Creativity is fragile. Going into the last weeks of nano (gosh, the month is flying by :P), I want to talk about how to protect Creativity (for the purposes of this post, I’m going to refer to creativity with a capital C)
First, understand that Creativity is not a muscle. It’s not something you flex and strengthen. It doesn’t get sore. It’s not like working out, and when your body starts to ache, you know that if you push past the pain, you’ll eventually get stronger.
Creativity is more like a kite. You don’t exactly control it; it just is. You can learn to fly Creativity. You can let the string out and see it fly away and dance in the sky. And you can go to places that make Creativity fly higher and in more beautiful patterns. But you are not controlling Creativity. When Creativity doesn’t fly, it doesn’t fly. The end.
So often, we work hard to make sure lil’ ol’ Creativity stays active. I never thought I had a problem with keeping Creativity active. Being an athlete, I made the very bad mistake of thinking Creativity was a muscle. Like I do with muscles, I decided to stress Creativity, and stretch it, and assumed it would steadily get stronger.
But Creativity is like a kite. And when you take a kite into winds too strong—snap. The string breaks. Or the canvas is torn. And down goes Creativity.
That happened to me back in September. And for about three months now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get Creativity flying once more. Again and again, I kept taking it back into strong winds, thinking it needed stress and stretching to get well again.
It didn’t. But Creativity did resemble a muscle now: a torn muscle, or a bruised bone, both of which are very painful and immobilizing.
I’ve learned that Creativity needs rest, not stress, in order to get stronger. But the best way to combat this crash of Creativity—also known as creative burnout—is to prevent it before it even comes. I’m no expert on this. But I’ve come to recognize three things that lead to creative burnout: over-achieving, over-committing, and perfectionism.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of over-achieving being a bad thing.
I never had. To be completely honest, I enjoy being an over-achiever. I enjoy smirking at my to-do list, especially those two extra things I crossed off that I was going to do tomorrow, but got in today. If I have extra time, I’m usually chipping away at that to-do list. If I finish my word-count and have an extra twenty minutes, I’ll write during that time.
Do I have to do this? No. But I like being an over-achiever, so I do it.
The result? My thoughts usually revolve around accomplishing things, not enjoying things. Thus, I’m always pushing for more, more, more, even when I’d truly rather stop.
Over-achieving is the #1 way to turn fun into work.
When ‘writing = work’ started crossing my mind earlier in September, I was terrified. I’d turned writing into a job. It was only a matter of time, part of me realized, with the crazy goals I’d been setting.
The only way to stop this?
Stop being an over-achiever.
In other words, take a break.
Take. A. break. Just. Do. It.
It doesn’t matter if you have extra time. If you are done with what you have to do (or even tired in general), take a break. Go do something else, something that isn’t on your list. Recreation time. Relax. If you keep stressing your creativity, it will snap, and it will not be fun. Learn to be satisfied with just being/doing enough when it comes to creative activities.
That’s not to say you can’t have big dreams and big goals. But make sure they’re not running your life, and the moment it begins to consistently feel like work, ease off on the gas pedal.
Over-committing is very much like over-achieving. It’s saying “hey, I have time to do more!” even if you don’t. But you want to do it, because you want to go the extra mile, do some networking, or simply help a friend.
Over-committing is like having a full glass of water and asking for more water. The cup will overflow. Even if you drink really fast, you cannot stop that. Something is going to slip out of the cup. And if you’re desperate enough to make sure it doesn’t….what happens when you drink water without stopping? You run out of breath. You can’t breathe. And breathing is kinda how we live. 😛
It really kills me to not say “yes!” to every awesome opportunity, especially when there are so many here on blogsphere. I want to meet everyone and help everyone. But something ends up slipping away, whether it’s answering comments or something in my everyday life.
Lesson is: work thoroughly with what you already have. Commit yourself 100% to, say, ten things, rather than 50% or less to twenty things.
Like over-achieving, perfectionism is one of those labels we love to show everyone. “Hey, I’m a perfectionist!” i.e. I get a lot of things done and am not satisfied with anything less than perfect. But the flipside of that is: I work myself to exhaustion and beyond but I want to be perfect or at least still be called a perfectionist so I do it.
Perfectionism is draining. It doesn’t let you rest. Perfectionism is the stress that comes crashing down on your creativity…constantly. It’s something that all writers experience. So how do you stop it?
First, embrace humility. I recently learned that perfectionism is sometimes a manifestation of pride, as pride = an insubordinate pursuit of one’s own excellence. Remember that you have no excellence aside from God, and that you do have limitations. A lot of them. In fact, you are a limitation without God. And you don’t get to decide your limitations—God does.
Second, stop. Slow down. Turn off the Internet (with family permission, of course 😉). Go outside. Just make yourself stop working. Immerse yourself in God’s voice, best heard in silence. Taking consistent breaks and spending time in quiet really puts things in perspective and reminds you who you really are: God’s child. And if you really think long and hard about that, I’ve found you get a clear vision of your goals and where they’re leading you.
Sorry for the long post today! These things have been on my mind a ton lately, and I really wanted to share them. I hope everyone is surviving nano. And even if you’re far behind, I encourage you to take ten minutes of silence/recreation time this week <3
How do you see creativity? How do you protect it? What has God been teaching you lately?