creative self and long term creative projects, we may discover that we can muster up the energy to find out what we want to do next and how to get support for it.

Getting your creative projects to migrate from the bottom to the top of your 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 notes 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 something I want you to remember: No one ever does the last thing on their to-do list.”

Gore’s hypothetical list looks like anyone’s and she makes a compelling case that we’ll always lose out if creativity ends up at the bottom of our to-do lists. I don’t think moving creativity up on our to-do lists is just a physical act though; it’s a psychological one, too. It’s about declaring, ‘I desire to create and I claim the time.’ And, the moment we do that, we’re bound to wake up some part of ourselves that is going to argue. So, sometimes we avoid making more space for creativity because we’re not psychologically prepared to deal with the inner critic, judge, or evaluator. That’s a thread for another blog post. Let’s say, for sake of argument, that you’ve had those conversations with the inner critic and have managed to come to some sort of temporary arrangement that allows you to create periodically without a lot of drama or shame.

How might you reorder your to-do list to move creativity up? I’ve adapted Gore’s to-do list example to include creative breaks and motivation throughout the day.

-Wake up (for a lot of people waking up a half hour earlier to work on their creative stuff is an important strategy)

-Stay in bed for at least 1 minute telling yourself one reason you’ve woken up is to create something new. (Or, you can use a positive statement, “I am filled with creative potential.”)

-Shower (showering or bathing is a perfect time to remind yourself of what creative thing you’re working on)

-Make breakfast

-Take kids to school/walk dogs/etc

-5-15 minute Creative Break—do a writing prompt; draw/sketch, assemble your packets of seeds for the beautiful garden you are planning (Creativity expert SARK uses the concept of micromovements to break tasks into manageable segments of 5 seconds to 5 minutes. Very effective!)

-Put a load in the laundry

-Dress and go to work

-On the way to work, instead of listening to the radio, take a few minutes and talk out loud about what else you’d like to get done on your creative project today.


-5-15 minute Creative Break during lunch-your lunch break is a perfect time to do some writing, surf the web for research that will help your creative project along, order needed supplies for a creative project, or take a book on creativity with you and read for 15 minutes while you eat. If you need a recommendation, I have chronicled some of the best creativity books of the decade here.

-On the way home from work, turn off the radio and enjoy some quiet time, this also feeds your intention to create more. Keep a small notebook and a pen handy so you can record your musings at a stoplight.

-Pick up kids/pay bills/feed dogs, etc

-Say hello to partner, spouse, etc

-Run out to store for forgotten ingredient for dinner

-Make dinner

-Collapse in front of TV and eat dinner

-5-15 Minute Creative Break: Turn off TV and excuse yourself for this last creativity break (you’ll have to tell yourself, yes you have the energy for it)

-Put kids to bed/take dog for a walk/take shower, etc

-Sleep (and tell your subconscious you’d like it to supply you with ideas for your creative project tomorrow)

So this to-do list may not model yours exactly. Yours may not have kids or it might have an hour at the gym. What’s important for sustaining creativity is finding dedicated time throughout the day. There are of course times that we will have to get up an hour earlier or spend a chunk of time on the weekend to complete a creative project we’re working on. But, more often than not, we don’t do the daily work of keeping ourselves connected to what matters most—our creative lives—because we believe that either we’ll get to it later (after everything else), or that we need a BIG chunk of time. If those beliefs have worked well for your creative output, hats off. If not, experiment with moving creativity to the top of your to-do list by integrating smaller chunks of time throughout the day.

Welcoming the Creative-Part 2

I heard from many folks that they enjoyed Deena Metzger’s ‘Welcoming the Creative’ exercise posted last week. That exercise encourages us to think about the requirements of a creative life and what we must do to nurture it. Also the exercise reminds us that we can be gifted with the creative at any point in our lives. If you want more, you might want to try the next part of the exercise:

Yes, the creative has been assigned to your house. What must you do to prepare? Write the moment in which it arrives. Then write the first day. What are its needs and demands? How can you meet them? Do you meet them? What happens that is unexpected?

Now the creative has been with you for a year. How do the two of you live your daily life? What relationship have you established? Again, what is transpiring between you that is unexpected?

Adapted from Deena Metzger’s Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds

Thanks to everyone who wrote for the LYCS series and for all the wonderful feedback.

Photo Credit:

2 Responses to "If I Move You Up On My To-Do List, Creative Self, Will You Be My Valentine?"

I definitely need to apply these strategies. Loved the post and tweeted it for you.


Thanks, Julie! I would love to join Twitter universe sometime soon. Let me know how integrating your 5-15 minute creativity breaks go!


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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