Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book, Big Magic, writes very eloquently and humorously about how we allow fear to block our creativity. I think she makes a great point. Fear is clearly a great barrier against our creative pursuits. But there’s another culprit that I think holds equal, if not greater accountability for holding us back. We’re TIRED!
Creativity requires not only the shedding of inhibitions, it requires energy. And sometimes (ok often) I’m just too tired. I’m tired of fitting in the demands of children, home management and work, (thank G-d I have a very undemanding husband!) and I’m worn out from the pressures of living in a chaotic world. I don’t think I’m alone in this. We all need to find ways to summon the energy we need just to get through our days. We need a whole lot more energy to get through our days with a smile on our faces, spreading joy to those we interact with – and then we need new wellsprings of energy to approach our work, home, social and family lives with creativity!
Where do we find that creative energy, when we’re just plain tired?
Well I’ve found that paradoxically, creativity generates its own energy. It’s often when I feel most drained that putting one foot in front of the other to deal with a challenge creatively, actually makes me feel more energetic. I don’t wait for my muse to strike me, but rather sit down with my trusty coloured pens and start drawing a mind map of the framework I’m going to use for my report, or how I’m going to structure a workshop, and it almost inevitably follows, that I feel creatively inspired.
For me, it’s very similar to my experience of going to gym. I’ll park my car in the basement and feel each plodding step as I maneuver myself towards the stairs. I then climb the 2 flights of stairs to reception (I try to avoid lifts when I can) and arrive exhausted at reception. By the time I’ve climbed the next flight of stairs to the floor with the bikes, cross trainers and stairmasters that I favour, my body is convinced that it’s home time, but I go through the motions of installing myself on a machine and selecting my exercise programme and Youtube entertainment du jour. And the next thing I know, I’m racing against my own personal best, feeling the thrill of achievement at my unsung success in maintaining the levels of speed and resistance that make me finish off looking like a sodden but very happy tomato.
Creativity, for me, is very similar. I don’t go to gym because I have excess energy to expend and I don’t try to find new and better ways of tackling projects because I am bursting with creative inspiration. It works the other way around. I go to gym to whip my physical energy levels into a state of momentum that will hopefully carry me through the day, and I look to innovate in my work in order to generate the creative energy that I can then apply to the other areas of my life.
This may not be true for everyone, and I think we all need to find our own tricks to generating the creative energy we need, but I know this is true for me. Putting one foot in front of the other and taking out my coloured pens when I feel generally worn out is the surest way for me to create the sparks of creative energy I’d been so sorely lacking.