We always hear people saying “find joy in the journey”. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how this relates to creativity as well as to life.
I am finding freedom in embracing the whole creative process, aka the journey, from inspiration and preparation through creativity and clean up.
I used to think creativity was just the making of a thing, like when you go to one of those paint classes where you just show up and make something. Instead, true creative efforts, ones that are started from scratch, must include the entire process of finding inspiration, prepping, creating, and finally, clean up.
I thought creative time was only the time it took to make something and thought of that as the “fun” part. I didn’t really enjoy the prep or clean up. They seemed like tedious “extras”.
I felt rushed to get the prep and clean up done so I could move on to the “fun” part. I was always worried that my prep time was taking too long and that “other people did it more efficiently”, and that somehow I was the only one stuck in prep mode.
I partly blame this on movies. I think they give us the wrong impression of art and creativity. They only show the artist making something and this gives us a skewed vision of what creativity is.
I’m learning to let go of skewed internal expectations and unnecessary internal pressure to create within a certain timeframe. Just because something takes longer than I thought it would, could, or should doesn’t mean that I’m not doing well.
I’m trying to embrace the whole time it takes to do things, not just the “fun” part. That way I don’t plan for too much in my day.
As I start to embrace the time it takes for the entire creative process, from initial preparations through final clean up, I am finding freedom. I am not longer striving to create under unrealistic internal expectations of short time frames. There is no “set” amount of time it “should” take to make something. Now instead of worrying that I’m taking too long or not doing things “right”, my mind is free to be more creative and my energy can go into creating.
Embracing what I’ve thought of as the “tedious” parts in the past, is now an essential part of the creative process. Clean up and prep times area actually great times to think, be inspired, and let go so you are ready for the next creation.
When I’m not always striving to get to “the good part”, and I’m slowing down, living in the moment, enjoying the whole process as the good part, then my mind becomes free. My energy is free to just be and it is a great feeling. My mind in no longer thinking ahead, it is just loving life as it is right at this moment.
Planning for Creative Time
Not only does embracing the whole creative process help me enjoy the journey, it also helps me plan the right amount of creative time in my day so that I don’t feel rushed. I’m learning to set aside the time for prep, making, AND clean up.
For example, planting a garden is not just the time putting seeds and plants in the ground.
It is also the long toil of preparing the soil.
Pulling out grass and weeds that grew since the last garden, renting and picking up a tiller, going to the compost facility to get compost, scooping compost onto the soil and then tilling it in, buying plants and seeds, starting seeds a month earlier if you are starting your own plants indoors, planning where the plants should go in the garden, and THEN finally planting the garden.
Then you still need to set up a watering system, water the garden, and clean up all your tools and trash. It is a long process and if your mind is only thinking about the planting, it can be very disheartening to go through that whole process.
Live In The Moment
By embracing ALL the steps in a creative project you can really lean into the creative process and enjoy the time spent as well as the finished product.
By being honest with yourself about the true amount of time a project will take and accepting that it will actually take that long you can plan enough time so that you can relax and free your mind to embrace all the steps without the worry that you are “taking too long”.
It is the same in life. We can let go, embrace the moments we are in, enjoy life and the people around us.
At an event last summer, about 2 months into my sabbatical, a good friend that I hadn’t seen since I’d quit my job said he could really tell the difference in me. It was a result of embracing the moments, going with the flow, enjoying life, and not striving for anything. At that time I was not “on edge”, trying to “be ready” or trying to anticipate whatever was to come next and the people around be could actually see and feel those changes in me.
It was encouraging to me that someone could tell the difference from the outside and those comments still encourage me to continue to embrace that mentality. It is not always easy!
Embracing the process is so helpful in other areas of my life as well, such as when doing chores. When I can embrace it and not be thinking about what else I could be doing instead, just embracing that part of the process of life, it is so freeing. When the chore is finished I move on.
I enjoy having a nice mix of creative activities. Some that are simple and some that are more complex.
One reason I love writing so much is that it is so simple. All you need is to find something to write on and something to write with. Then you are ready to go. You get to create something from nothing. From your thoughts can come anything you dream of. It could be something beautiful, inspiring, entertaining, educational, you name it. The sky’s the limit.
Creative Time Blocks
I really struggle with planning out a detailed schedule for my days. One of the reasons is that I easily fill up the time with too many things. Then I end up feeling rushed and pressured when things take longer than I thought they would. Or feel bad that I didn’t do the things I planned on.
On the other hand, I find that when I don’t block off creative time, “more important” things fill up my time instead. Then I start to lose myself by not embracing who I am and not allowing my self to be creative. So I do need some kind of structure, just not a detailed plan.
This brings me back to embracing the whole creative process. By accepting the fact that things DO take a long time, I can plan to allow myself a realistic amount of time for creativity. I am able to structure my days more appropriately for what I need and want in life.
This week I’ve experimented with giving myself blocks of creative time. During this time I allow myself to do ANY creative venture that suits me without necessarily planning what I will make.
For me, having a detailed plan of what to make feels more like a to do list and takes away some of my creative freedom and creates a more pressured environment. The creative time blocks have worked pretty well for me because just having the freedom to create is sometimes the best part.
I imagine an artist in their studio, creating things during a certain time of their day. When they are finished and cleaned up, the studio ready for tomorrow’s creations, they leave that space and are ready to do the other things in life like business activities, taking care of the household and child care.
Though I don’t have a studio, I imagine my blocks of time this way.
Having a set time to be creative and a set time to do household chores allows me to focus on what I’m doing and not worry about when I will have time to fit the other activities in.
It’s all in the mindset. When I’m in the mindset of creating a peaceful home, cleaning doesn’t feel like a chore, it feels good because I can see what I created when I’m finished.
This post was a bit different than usual. My hope is that by reading about my struggles with embracing the whole process of creativity and accepting the reality of how long things really take, you will be able to embrace ALL the steps in your creative process and find joy in the journey.
What have you been creating lately? Do you prefer time blocking or a to do list? I’d love to hear from you!