Creativity is great – when you can find it. It makes writing flow and work feel easy. When you can’t find it, though, do you know where to look for your creativity?
A lot of people I’ve talked to recently don’t know where to look – I've had several conversations go something like this:
Me: How are things going?
Them: Okay, I guess. It feels like I should be able to do more work since things are quiet and I'm not going anywhere this month, but I just can't.
They then go on to talk about how they really must be more disciplined and productive. If this sounds like you, keep reading – there is a kinder and more effective way to find the creativity that will allow you to be more ‘productive’ (I’ll come back to this word in a future blog post – for now, I’ll just say that productivity for productivity’s sake will never make you happy or wealthy).
Will discipline make you productive?
No! Lashing yourself to your laptop until you do all the things will not produce the results you’re looking for. Doing this won’t help you finish a book that will serve your readers and your business. Nor will it actually help you grow your business – writing and scheduling dozens of uninspired social media posts because the marketing whiz of the moment said so won’t actually fill your programme.
If discipline won’t restore your creativity or make you a better writer, what will? Nurturing your creativity will – you respond better to positive experiences than you do to deprivation, discipline, or punishment. I was reminded of this recently when I reread a chapter called "The Well" in Julia Cameron's The Right to Write.
Whether you think of yourself as a writer or not, if you're a business owner, you are a writer. Think of all the writing you've done (or felt you should do) lately: emails, newsletters, blog posts, sales pages, social media posts, comments on other people's social media posts.
It's all writing - you don't have to be the next Jane Austen, George Eliot, or Elizabeth Barrett Browning to "qualify" as a writer!
Another thing we need to be clear on is that all writing is creative. When you write something, you are bringing something into the world that wasn't here before - that is the definition of creation.
So, back to the chapter from Cameron's book. In "The Well", Cameron talks about the need to replenish our creative well. When we don't take the time to do this, we can't write - or for business owners, we can't work.
Do you really need to do more research?
As business owners, it’s hard to see taking time away from work as a tool to improve our work. I think this is why I hear so many blocked writers saying they need to do more research, get another qualification, or wait until they have more experience (because apparently, several successful years in business hasn’t given them that <<insert eye roll here>>).
Cameron discusses this disconnect between taking a break and being productive as follows:
One of the mysteries of the writing life is the fact that an investment of interest in column A – let us say, listening to a great piece of music – will pay off obliquely when we set pen to paper on an entirely different topic. We can perhaps understand the value of doing reading and research directly connected to a piece of work, but we have a harder time seeing the value of self-enrichment simply for its own sake. We want our cause and effect to be more linear, but writing rarely works like that. (p. 65)
If you’re like most of the writers I coach, you’ll benefit far more from taking breaks than from researching the topic you’re writing about. Why? Because you’re already an expert in your field. If you’ve been coaching (or working as an accountant, a healer, …) for years, you have enough knowledge to write your next newsletter, blog post, or book. What you need is to accept that cause and effect aren’t always linear; you need to take a break to restock your creative stores. Then you'll be able to write.
Take yourself on a date
Though Cameron titled her chapter "The Well" – and she does discuss the creative well – she puts far more focus on a different metaphor for creativity: the well-stocked fishing pond. As she explains, when writing is going well, we're taking from the stock. If we don't make a point of restocking it, we'll struggle to catch anything.
How do we restock as creatives? We take ourselves on what Cameron calls an 'Artist Date'. On an artist date, you go somewhere interesting, ideally on your own. Taking time to do something that stimulates your mind and senses replenishes your stock so you can write again.
Why on your own? Because you need to be able to focus on your experiences and feelings - that's easier to do without companions. If you can't get out on your own, do the best you can and be kind to yourself.
Where do you go on an artist date? Anywhere that you can be totally immersed in your surroundings - to the beach, a craft store, a museum. If you're not able to get out, make a point of doing something consciously and pleasant (but that's not word or narrative based) for at least an hour - really focus on listening to music, play an instrument, bake a cake. Try to take a different adventure each time - you don't want your dates to become stale or predictable.
When you're writing a 'normal' amount (whatever that looks like for you), aim for one artist date a week. When you're writing more than normal, make time for two dates a week.
How will an Artist Date help your writing?
Depending on where you go and what you do, you may find yourself writing about your artist date. More often though, you’ll find that making a point of living a richer, more varied life enriches your writing.
You see, your brain likes the challenge of thinking about lots of different things. So when each day looks exactly like the last, you get bored and your writing is either stale or blocked. Cameron says “if we lead a life that is too narrow, too focused, too oriented toward our goals, we will find our writing lacks flavor, is thin on the nutrients that make it both savory and sustaining” (65). In other words, if you don’t take the time to nourish your creativity, you’ll starve it.Since I try to remember to take my own advice, here are three images from one of my recent artist dates – to the Hurlers Stone Circles near Liskeard, Cornwall: 1: Grazing mare with her foal (both are brown and white); 2) One of the stones up close; 3) landscape shot of one of the stone circles from a distance.
Let me help you find your creativity
As business owners, we need to nurture our creativity, so I’ve created a new workshop that helps you do just that: 'Stop Waiting for Inspiration to Create Good Content - Learn how to take control of your creativity' (£35).
I often say, writing really doesn't need to be as hard as most of us were taught to make it. But it is only ever truly easy when our creative stores are well stocked. In this workshop, I'll teach you how to nurture your creativity and show you what to do if you get blocked (this happens to all of us).
Everyone who signs up will get access to the replay and a link to book a free 20-minute coaching call with me. I'll also send all registrants a code to get their first month in the EBC for free - this workshop is the EBC workshop for September.