What does it mean to live more creatively?
That’s what I promised myself this year after two years of “checking out” to pursue a graduate certificate in IT Project Management and get my PMP certification. Success on both of those goals!
I told myself it was impossible to work full-time, study part-time, and still have time to read creative works, edit existing works, or write and submit poetry. My blog, which was a creative tool for many years, didn’t seem to serve the same purpose and if I was writing for myself and not an audience, do I even need it?
Now my weekends are completely free, and I’m still struggling. The first weekend after the first of the year, I went back to Submittable and tried writing and submitting on themes. The next three weekends, I read new books on writing and creativity and reread old favorites. Whenever I had a few minutes, I skimmed the last two years’ worth of Poets and Writers Magazine and The Sun, and every literary journal that was collecting dust on my shelves. Still, I wasn’t feeling inspired until I came up with this list of what worked in the past.
Journaling—the best writing I ever did was in my journals, mostly because I anticipated no one ever reading it, so I was free, to be honest. I regularly mined my journals for words, ideas, lists, and sometimes whole passages. Some of these gems made their way to published work, to my surprise.
Freewriting—No expectations, timed writing sessions. There is no end to finding writing prompts online and in most books on craft. In most writing workshops I’ve done, pen on paper is stressed but I also like using an old manual typewriter or my laptop.
Collage/Wordplay—Scissors, paper, and glue bring me back to childhood and play. I love cutting up words from printed out poems or magazine pages and putting them back together with images. Sometimes it results in a poem, but often it simply puts me in a creative space. Revisit refrigerator poetry or work on an erasure or blackout poem.
Reading and utilizing writing, creativity, or poetry craft books—This can be a challenge because it’s easy to miss the point of most of these books which is to stop making excuses and start writing. I am always looking for the newest book on creativity and creative writing but the end result is most often the same, find what works for you. Currently, on my desk, Wild Words by Nicole Gulotta, The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo, In the Palm of Your Hand by Steve Kowit, Writing from Within by Bernard Selling, Writing Alone and with Others by Pat Schneider.
Collaboration— Pre-Covid, a friend and I met most months for a “poetry breakfast” and worked on collaborative short-form poems. Within the last two years, I had a couple of poems published. Having a friend or family member to push you, to remind you of your creative life, even if it’s just a little bit was helpful. Find that person if you need encouragement on goals or creative projects.
Routine—This is not a new concept. Do you make time for creativity? A calendar appointment. 15 minutes before or after work. Or after a daily established routine, There are plenty of things we do daily without much thought or prompting. I’ve walked two to three times a day every day because that’s what it takes if you have a dog.
In the last two years, I could have fit in five or 10 minutes a day. Or journaled or wrote down favorite words or started a list poem. I made time every day for social media, emails, phone calls, and watching television. The all or nothing thinking for many creative people can be dangerous.
I will pull together a chapbook or two. Create a video poem. Submit old or new work every month. Go back to journaling. Update my blog as a warm-up exercise. I will stop making excuses. Goals have always been important to me so writing down my goals monthly and being honest with myself is the way I will keep the focus on my creative life.
In the past, I spent a lot of time writing ghost blog articles (on subjects I hated) and content articles (for pennies a click) and editing resumes, to justify the cost of my creative writing degree. Now I know that my creative writing degree was necessary for me to find and connect with my tribe. It gave me the time, tools, and permission to envision, create, and finish projects, and helped me to focus which made me a better writer. As for the content articles, it does still give me a thrill if someone buys a copy of Poet’s Market or another favorite writing book, not for the financial gain but the thought of someone taking steps towards a creative life.
When I started writing this post, after a two-year hiatus, I had no expectations. I found the time, and I feel pretty good about that. Now get back to work!