Greetings Goodjers and Guests,
Last week, JDZappa's question had us digging into the obstacles that block the path to creative expression. This week, let's bring a torch and explore a nearby cavern. Luckily, thanks to some choices I made during chargen, I'm a scholar of the ancient hieroglyphs I suspect we may find along the way.
A wild letter reappears!
1. How do I find the time and/energy to create? Is taking 15-20 minutes to write enough, or do I need to take drastic steps and dedicate all my free time to writing? Some of my successful author friends recommend the latter, but I'm not sure I'm up for the yet.
John, aka JDZappa
John, you are in good company, here. The pursuit of time and energy is nearly ubiquitous to the journey for greater creative expression. Computer RPGs abound with blue potions to refill mana, but coffee is the closest thing we have IRL. Dungeons & Dragons spellcasters need rest to restore their spell slots, which tracks a little more closely to reality. The hard truth is that time and energy are finite resources. If you find yourself deficient in one or both, it means you need to adjust your allocation of those resources. Thankfully, we have already dug through so much cultural conditioning surrounding creativity, we have uncovered the entrance to The Cavern of Temporal Priority.
Look here, it's one of the ancient hieroglyphs. Let me decipher: If you wish to be creative, you must create.
You asked if taking 15-20 minutes to write is enough. My answer is a resounding YES. Now, take a silent moment to let the echo of that word reverberate through the cavern. See, every wall here agrees! Taking 15-20 seconds to write would be enough. The simple act of writing is more important than the time or the outcome. Let yourself feel good about writing a single sentence; let the act of creation be the reward. In time, one sentence will become two, but neither is superior. They both pass the only measure that matters: did you create?
Of course, a single sentence is just the start of the journey. As human beings, we thrive on routine. Carving out a specific time or a specific space for writing will make it easier to do, but until it becomes habitual, it will take conscious effort to break the habit of non-creation and replace it with one of creation. Your body and brain are going to resist. You will be tired. You will find reasons to not write, just this once. But I promise, all of that is temporary. Start with just five minutes, or even one sentence. Set your alarm just a bit earlier or open a notepad in the bathroom rather than scrolling Twitter, whatever it takes to get your five minutes, your one sentence. In time, you'll likely be surprised when five minutes becomes ten, or you may start to eye your lunch break as an ideal opportunity. Just remember, even if yesterday saw an entire novel in a single sitting, today, a single sentence is a success.
Enfolding creativity into your life is like training for a marathon. You don't need to get out there and run 26 miles right off the bat, but you do need to get out of the house and run around the block. From there, you can build to running for a mile. Then, if that goes well, make it two miles.
Oh, hey, another hieroglyph! The wise traveler notes the paths of others, then marks their own journey.
Your successful author friends are a great asset. They have learned to make time for their writing, but just because they have success with a certain set of habits doesn't mean that you need to mimic those habits, or even that those habits would work for you. We are all different and we each need to map our own journey forward, toward the destination of our own choosing.
You get to decide what being a successful writer means for you. Success does not have to mean publishing a book or shifting to a full time writing career. Success may just be writing that one sentence today. The novel or poem will take care of itself in time, all you have to do is focus on today's sentence. And when you write that sentence, congratulate yourself! You've just become a successful writer!
Next week, we'll explore the underground, fresh water springs of creative joy. It's a hike from where we are, so bring some quality boots.
Until then, I’d love to hear about the surprising places you find time to create, and the most helpful habits you’ve developed to nurture that artistic energy!
If you have a question or quandary that you’d like to hear the Joyconjurer’s perspective on, email me at [email protected]. Please note: published letters may be edited for length and/or clarity.