We like to think of creativity as a space for untrammeled imagination, free from all constraints. Yet while freedom, rule-breaking and inspiration are undoubtedly essential to the creative process, the popular image of creativity overlooks another aspect: examine the life of any great artisit and you will find evidence of hard work, discipline and a hard-won knowledge of the rules and conventions of their medium.I'm a big reader of fiction and can get so lost in a book that the house could practically burn down around me without my noticing, but when it comes to non-fiction I need it broken down into digestible chunks and really appreciate the list or bullet-point approach. Lucky for me, McGuinness presents his recommendations in just this format. Today we'll tackle the first two of his suggestions.
Borrowing from Steven Covey (whom we all know is Highly Effective) McGuinness recommends that you begin by prioritzing work that is important but not urgent. This is not to say that you should ignore those "urgent" deadlines hanging over your head, but to give you permission to spend a portion of each day working toward your own goals rather than those of others (generally what falls into the urgent category). Our creativity flows from a deeply personal and individual place within ourselves and if we are constantly reacting to the demands of others it's easy to run headlong into creative burnout.
Another way to increase your effectiveness is to pay attention to your body's natural rhythms and determine your best time for creating, then take that time captive and use it exclusively for the creative act. For me (but not everyone) mornings are it. If I allow myself to sleep in, I set myself up for failure. Of course, this also means taking those nighttime hours captive and not allowing myself to wallow in front of the television until all hours of the night. When sewing was just a hobby for me I structured my day much differently than I do now. Morning was the time to run errands and do household chores. Only after my household list was tackled would I allow myself the reward of indulging in my hobby. Now sewing is a business and I need to treat it as such.
In addition to the rhythm of a schedule, also cutivate an awareness of "physical triggers" or components of your environment that aid you in your creative process. For instance, music is an important part of my creative environment. When I am sewing I like to listen to my favorite radio station, WYEP, streaming live online, or my Indie Singer-Songwriter Pandora station that I have customized to my own specific taste. However, when I am writing or reading I need either silence or instrumental music. Lyrics will distract me from my own words, yet there are times when I need a still need a soundtrack. My customized Accoustic Folk Pandora station (minus any and all banjo) is perfect for this purpose. For you it might be a certain paintbrush or favorite pen. Maybe you can't possibly create at home but need to go to a coffee shop in the next town to connect with your muse...Think about those times when you've felt "in the zone" creatively and conjure up the setting and tools that were present.
If you've found the time you invested in reading this helpful and inspiring as you embark upon the next phase of your creative day, stop back tomorrow when I unpack the next few points in McGuinness's book.
I'd love to hear from you about your creative environment and any help you've gleaned from this post, so please leave me a comment! Let's share our insights and maybe help eachother out!