Everyone’s creativity works in different ways. Some people’s creativity becomes a trickling spring after digging through a well of inspiration. Others take their dreams and turn them into realities one sketch at a time (Karl Lagerfeld was one of those). And then there are people like me, people who are overwhelmed with ideas. Creative thoughts come into our brains at the most inconvenient times, storming in front of current work like a squall in open water. With the roughness with which these ideas appear, they are also as transient and as careless as the wind. One moment an idea is there and the next it is gone, leaving me in turmoil if I should reset my sails, or stay the course.
Being an incredible brainstormer should be fabulous in theory, but in practice, it is difficult to harness. My ideas trip over themselves, crowd each other and make it challenging to both focus and stay on task. A great new blog idea can plop into my lap before I have even finished the three I have on deck. This makes me want to rush through projects, to think onto the next thing without completing the task in front of me to its fullest extent. I have a backlog of posts, novel ideas, screenplays, and short stories in a working list on my computer — each one would take weeks or months to complete in themselves. And yet more ideas come, one after the other, that sometimes I feel like I’m being bombarded by my brain.
It’s a tsunami.
In fact, I have so much overflow that my husband regularly uses my creative ideas too (he’s currently executing a photography project I came up with for his long-distance hike!).
All this to say, that lately, I’ve been demanding too much from my creativity. I’m trying to tell it what to do, but it just won’t listen. It won’t allow me to slow it down and so I’ve been trying to both fight it and appease it, wresting with control while feeling pressure to move faster even if I’m sloppy. It’s tiresome, and I end up feeling like I’m not doing anything particularly well.
Right now, I’m in the process of finishing the first draft of my first novel. I’ve set a task to complete a certain number of words a day and am nearly there. What I should do is only work on my book. But what I’m doing, in reality, is: writing my book, learning French, taking gardening classes, writing a blog, taking photographs, brainstorming logo designs, stressing over a lack of Halloween costumes, trying to get the smell out of a 100-year-old trunk, organizing a basement, reading ten books at once, and trying to take care of myself. Can you see the predicament? I’ve thrown myself headfirst into my creativity, but now it is pulling me apart at the seams.
The problem is, I like to complete things I start. I want to check tasks off so much that sometimes I think I am more addicted to that sensation than actually completing the job in the first place. It’s permission to drop something I’m carrying around with me in my mind. I have too many bags open that I’ve spread all my resources thin!
This is the fallacy of the world we live in today, where we’re encouraged to work all the time without gaps, to manage interruptions seamlessly and to not take time to focus on one thing at a time (NO, MULTI-TASKING DOESN’T WORK!). We lack appreciation for the amount of time it takes to do something well, and are often in disbelief that it takes time to build good things. It’s like those signs at delicious lunch places: “Good Food Takes Time.” Well, so does creative work. I don’t want to be the person who can churn out 500 articles a year, where most of them never get a second read. I want to be someone who does less, but with purpose — someone who can build marvels. I think of a creative hero of mine, Christine McConnell, who goes months between social media posts and dives in headfirst on whatever project she’s completing. She doesn’t care that people have to wait or that she has other ideas on deck — it’s all in on one cake at a time.
I try to remind myself that I have to breathe, take on less, and move from one creative idea to the next without adding the pressure of looking far ahead. SLOW DOWN often flashes into my head as the most important thing I should be doing each day. Because hurrying along is not how you get better at things. It’s not how you excel. And it’s certainly not the best way to get great things done. Great things take focus and many small tasks to complete, but you have to give yourself the time to do it.
This is me taking the time.
Thanks so much for reading She’s So Bright! I may be changing my writing pace, but don’t worry, I’m still moving furiously behind the scenes – all to bring unique content to you!