Loosen up your inner boss: important flexibility

10How to keep a writer writing: organisation, and flexible continuity — or continuous flexibility?

Creativity as such isn’t that hard to come by. Ideas can come in snippets or not at all, but you could still be writing — or not. It all depends on your inner boss and her willingness to adapt to stay productive. Her flexibility under pressure.

Having ideas is of course vital to being a creative person. Organising those ideas into something you can work with, and continue to keep at it, is the formula for getting things finished.

Organisation
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my own too-tidy list

For artists of all kind, organising the ideas and creative sparks into something workable can be the biggest challenge. Prioritise if the list gets too long. I do that with pen and paper, old-fashioned but suitable for my brain.

Do whatever suits you, but keep an eye on what needs to be done when. A list prevents me from ignoring little or uncomfortable stuff. Every morning, before I start to work, I remind myself what needs to be done and especially of the good feeling ONCE it is done and can be crossed out.

Having a plan to keep track of all the little things is vital to clear my brain for the more creative tasks. I can relax, and while writing, put the list away and out of view.

And then, time and again, life happens. I had this grand plan of writing a specific short story, just because the muse demanded I’d let myself go a little and just have fun in between editing and sorting stuff. But I have kids, and they will keep messing with my schedules for years to come, I fear. It’s what happens, and of course I never hesitate to put them first. But that dreadful sound of the phone and then the familiar number on the display…noooo, another working day gone!

Or there are other people slowing things down. I don’t hear back from someone whose help I need before I can go on. I wait and wait, and my brain can’t focus on something else entirely. Switching over, staying flexible, can be a difficult challenge for creative people. It requires a certain mindset and mood, depending on what needs to be done.

And then there are days when I am my own biggest enemy. I want to work, I was looking forward to it, but then…it doesn’t even have to be social media. I can be staying down, flat on my back, on my yoga mat, my body and mind to heavy and tired to get up and stagger to the desk. I’m also easily distracted and annoyed. It takes just the kids to be IN the house, even if they’re looked after by my wonderful husband to give me writing time, but when I can hear them or sense them around my door…little gets done.

The recipe for success and to avoid bad feelings is, of course, to continue, but flexible. Don’t beat yourself up. We all know that creativity’s worst enemy is pressure. But we need pressure to stay at it. To continue and move on and get things done.

Continuity

So having a plan and be organised is good and the most important thing if you’re doing this writer-thing seriously. Being productive when everything is in order is easy, but we have to stay flexible for the aforementioned incidents, too. A third to a half of my days can be like that…being hindered in some way. Not doing what I planned to do.

The problematic thing for me is my bad conscience. I had a plan, but less than I hoped got done. Or nothing really. Or nothing I could pinpoint or count in words or pages. So I feel bad. But then I remind myself: the creative process isn’t all about organised lists that can be ticked off at the end of the day. It’s much more complex than that, and most of it can’t be seen by onlookers. It IS still work! And I achieved stuff that maybe hasn’t got a label, but I moved on nevertheless. The benefits of flexibility are what I learn in yoga. So I try to be flexible about what point of my list is being done when, too. back_bend_bridge

Flexibility

So in case I can’t drag my heavy body off of that yoga mat, and my head is nagging you wanted to write, you wanted to finish that scene, but I’m just not feeling it…there are two options. I can force myself to the desk and hope that I can get my creative juices flowing by my pure presence.

Or I can stay down, flat on my back, and play it differently. I let my mind wander to the story I had intended to write. I sharpen it in my head, brainstorm ideas, dialogue snippets, settings, characters. If my body’s not willing, maybe my brain takes over. I can go through my mental list of things and make a decision as to what exactly I will do first, once I made it to the desk. Without delay.

The longer I avoid the actual writing/editing/whatever, the longer I need to work later. Which shortens my lunch break. Can I live with that, I ask myself while I stare at the ceiling? If yes, I can stay down and enjoy the flatness of my back and let my mind wander. If not, I get such a fright that I jump up and go do the work rather now than later. Because I enjoy lunch break. I always reward myself after a productive day (with an episode of Escape to the Country, ahem, and chocolate). That’s luckily how my conscience works.

Or if I get stuck in traffic or at the doc’s longer than planned, I can get furious about the shortened writing time. Or I can choose to go into creative mood and inwardly work on the several stories I always have cooking on my novel- or short story-burner while I wait to get to my desk. Which means: ALWAYS have a notepad at hand, or your phone. Of course we don’t remember the important ideas once we get to that desk, and we all know that.

So what I’m saying is: be organised, know your tasks. But be flexible about what to do when, and how. Avoid the frustration when things don’t go as planned, and embrace the freedom of being your own boss.

Instead of forcing my brain to be creative, staring at the screen with building anger, I can also take a long walk through the fields or forest. Which works MUCH better than the confines of my office. I’ve solved MANY story-issues while walking (or showering, babysitting, driving…everything that doesn’t look forced to my brain). So no bad conscience there: time away from the desk and out in nature IS work, too. I’m an artist, ha! We work in so many different styles and colours.

Keep at it! If life or your own self trips you up: an artist’s work is done in many, many ways.

HAPPY WRITING!diary_journal_book

Go on, tell us about your own processes and trip-ups, we need to share what works or doesn’t, and especially learn that we mustn’t be too hard on our delicate writers’ souls! Please comment below:

 

Comments (2)

  1. Avatar

    Kendra Olson 27.06.2016 at 12:30

    Hi Sarah, Thanks for a very timely and useful post. It’s so easy to forget about all the subconscious thought processes which have to happen before an idea even gets written down. Have you heard of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron? It’s a coursebook for artists wanting to become more creative. I’m currently doing the course for the second time with some writer friends. It’s interesting because she teaches you to see all the little traps (or blocks) which artists encounter (and create for themselves) and ways to overcome them and see things differently–much as you’ve done in your post.

    • sarah

      sarah 27.06.2016 at 13:04

      Hi Kendra, thanks so much for your insights, and — I can’t believe you mention the very book that is on my nightstand at this moment! I plan to do her course with my writing buddy very soon, but am happy you say I have understood some of it already 😉 So there’s hope… Enjoy your week and happy writing!

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