This is long overdue, but now that I’ve gotten some things sorted out in my life, I can get back to where I was before chaos happened. I’m just glad that I took some pretty good notes at Life, the Universe, and Everything, because I don’t have a lot of reliable memory of the last five months. I’m not going to post my notes word for word, since a lot of it is the intellectual property of others. What I am going to do here is talk about what I took away from the panels and events I attended.
In part 1 here, I think I want to focus on one panel in particular from the first day. It was called “Structuring Your Life to Make Room for Creativity” and it was given by Sandra Tayler. There were a few main ideas that I took away from this panel, and a lot of them hit hard because this is my biggest challenge as a writer.
- It’s okay if the system breaks, because that lets you see where the weaknesses are.
- Learn to work with your schedule, and not against it.
- Don’t worry if the going is slow, you are still going.
- Don’t forget to fill your reserves and take care of your health.
- Take control.
As far as systems breaking go, I am terrible about this one. I get something working just right for me and if it breaks down, it takes me a long time to recover from it. This used to annoy me to no end, but since attending this panel, it’s not as bad as it used to be. Now I’m able to identify where my system for creativity has its weaknesses, and I can fix it.
I’ll admit that one of my big weaknesses is keeping my space clean. I am a clutter-holic, it would seem. I’m one of those people (we all know them) who has piles of stuff all over the place, but I know where everything is anyway. Unfortunately, this means that I need to seek out new spaces in which to write. (Or I could implement a filing system and get more bookcases, but who wants to do that?) If I lose one of my writing spaces (bookstore, park, library, etc.), it often takes me a long time to find a new one that is satisfactory. The system is broken this way for me, but because it’s been broken, I’m able to identify it and start to do something about it.
Another lesson I got from the panel is to work with my natural schedule, instead of trying to force myself into an artificial one. If I’m more creative in the morning, or the night, or whenever, then that’s when I need to write. If I know that I’m going to be doing something that will trigger creative thoughts, then I need to schedule in some extra writing time during or after said event. If I don’t have a lot of time in the day to write, I have to prioritize what needs to get written that day…
…which brings me to point number three. I get frustrated when I’m not getting much writing done, especially if I want to be getting a lot more written and completed. I have never been a particularly patient person, and I suspect that I am not alone in this whatsoever. If things aren’t happening as fast as I’d like, I often get upset. I’ll admit it. The analogy used in the panel was that of the tortoise and the hare. I’ll start fast and strong on an idea, but I burn out quickly. Lately I’ve been trying to master slow and steady. I don’t see results as quickly as I’d like, to be honest, but they seem more solid when they do happen.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that I need to go slower instead of burning myself out quickly, is because I need to take care of my physical health. So many books about writing don’t talk about this aspect, and I certainly never heard about it in any of my creative writing classes. When the focus is on the writing and the writing alone, so many other things can be neglected.
I will be the first to admit that while my weight gain came from three children in three years, the weight-keeping has been my own fault. I have fibromyalgia, so some days are more challenging than others. (Which is to say, some days I can’t get out of bed, and other days I feel fine-for-me.) I was doing yoga for a while, and I can tell you that the energy I got from those workouts, even if I didn’t see any significant weight-loss results (there’s that lack of patience for slow and steady thing again), was well worth the time it took from the day. I felt better, and I felt more prepared to face the creative problems I was working on any given day. I don’t know why I stopped, but I think it’s something to start up again. My writing could benefit.
We also talked about Spoon Theory. Basically, it’s an approach to chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and lupus and any number of other things. Some people are given more spoons (energy to do things) at the beginning of the day than other people are. Everything you do costs a spoon. People who don’t face chronic illness often have enough spoons to get everything done that they want to do in a day. But those who do face things that sap their strength constantly have fewer spoons to spend, which means that they need to conserve their energies and prioritize their tasks. I spend my spoons on things that might not be as beneficial as other things all too often, which brings me to my last point.
The final thing I took away from this panel was to take control. I can make excuses all day long for why I don’t do something, or why I choose to spend my spoons on this thing instead of that one… But in the end it comes down to remembering one thing: the things that take my time are choices. Some are less obvious than others, but they are all still choices. If I don’t like how things are going, I have the power to change it, one tweak to the system at a time.
And maybe eventually I’ll have an unbreakable system that way, right?