The other day I picked up my pen and began my daily notebook entry. I write two pages in my notebook every day whether I feel like it or not, even when it seems I have nothing to say. If my mind wanders, I just write what bubbles to the surface. I don’t worry if it’s brilliant, original…I’m simply putting pen to paper. It’s my jumping-off point, a place to begin.
What came to mind on this particular day was dinner…namely, what’s for dinner. I’ll swing by the store on the way home, I wrote. I need cottage cheese, juice, etc., etc. Then I stopped myself. There I was, in my special writing space, the time I have set aside for myself, for my creative work, and I was using it to make a shopping list. Even though I give myself permission to write whatever comes to mind, I have hopes of directing my creative energies a little more effectively than that.
The truth is, sometimes I feel too tired to be imaginative. More immediate concerns crowd my thoughts, thoughts of work and dinner. “Too tired to be imaginative” is probably an oxymoron, though – imagination is second nature. Or first nature. Daily living is an imaginative act when one examines it closely. Our lives are poetry…we even think in metaphor.
What takes self-discipline (and therefore energy), then, isn’t creativity itself. It is taking the initiative and setting time aside – real, substantial time – to focus my thoughts. I don’t mean a rushed two pages scribbled in my notebook while I’m waiting for someone to return a phone call, in which I’m so preoccupied all I can think about is what I will make for dinner.
It’s about intention, and being tired impairs my ability to perform this essential step in the creative process. When I am spread too thin and/or haven’t had enough sleep, it’s easy to become consumed with work and such vital concerns as what to feed my family. Those things are necessary and need attention, but a creative person has another set of needs to be happy and contented. In order to live a fulfilling life creatively, we must make choices that promote emotional and physical well-being. That can be difficult to do when tired.
Worse yet, when I am tired, I don’t really care much about my creative welfare. Tunnel vision takes over, and I only feel capable of dealing with one thing at a time. I lose my ability to see the big picture. I’m hungry. I need to eat. My thoughts get pared down to basic necessity. I’m not worried about writing the Great American Novel, or the next poem, or the next entry in the Naked Notebook.
So maybe the first lesson in nurturing our creativity is this: go to bed. Go to sleep. Stop trying to maximize every minute of every day, and instead focus on getting those eight hours, or seven hours, or whatever is needed to see beyond what’s for dinner and achieve the state of mind needed to create. Conserving energy and making space in our busy lives is how we make ourselves available to “the muse,” whatever that is, whenever it comes.