It’s interesting posting about creative things–a creative life, that is. I am constantly striving for more creativity and opportunities to do creative things, but many times, my life is just…ordinary. Dishes have to be done, and kids have to be gotten ready for school, and, since I homeschool 2 of my 4 kids, I have to plan for that every day. Plus, I have a photography business to run, phone calls and emails to return, and I try to exercise, although sometimes that doesn’t happen either. Creativity has to get built into that schedule somehow, if I’m ever going to do anything with it. And sometimes…well, life feels flat.
Today is flat. I am flat. I am tired and out-of-sorts and wishing I was sick so I could have a legitimate excuse to be non-productive, and for me, that is a bad thing. I could tell it as soon as I woke up. I have 3 books I’m working on here and there, and I’m excited about them. I know I am. I was yesterday. But, there are “have-to’s” in everyone’s lives, and I have many “have-to’s” to do. I often dream about what it would be like to just be paid to do what I love (writing, illustrating, photography) and not have to do the stuff that takes time away from those things, like the promotion, the customer interaction, figuring out pricing, cleaning the studio, removing viruses from the computers, maintaining printers. I wonder, sometimes, if MORE time is spent doing things that I have to do to get ready to do creative projects than I do actually spend on the projects themselves, and I think the answer to that is an obvious YES. It’s interesting how it works out that way. You would think that you could just perfect your craft, whatever it is, and money would fall from the sky. I mean, that’s the way it should be, right?
Well, should-be’s aside, it isn’t the way it works for me. And thinking about all the have-to’s makes it more difficult to get started, because I know it isn’t fun, and hey, I just want to do what’s fun, you know? All of life should be a carnival! Isn’t that the way many of us think? Of course it is. And I admire those folks who slog through all that with a smile, and most days I do too, but today, I’m flat. I’m so flat I’m going to post pictures with this blog that are TOTALLY unrelated to anything other than I took them and they usually make me happy to look at. In other words, I have no motivation to find, take, or create pictures that fit in with this post. So, enjoy.
So, what do I do about it?
I make a list.
I sit down with clean white paper, and a sharp yellow Ticonderoga pencil, and I make a list of things that I must get done, no choices or complaining, I MUST do them. I put stars next to the ones that REALLY must get done today. Photo-editing, stretching canvases, posting pix for customers, working on that Senior Pricing (I HATE working up pricing), communicating with some customers, and printing portraits. Then I put down other stuff as well, such as folding laundry, washing my sheets, picking up the Studio. And I include EVERYTHING. I put down Brush Teeth. Even though I know I must brush my teeth and it really doesn’t need to be written down, I write it down. Because I KNOW I will accomplish that one, and I will be able to cross it out after I’m done, and, hey, crossing things OFF the list feels good. Maybe I put a couple other really simple things on there, like combing my hair, and drinking a glass of water. Whatever. Give me the easy stuff to start with. I LOVE to cross things off. Then, I make another list, right next to it, of things that I normally love to do that really must get done, but that I’m feeling too FLAT to do today. I list each of my book projects. I list my new website that I want to get finished. I list drawings I want to work on, and ideas that I want to develop, and new designs for the bathroom that I need to finish. I also list “Watch Life of Pi”, because I purchased that sucker yesterday, and I really want to watch it. But it is at the bottom of the list, because I want that to be a sort of reward, for when I get some of the other stuff done.
And after I do all of that, I put the list on my desk, and I leave the house. I do none of it. I go for a walk. Because, you know what? One of the best antidotes to feeling flat and uninvolved is to get into the world and breathe the air. Really. And to breathe the air while doing a bit of exercise–yes, I know I’m walking here, not doing windsprints, but hey, I’m FLAT today. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you have to start at the VERY BEGINNING, and going for a walk is much preferable to sitting at home in the forced-air heating and working on that pan of scotcharoos that is calling to me from its hiding place in the oven. I GOTTA get away from THAT, if I ever want to feel UNFLAT again. Or, maybe in this case, the word is UNFAT, but that is a different blog. My point is, a little exercise in the cool morning air will get me out of my own head. I will look at cloud shapes and chunky robins (they must have eaten scotcharoos as well) bopping across the frozen yards. I will see that there are other things in the world that bear paying attention to besides my list of things that I don’t want to tackle. I will pump blood through my veins and wake up my grumpy synapses into doing something besides hitting the brain-snooze button.
After my walk, I will come home and have a banana. Or an apple. Or some broccoli. Whatever. As long as it grows in dirt, I will have it. I won’t look at my list yet. But it is there, on my desk, waiting for me. I will help children do whatever they need to do. Y-intercept equations or some such stuff as that. Chemistry. The Civil War. To Kill A Mockingbird–I love that one. Some art. I will deal with them and give them my full attention for however long it takes. And when I am done, then I will sit down with my list. And I will pick ONE THING. Just ONE thing, that I don’t want to do very much. It will be a SHORT thing. Something that will only take a few minutes, but I have built it up in my head to take 4 hours. And I will do it. Then, I will pick up my pencil and check it off. YAY ME!
If I feel like it, I will pick another thing. Another small thing. And I will do it. Then, I will take a break and read an article or something. By the time I’m finished with that, I will be able to tackle another small thing. And then cross it off. And I will begin to feel dimension starting to return to my body, my world. I will be a little less flat.
Perhaps I will go the whole day like that, just doing things a little bit at a time. Perhaps I will only get the really easy things done. Or, maybe I will get 3 hard things done. Whatever. But by the end of the day, when I’m ready for bed, I can look at my list and see some forward progress. May not be much, but, I will mentally celebrate those things I DID do.
And tomorrow, if I still feel flat, I will do the same thing. I’m betting I won’t, however. Forward progress, however small it may be, usually brings me out of Flatland fairly quickly. I have had times–after my divorce, after the deaths of loved ones–where I’ve felt flat and uncreative and unmotivated and downright depressed for weeks, or months. And making a list and crossing things off intermingled with eating healthy foods and getting some exercise is the only way I know to move through it. For me, it’s the only way I know–except for THIS. I would be happy if I could JUST DO THIS.
Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities. She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end. There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride! You may learn more about Tracy here. You may follow her on Facebook here.