Living in the Ebbs and Flows of Creative Life

Some days, all I can think of are the things I want to write. Other days, I can’t believe I ever thought that those ideas were any good, that I’m any good as a writer, and that I even have the audacity to even attempt to show up in spaces with much more talented, legit writers and creatives inhabit.

Some days, I’m so pissed off that the poetry project isn’t out in the world yet, all because of my lack of better financial planning. I feel stuck, held back in the whole process because literally nothing has gone the way I had envisioned with this project.

Today, I’m feeling the weight of everything while I plot out a Science Fiction novel.

All of the tension and frustration is there, but so is the resolution to continue on. Although I am acknowledging the reality of beingĀ  financially and artistically stuck with the poetry project, I’m also somehow able to sit down and work on this next project. I think that this is what it means to keep moving forward as a creative when you aren’t done with one project, but you have others that need to get done, or at least started on.

It could and has been so easy for me to get frustrated with my current project. But guess what? it will get done. It will eventually be out there in the world. I’m still doing what I can to promote it, sure, but I’m saving my energy for when it’s finished and ready to be thrown out into the world, and just doing what I financially can to get the project done.

I’m trying to use my ebbs and flows to keep things going forward. I mean those times when I’m highly motivated to get shit done, but also those times when I’m not writing anything, but the ideas, the words and concepts are germinating for a story or poem.

It’s so easy to get bogged down and feel like you aren’t doing anything at all when you aren’t actively writing or creating.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I sometimes binge watch entire TV series because that show deals with a concept or an idea that I want to explore or write about. Sometimes I will take notes or create an outline while watching, other times, I just soak it all in. While it’s true that I genuinely enjoy watching quality TV (and sometimes I just need something mindless to decompress from the day) I don’t feel bad for not writing those days or nights, because during those times, I’m flowing with my creative process. Sometimes that’s absorption, sometimes that’s putting it down on paper. It all works out in the end, and it’s still something that I’m getting used to listening to and following.

There will always be work that needs to be done for any and all projects I create and release. Sometimes the things that need to get done I’ll be able to plan out and manage (which I greatly prefer) and other times, like right now, I’ll just do my best with what I have.

I hope that you are allowing yourself the time and space to work within your ebbs and flows today, and if you have no idea what I’m even talking about, that’s ok too. Of course there are things you just need to do and get done, this encouragement to follow your creative ebb and flow isn’t license to be lazy or to not get shit done. If you do it right, and as you get more used to your own process and timing, you will find a way to get the tasks done doing the periods of time that correspond to that being most productive and effective for you. I’m still working on this at both being a writer and case manager. Some days, I can create a to-do list, make a dozen phone calls and have most of the tasks done by lunch. Other days, I struggle to make a single call or respond to one email until 3pm. While I start each day with a plan for what needs to get done, I find that I’m most productive at some things first thing in the morning, and that I shouldn’t save some things for the end of the day, or they might not get done. Of course, I can make myself make those phone calls, return the emails and write those case notes at any given time, however sometimes I can do them MUCH better and effectively during particular parts of the day or even the week or month.

Ebb and flow. Germination and creation.

 

Dreaming big with little steps

It’s good to be able to dream big, but it’s also good (and helpful) to realize what reality as a writer will look like.

For example, my big, crazy dream is to be able to travel and write. I want to be able to write my own stuff, but I also want to be able to write about important things going on around me, be it political, social or cultural, and take some photos as well. A independent photojournalist or something of that sort. Or maybe I just want to be able to live in a shack in the woods and just write madly until the end of my days, it really changes daily.

I suppose I could buckle down and work really hard on studying what others are doing in these areas, which is totally possible in my spare time, and it would just take the patience and practice (and luck) of being a blogger and Instrgram poster who monetizes my content and has a big following of folks who appreciate my wit and candor regarding coffeeshops that I visit and like, or just my musings on a current event or political situation I find interesting.

In reality, I’m going to be lucky if I can finally get this current book project funded and out into the world, and put out a poetry chapbook or even some novel-length work every couple of years. I’m a working hack who happens to like his job and be fairly good at it most days, and unless we become independently wealthy, I’m going to be slogging away until retirement and then some at some structured form of work.

Another thing I could and will likely do is work my ass off to promote and support other fellow writers and artists, and create some community spaces for folks to gather and congregate within here and there.

I suppose I could start some sort of business doing that, or even more likely a non-profit to be able to afford more time to do those things, but both of those will detract from my already limited time and mental capacity. This isn’t me writing those off as never-gonna-happens, but it’s me being realistic regarding my current capabilities and strengths. I’ve never ran a business or none-profit before, and after doing some initial research and inquiring, these routes don’t seem very viable or sustainable without an enormous amount of start-up capital and a hellva lotta grant applications.

So, where do my dreams and my current reality intersect? What do my strengths and capabilities allow for right now?

And knowing myself, I’m not going to be happy with my conclusion tomorrow, or two days from now, or next week. I’m gonna look at what I’ve assigned myself and think “dude, what the fuck? You can be doing so much more! You can just be working for yourself!” While these self-criticisms might hold some truth, I know myself well enough to know that if I let my dreams overtake the present-day, manageable stuff I can realistically do and maintain, I’m going to take on too much, spread myself too thin, and do a shitty job at everything.

If you’ve never overextended yourself to the point of a near mental and emotional breakdown, when everything is going wrong with your job, your marriage and you are desperately broke, and I highly recommend it. Ok, I actually don’t recommend it at all, but until you have more plates in the air then you can keep there, then you might think that I’m playing it too safe, not taking that big risk that you need to in order to really “live your dreams” or whatever. I’ve been there one too many times, and with my tendency to overcommit myself to all the things coupled with days when I’m to depressed or anxious/frustrated to barely do the bare minimum, I need to keep my dreams and what’s actually achievable for myself in check.

So, what’s achievable and realistic for me right now, you may ask?

Well, I’m still working on getting this book project printed, and am slowly making strides (I think) at revising the promo materials such has social media and websites regarding the project, as well as planning out and outlining the next several writing projects. I’m also working on creating that aforementioned community space by planning out a few monthly writing groups and meetups for busy folks who just want a few dedicated hours to focus on their stuff, but without the need to share it or feel pressured to present and preform in some kinda way. I’m also working on practical ways to support and promote my fellow writer and artist friends by helping them out a bit more with things that I already attend or would have helped them out with anyway.

No, it doesn’t sound as thrilling as quitting my day job and jetting off across the country and world, wowing people with my deep introspection on whatever it is that day, but it’s my speed, and just about right for what I can handle right now, at least for this year. So, I’m trying to dream big in little steps, and we will see where that takes me.