For the past few weeks, I've been struggling to write consistently. There were days when I felt really discouraged and thought of finally quitting blogging once and for all. I thought that maybe blogging really isn’t my thing.
But then, I remember the days when I had ten, twenty, and even thirty blog posts scheduled ahead at a time. I realized that it’s not so much about writing not being my thing. It’s more about not putting myself in the position where I can really create. I wasn’t able to maintain my creativity.
This morning, feeling really frustrated, I stopped everything I was doing and evaluated why I wasn’t able to maintain my creativity. Then, I thought of ways on how I can maintain it:
Exercise more often
In his podcast, Darren Rowse of Problogger talked about how taking better care of his health helped him become more creative, just when he also thought that he was no longer as creative as when he started blogging more than a decade ago.
It’s tempting to think what all writers need are discipline, focus, and mental strength. But, I noticed that on days when I exercise, I think a lot clearer, I focus better, and thoughts come more freely. Yes, when i feel physically better, I also feel more creative.
Yes, we can get away with not exercising in our day jobs, especially when what we do are repetitive, when you don’t really need to be creative. But no, you cannot get away with not exercising when you are creating and doing work that matters.
In an interview with The Paris Review, novelist Haruki Murakami shares his routine and the importance of being physically and mentally strong when writing a novel:
"When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity."
Like what Haruki Murakami said, “Writing a long novel is like survival training.” I’d like to add that even writing short blog posts every single day takes a lot from you. Creating takes a lot more energy than following orders and doing repetitive tasks like what we usually do at work.
Creating takes a lot from us physically and mentally.
That’s why if you want to maintain your creativity, you have to rest and you have to rest meaningfully.
Many of us rest by watching TV or watching a movie. But, most of the time, it’s not meaningful rest. Did you know that your brain is more active when you are sleeping than when you are watching TV?
This means that even when you are sleeping, your brain’s function still doesn’t completely stop. At rest, your mind is still exercising. So, even when you’re resting, you should still be exercising your mind, not completely shutting it down by watching TV. That’s how you give it a rest.
This brings us to our next point...
Do something that stimulates your mind
What are the activities that inspire you? That stimulates your mind?
What activities help you think or create mental images in your mind while doing it?
What activities excite you? Do them more often, especially when you’re at rest.
Watching TV robs you of the inspiration, the mental exercise, and the excitement you can get from healthy recreation like reading, drawing, painting, coloring, and so on. Even playing sports helps you think about strategies on how you are going to play and to win.
No, let me correct that. You (not TV) are robbing yourself of the inspiration, the mental exercise, and the excitement by not stimulating your mind.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand how difficult it is to avoid watching TV. Even I (still) watch a lot of TV. It’s really addictive. But, we have to make an effort to reduce it and replace it with more meaningful activities.
Get out more often
Creating requires an immense amount of focus. Writers, painters, and all kinds of artists need some space and alone time to craft their art. But, sometimes, it’s difficult to find inspiration for your art when you’re staying in a closed room for a long time.
Many of my ideas flow whenever I’m commuting to work. Some ideas come from being inspired by what I see on the road while some ideas come from being frustrated (and finding ways to avoid those frustrations—yes, I’m looking at you, Manila traffic and pollution).
Also, art is a recreation of life. That’s why I am more creative when working in a coffee shop because I get to see other people living their lives.
It’s difficult to create in isolation. Whenever you’re running low on ideas or on creativity, try getting out more often, taking a stroll, and observing other people (without judgement, of course).
Develop a routine of creating
Do you remember what Haruki Murakami said? He works for five to six hours after waking up at four in the morning every single day.
I envy those who love their work so much that they can do it for five, six, seven, even sixteen hours straight! I haven’t really experienced being “in the zone” like what most artists are saying. Well, maybe I have. But, it’s not very often. Also, I think it is possible to work at that pace on some days, but not every day. I think even the most famous artists had some days when they didn’t feel like working.
No matter how much we love our work, there will still be days when we don’t feel like working. The days when we are in the zone don’t always come. If we are going to wait for those days to come, our work will never be finished.
Also, it’s easier to be in the zone when you have momentum.
That’s why it’s important to develop a routine. Have a fixed time during the day when you will do your most creative work. Find out which time of the day you are most creative. Personally, I am most creative in the morning. Even if I wake up late, usually at around noon, I still find it hard to write from one to five in the afternoon. What I usually do during those times are the administrative and clerical stuff at work. That’s why I try my best to wake up early.
Also, by having a routine, you will force yourself to work even when you don’t feel like working.
What time of the day are you most creative?
Leave room for spontaneity
Who said that art and science don't mix? Art is mostly a right-brain function while science is a left-brain function. But, really, you need both to be creative.
Developing a routine addresses the scientific and disciplined approach to creating. But, you still have to leave room for surprises. After all, the best works of art catch people by surprise. Also, there's freedom in being spontaneous. Art is best created freely.
Allow yourself to be surprised. Gather ideas by simply opening your eyes and looking at the world around you. Get some ideas by walking around expecting to learn from everything to see. Or you can also walk around without any expectations and just be surprised!
But again, it's not sustainable. You cannot be spontaneous all the time. You cannot expect yourself to be surprised all the time. On most days, you need to just sit down and create.
This is the thing we often forget when we're creating for a long time—when creating becomes a chore, a task, a routine (in its negative sense).
Creating should be enjoyable. Art should be fun.
You are creating because you are passionate about creating. You are creating because you're an artist. We all are. We were all meant to create.
When you enjoy creating, ideas and inspiration flow more freely.
Art is a lot of work. But, don't treat it as work.
Also, create art not for the applause, the recognition, the monetary rewards, and some other rewards. Create art simply because you want to create. Simply because you were meant to create. Create art because the process is a reward in itself. Create art because you want to express yourself. Create art because your art is your greatest contribution to the world. And we are all waiting for your art, for your contribution.
What are you creating?
How about you? What are you creating? You are an artist. You were meant to create.
Also, how do you maintain your creativity? Feel free to add to the list!