Friday, December 11, 2015

Too Many Conditions on Creativity

Conditional Creativity
The Litter Box Calls, But So Does Art
My Muses—the Three Graces—represent charm, beauty, and creativity.
Conditional Creativity. Do you put far too many conditions on when, where, and how you spend creative time? I do. In an effort to get things done, I listed everything I must do each morning. I want to stop wasting time, so my list shall be my guide. Most of the items I must do, but some could be optional: make bed, journal, yoga and spiritual study, clean the kitchen and bathroom, start laundry, scoop the cat litter. However, they are optional only because I can procrastinate only so long before they become must-do-right-now items. Even if I ignore them, they tap me on the shoulder, nagging me: “Isn’t it time to clean the cat litter? Phew! It stinks in the laundry room. Clean the gross bathrooms! Creak, creak, creak. Exercise if you don’t want to turn into the Tin Man without an oil can. Snakes are hiding in the front bushes and you haven’t trimmed them.”
Although I continue to procrastinate, I manage to check off most things on my list each day. Otherwise, that nagging voice saps my energy. But it also saps my creativity. I tell myself I cannot do X—X being something fun and creative—until I do Y—being something like scooping cat litter. X dangles in front of me like it’s a reward—a payoff for doing the dishes or cleaning out the fridge.
Toni Morrison stated my situation quite well: “We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations. I'm not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for all that.”
I give myself too many A-pluses when I accomplish the list. But that too often means I’m getting an F in what’s important to me—writing, gardening, painting.
Worse, after I do everything on the list and then do my daily work, all I want to do is crawl into bed and escape. I don’t have any more energy to anything, much less something creative.
Much as I wish on some levels that I could ignore the mundane dusting, mopping, and toilet scrubbing, I also believe what author Steven Pressfield says about having a clear space so the muse isn’t concerned about getting dirt on her hem. I don’t want her to back out the door if she smells eau de litter box.
What’s the answer? I don’t know that an easy answer exists. I do believe that there is a path to creativity and that path does not involve waiting until I get things done—that is, the list. I don’t feel energized after doing everything on the list. I feel stagnant, even when I know the dishes are done and the fridge has no plant matter competing for prime space on the compost pile.
I’m looking at my list: I have ten—ten!—things listed that I must do before allowing myself creative time. I don’t want to give up the prospect of getting things done. I don’t want the muse to battle shrubs blocking the walkway to the front door. But I’ve put far too many conditions on allowing myself the gift of time and space to be creative—to feed my soul by nurturing what is within it and answering what I believe is my calling.
It’s time to revise my list. I don’t want the muse to pass me by, but if I’m not sitting at my desk ready to write when she arrives, she might leave, even after navigating the bee- and butterfly-filled bushes overhanging the walkway to the door.

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