art / authenticity / creativity / learning / mindfulness

Day 28/28: Lessons in the Creative Process

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Was this ambitious? Was this ridiculous?
And so here I am. The laptop is open while another Texas rainstorm comes through this afternoon. This is my last blog post in this interesting experiment where I challenged myself to try and write a blog post daily for the month of February for a total of 28 stories. As you can see, it took me closer to two months to finish such an ambitious and lofty goal. Honestly, I’m at peace with myself with this result. That’s saying a lot for me since I am a recovering achievement junkie.

So why did I do this?
I’d like to refer to the quote in the above photo. According to Julia Cameron and one of the ten rules to being an artist: “Great Creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.”

My blog was suffering from a creative drought. Some months I wrote quite a few posts and in other months I churned out a respectable number. Before I started this project, I believe I had about twenty blog posts in total for 2016. This year, I now have a collection of 28 posts in just two months, and I’m just getting started for 2017.

To be honest, I have never really had a writing discipline that I was really proud of. Yes, there are things out there that I have written that are good: a few blog posts, some pretty damn good stuff in the academic realm (literary papers and even a published abstract for some research project I did back in university), and a few glitzy write-ups I did for work. And, yes, I have been paid to write things, edit copy, and meet deadlines.

But, I started this project because I was not pleased. Before February 2017, my blog writing was just non-existent. I needed a safe container where I could take care of the quantity instead of worrying about the quality. I just needed to get my stories (or any story) out there.

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What can I or anyone else who is reading this blog post take away from this experiment?

1) Creativity of any kind is an act of faith. I have to truly own the belief that I have a story to share with others. I have a list of excuses for not speaking up and putting the words down on the page. It all comes down to confidently believing that there is something of interest, a lesson, a laugh, an emotion or an experience that comes from me that can connect me to others out there.

2) Writing forced me to pay more attention to myself. If you are writing from personal experience, it can leave you vulnerable to a wide array of emotions. I wasn’t prepared for the pain and reminders of my past to come up. I was raised to deal with past hurts quietly in silence or just stuff some of that in a journal or to a close friend. Closing the laptop wasn’t an option this time. I used whatever was prominent in my mind and heart to fill up the pages. Maybe in the end, this 28 blog post project was part of my own healing. Paying attention to my thoughts even the uncomfortable ones gave me fuel to work with in my writing.

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3) To be a writer, you must write. I know that sounds basic, but the self-limiting inner critic is out there. It does exist. Until you are comfortable with facing those dark thoughts and still commit to doing your work, you’ll never be a writer (or painter, traveler, cook, or whatever it is you so badly want to be). And, I don’t have to be so hardcore with my next writing goal. The lofty goal was put out there because I needed a jumpstart in order to produce stories, lay out words on the page, and start somewhere.

4) When you do a project that pushes you to your edge, transformation happens. I wish transformation was overnight, but what’s the fun in that? I wish I could magically be a disciplined and productive writer. I wish I always knew the right story to tell you, but I don’t. Unfortunately, that’s not how the lessons are learned. As the days went on, there were days when inspiration would hit me immediately and then, there were days where there really wasn’t anything I wanted to write about. I also started to notice that I needed to take care of myself better if I wanted my writing to flourish. I needed to get enough sleep, work through some difficulties I was facing, and get rid of some old crap I was still carrying for months (the usual, boring stuff like fear or the need for approval).

5) In the end, this project has opened me up to taking on new things to improve myself and my creativity. I have a better sense of how much time my writing takes to develop and I can walk away from this project with a little more confidence in my voice. Because I am really vibing with the poem, I leave you with Maz Hermann’s quote from Desiderata, “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.” 

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