The Creative Process: takes time and flexibility

January 24, 2014 Writing  No comments

The Creative Process series is my way of trying to understand how creative people create.

Time can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the creative process, as least for me.

Creating takes time. It takes time to be inspired, to hone your craft, to produce, to rewrite, to see things clearly, to produce the best possible art you can create. And this is completely counter-intuitive to what American culture drills into our heads about producing more, faster, better.

Even in the writing business, it’s all about producing more content and better content, at a faster pace. And while there are those writers out there that can write, produce, and publish two or three books a year, plus bonus material for their websites, plus have a day job, plus have a family – I am not one of those writers.

And now that creating at such a high speed and volume is becoming the norm (kind of like how you need a Master’s degree at the minimum to even start in a lot of fields these days), the expectations are stressful and honestly, take all the fun out of it for me.

So taking a step back, removing myself from those standards, is vital to my creativity. Because I’d rather produce one book a year that I love and am proud of and that is great, than two books a year that are ho-hum and lack luster.

One of the psychological experts on creativity, Rollo May, maintains that times of leisure and rest are vital to creativity. “Certainly Dionysian periods of abandon are valuable, particularly in our mechanized civilization where creativity and the arts are all but starved to death by the routine of punching clocks and attending endless committee meetings, and by the pressures to produce ever greater quantities of papers and books,” (The Courage to Create).

The thing about the creative process, is that it never rests. The artist is always thinking about their work or problems within their work at least on a subconscious level, if not a conscious level, until they reach a breakthrough. And sometimes, to get to that breakthrough, you have to step away from your work and relax after engaging with it so much.

To create and reach this breakthrough requires high awareness and degree of attention and sensitivity – and all of those things take a lot of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy. So artists need the freedom that comes in solitude and unpressurized time to lose themselves in their work or take a break from it.

But a lot of people are afraid of quiet time because they are afraid they are not going to like what they find. Because often it is in direct opposition to everything they’ve held on to as truth up until then. I don’t know how many times I have been so sure about something in my writing, only to step away for a day, and come back to realize that I was completely wrong.

This is where flexibility comes in at. “You have to be fully committed, but we must also be aware at the same time we might possibly be wrong,” (The Courage to Create).

As you are in the process of creating, you have to come from a place of both knowing yourself, but also always willing to learn more. To challenge yourself, to grow, and to learn. And to resist perfectionist tendencies. Art happens in the imperfect and the messy. Creativity spills forth when you allow yourself the space and freedom and time to explore all different tangents of thoughts and solutions.

And just like any home remodeling project, anticipate delays and difficulty. Things will pop up that you weren’t expecting, and you will have to deal with them and probably push your deadline further away. I’m not saying be lazy and unproductive, just flexible.

Some days you will produce more than you thought you would. Other days, you’ll produce nothing at all. Give yourself the freedom to create within the reality of the creative process. This is especially challenging for me because I like to have schedules and lists and stick to them. I like to write Monday – Friday from 8 AM to about 12 PM. I aim for about a chapter a week. In my ideal world, I would strictly write for those four hours without any distractions or being waylaid by Pintrest. Sometimes I can stick to it, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes those thirty minutes on the Internet guide me towards that feeling or scene I was trying to express.

All I’m saying is – producing art is important. After all, to be successful and express yourself you do actually have to do it. But you have to give yourself the time and freedom to be creative outside of time constraints so that your best work can come through.

Work hard and devote yourself. But be kind to yourself as well.

The creative process is confrontation, and requires courage, and takes time & flexibility – but it is most fundamentally, I believe, in the encounter of the artist with their imagination and inner world. Stay tuned for that post, The Creative Process: is encounter.

Until next time, farewell, and may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity.


photo cred: Jason Domogalla


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