Creativity comes first. Everything else can wait. Really!
Recently I wrote about finding a new source of ideas about creativity. This 3-minute article by Todd Bisson answers 7 Questions Aspiring Writers Ask That Don’t Even Matter a Little Bit. (Short story: Write first. Everything else, later.) (In case you don’t have 3 minutes this morning.) (In which case, you really do need to do something about that to-do list…)
I loved it, because it’s true. So many folks get hung up on figuring everything out first. They spend so much time spinning their wheels, trying to finess all the marketing strategies, they never actually create a body of work to build on. And of course, in the actual doing/making, you’ll probably figure out most of what else you need to do.
I felt pretty smug as I read the list. I’ve got that all figured out already.
Then I got to my studio to work.
And felt totally unmotivated to make anything.
Fortunately, I did what I do whenever I feel stuck. I pulled out my journal (I call it my “blort book”, for…well. blorting.)
Within a paragraph, I knew what I’d done wrong.
I’d followed my to-do list.
Some of it was time-sensitive. I get the
damn boot off next week. I know if I don’t line up my physical therapy appointments now, I could lose another week or two waiting for slots to open up. (Even as I was on the phone with Megan, slots were taken as we spoke.)
But did I really have to catch up on email? Well. There were one or two that needed a quick response. But the others? No. They could have waited.
Did I have to do my volunteer commitment (Instagramming!) for the art group I’m part of? Yes. Did I have to take care of my own IG account right then? No.
Did I have to do the dishes? No. (God, no. There will be more
in a minute tomorrow.)
Did I have to do the laundry? No. Good god, usually I look for excuses NOT to do it. I tend to stock up on the essentials. I can go for weeks without running out of clean underwear. (Too much information?)
But it felt like I was on a roll this morning, and I ran with it. I was pleased with how much I’d accomplished.
Until I got to the studio and realized I was out of oomph.
I can blame the fact that it’s been a long eight weeks of recovery, a long time spent off my feet (and necessarily so.) It was my priority.
But the day that my priority is to do dishes and laundry and check email is the day I officially declare myself housewife of the year. (Please. No. Remember that 50’s TV show, Queen for a Day? Arguably the oddest game show in television history.) (Yes, it was my favorite game show as a very young-ster. There were crowns!)
(Hint: Truly desperate housewives competed for washing machines, so they could do laundry for 13 kids faster.)
So take a good hard look at your to-do list. They can be great for writing down all those big and little tasks, the ones that wear down your brain when you try to carry them all in your head.
There are extenutating circumstances and exceptions, of course. If you are a mom, especially a new mom, yes, young ‘uns are at the top of the list. So does the work that puts food on the table (if that isn’t also your art work.) Partners and friends get top slots, too
But when you can, put your creative work way up at the top. Even a tiny bit of time, and space.
It may seem like a luxury. You may not always be able to put it in the No. 1 slot.
But it is the foundation of everything else you do.
The work of your heart completes the circle of who you are in the world, and from it comes the strength, the clarity, the energy to carry everything else.
Twenty years from now, no one will remember that your laundry basket was always empty, and your sink was never full of dishes. They will remember the powerful energy you got from the work of your heart, and how it influenced everyone you met and everything you touched.
And if, like I did, you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids and/or the other people looking up to you.
How can you want that fundamental wish, the power that comes being in the world with a whole heart… How can you want that for your kids/people, and not for yourself?
And how will they know what that looks like, if you don’t show them?
Go to the studio–NOW!
William Stafford has something to tell you.
p.s. I was going to include a photo of my sink. But you don’t need to be exposed to that today.