“5 ways to access creativity by John Cleese”
I am home alone today. My son and husband have gone skiing. My husband suggested I stay home since there was no new snow. We’re such snow snobs here in Alberta. He’ll be travelling and leaving me as the more frequent driver to our son’s ski lessons in the weekends to come. He gave me the gift of some time and space alone on this crisp, clear, cold Canadian winter’s day. I love that man. So what am I doing with the bonus situation I find myself in?
First, I slept in. I wrote in my journal while drinking coffee in our sunlight living room. My dog curled up beside me. I had a completely luxurious rest-filled morning and now I’m doing laundry, cooking and putting things away. I’m still in the post-Christmas de-Santa-fication process.
Slowly, as I put my house in order I can feel an urge to write building within me. It’s a nervous energy. I’ve got a deadline for Wednesday. It’s a script for radio which I haven’t started beyond knowing the topic. I feel restless with that hanging over me but I have the skills to get it done. People hate deadlines but they are the greatest source of productivity for me. I gratefully signed on for this fun radio column because I know very well the fortnightly deadline will force fruitfulness. So, that’s not really what the inner nudge I’m experiencing is about.
I think what’s really nagging at me is finding the ability to carve out time for the writing that comes from deep within. That original inner voice wants its say. There are several pieces for print media that I’ve been dying to write since visiting Kerala, India a few months ago. There are similar undone pieces on Seattle, Italy, Alaska, New Brunswick and Mexico. There’s a “heritage cooking skills” post on Swedish Hulvchuk featuring my mother-in-law and one on sushi making with my friend Chigusa that are simmering on the back burners of my brain and blog. They are all waiting for their chance to be served up on whatever media platter I can find to do so. Frankly, it’s far easier to clean house or go skiing and carve turns on a crusty hill than it is to carve out time for this kind of creativity.
I keep telling myself that if my house is physically in order, my space is de-cluttered, tours are booked, my inbox is emptied and my desk cleared off, I’ll find the inner peace from distraction that will allow the creative flow to come. Happily, while cleaning out my inbox today I found John Cleese’s video on “five ways to access our creativity”. I watched the video and I can see that I’ve been doing all this housework today and all this week (you should see my beautiful closets and drawers and the Goodwill pile) because what he says is true… “it is easier to do trivial things that are urgent rather than important things that are not urgent”.
It’s time to stop my inner Virgo from its obsession with orderly. Life’s chaos will always be there. I need clear boundaries to keep my creative life safe. “Miss Creative” as I’ll call that sweet shy little inner voice, has been getting trampled on by my life’s giant pile of trivia. She needs a safe place and time to come out to play. This is what Cleese calls an oasis. Miss Creative has had a one per cent share of my time as my roles as wife, mother, and business owner have ruled over her. I can see she has been quietly patient but that she can’t wait any longer. She’s started tapping her foot in her tiny corner of my brain and what I learned from watching Cleese’s video is that I can achieve this Oasis for my creativity in little bits at a time. Part of my neglect of this deeper creativity is that I’ve bought into the myth that I need a big chunk of time to devote to it/her.
Last year, I took four days to write creatively in the beautiful lakeside town of Penticton, British Columbia. I hiked, slept, ate and wrote whenever I felt like it. This was bliss for my soul. I began pieces that I then, upon my return to real life, hacked away at in the tire repair shop and when I had five minutes or 50 minutes here and there; before school pick up or after my son was in bed. The pieces I finished are all published now. I feel really good about them. I won’t have a four-day retreat this year but most of that work got finished in bits and pieces of time anyway. If they can be finished that way, surely they can also start that way. I’m going to take John Cleese’s advice and block 90 minutes here and there that will be an oasis where my Miss Creative can come out and have her say. I feel she might die without that and I love her too much to let that happen.
Thank you to John Cleese (he, Steve Martin, Woody Allen are my top three funny guy writers of all time) for showing me that while I might long for the fantasy of a week-long writer’s retreat, 90 minutes of planned creative oasis with clear boundaries will be much more achievable. No more trivia and tasks as excuses. I’ve got the next 90 minutes to write and the laundry pile and dinner prep can wait. I have found the strategy I need to savour my life; an oasis on the creative space-time continuum.
I know exactly what you mean, because I used to do the same thing myself. I tell myself everything has to be perfect before I can start working toward a goal (like quitting smoking, or blogging again). When I wanted to start writing again, I committed to only 15 minutes a day (I can forgive a distracting environment for 15 minutes a day) and in two months I’d written two short stories. Start small, and soon you’ll carve out your 90 minutes. I love your writing, Karen, and I can’t wait to hear your stories. xo
I’d love to read those short stories of yours. Thanks for your kind words and encouraging ways.
Great post Karen and so topical. I’m taking an online writing class and the instructor commented recently that if she gave herself 30 minutes writing blocks she was actually more productive than longer sessions. I think the best idea, at least for me, is to make myself do something small everyday, and it will often turn into something bigger. I realized I hadn’t skied for a few days because I thought it had to be a long one every day, but if I just did a short one, I’d cover more ground in the end. Thanks for this inspiration my dear, and I for one look forward to hearing what Ms Creative has to say. Long may she live and rule!
I’m so impressed you are taking an online creative writing course. Very clever indeed. I’m glad that we live in a space and time when even though you live on a frozen lake in Yellowknife you can still access a community and create your own writing oasis. I’m glad that’s not a mirage!