Sometimes it feels like I spend my whole life apologising. This post comes with the apology that I really should have posted it at the weekend, but I’ve only just come out of a mountain of edits for other authors. So, please forgive week 1 of my 12-week series about creating a life worth living being part-way through week 2!
The writing for this piece, and indeed the entire series, comes from a place of deep personal unhappiness, lack of confidence and a worrying state of inertia. I call myself into question as, not only a writer, but a woman, and just a living, breathing human being. I was asked yesterday if I am always so pessimistic. The answer is no; often I’m worse. Pessimism is replaced by a state of apathy and lack of self-worth at a deeply personal level. This, I am sure, comes from decades of always feeling (or being told) that I’m never quite good enough, and this has resulted in an internalisation of other people’s lack of validation of me. That is not to say I feel like this when I am dealing with someone else’s work. I have complete confidence in their abilities and a passion for their work which makes me want to do the best I can for both the work and the author, and I work on another professional plane altogether. I have had several authors write to me in the last few days, saying how much they enjoy working with me. It drew a few tears — I must be doing something right!
Anyway… last time I explained the specific reasons why I was going to take Carol Lloyd’s book, Creating a Life Worth Living, seriously, and give its 10-week program some serious attention. Week 1 has thrown up some interesting observations about myself that I genuinely didn’t know, or certainly hadn’t given any conscious thought to previously.
The purpose of week 1 was to allow yourself to begin thinking of the brain as a creative playground. The premise is that, if you allow your brain some time to have free rein, then it will begin to work for you and not against you and enable you to create a clear vision for what you really want and a step-by-step plan for achieving it. In order for this to happen, you have to begin to embrace and implement small changes in your life — what Carol Lloyd calls the items in a ‘laboratory’, and likened to the chemistry playground that Marie Curie used to have, courtesy of her father, in order to experiment and achieve her later visions. Tools, then, if you will, to work with through the book and beyond.
This week, the Daily Action was introduced: fifteen minutes of a solitary action, preferably early in the day before other things start to take over the day. The action can take any form — meditation, yoga, walking, anything you like, as long as it’s easy to do. The idea is that you perform the action without the need to engage in any complex brain activity, thus giving your thoughts, ideas and creativity time to surface and run wild. The point is not to actively try and make yourself think of something creative; just let it happen.
So, I chose something really interesting: sitting down and drinking a cup of tea for fifteen minutes. Yep, that was all it was. But, you see, I never do that. Just sit there and have a drink. And what amazed me is that things actually started to happen on the first couple of days. Various ideas began to pop up and fly about. Excitedly, after my fifteen minutes, I wrote them down. I was sure that this was going to be brilliant!
So, I decided it would be worth experimenting a bit on other days to see if creativity occurred for me during other times of the day. Yeah, I know: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But I did, anyway! I tried the same fifteen minute activity in the afternoon for a couple of days. Afternoons for me, it seems, allow me to think through ideas and determine whether they make sense. But they don’t spark any original creativity.
Then… I forgot. I forgot to perform the Daily Action. I had a stressful day of legal stuff and it just didn’t occur to me until it was late evening. So I tried then. And… nothing. All I did was sit and worry about everything that had happened that day, and I began to realise exactly why Carol Lloyd recommended performing this action before the day got going. Suddenly, a quote by WH Murray that I read in the chapter made sense:
“the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”
I’d committed to trying this, and the ideas appeared when I did it the right way for me. Not only did the creativity kick in, but so did a bit of confidence. I found myself doing other things that I hadn’t expected I would do, at a work-related level. When I worked against the natural way my creative brain wanted to function, however, my consciousness seemed to know, and it became stubborn, defiant, and determined not to let my brain play.
This new daily implementation has certainly given me food for thought, but what I found even more inspiring than adopting this tiny change in my day-to-day lifestyle was the interview with David Lloyd, Painter, which featured at the end of the chapter. Here are just a couple of snippets of what he has to say. The whole interview is fascinating:
“One of the tricks to being an artist for a long time is staying interested. And one of the ways you stay interested is to be willing to follow your whims, popular or not.”
He goes on to say that the secret to being good at what you do is to do what comes naturally to you:
“Artists have to accept the fact that you can’t first please society and the please yourself as an artist, because it won’t work. You have to go in saying ‘What’s interesting to me is the process of making at and I’m not gonna worry about the other stuff.”
He goes on to describe how dreadful he felt after being slated by a critic, early on in his career, until he recognised that, by taking notice, and by conforming to the critic’s idea of what he should be, he would no longer be making his art in the way he wanted to make it. So he took no notice!
Lloyd’s take on creativity really resonated with me. In order to actually create works, I have never been a believer in following market trends. I know that is going to be a contentious comment, and it goes against pretty much everything that the books on writing for a living tell you. But Lloyd is a creative, in the purest sense of the word. And I also know that trying to actively write for a market makes me intensely miserable. I did this for a number of years and it actually stopped me writing altogether for quite a long time. And so, I found myself inspired once more to continue in the way I enjoy working, without feeling the need for outside validation. Not everyone will like everything I write. Why would they? I write in different sub-genres, in varying tones and about a range of subject matters. But it pleases me to think that someone likes something I write, knowing that it has come from a place of complete honesty and integrity, and is as authentically ‘creative’ as I can make it. Because it comes from deep within me. I guess I do use my brain as a creative playground, after all.
I would absolutely love to know what happens if you try the Daily Action for yourself, and whether you experience something similar to me. I would also love to hear your thoughts on creativity and whether they run in-line with David Lloyd’s views on being a creative.
I have started on week 2, which leads nicely on from the Eureka moments in week 1, and focuses on embracing ideas from a number of sources. I’ll let you know how I get on!
(Source: Carol Lloyd, Creating a Life Worth Living: A practical course in career design for artists, innovators, and other aspiring to a creative life, Harper, 1997)