It has officially been a month since I lasted published on this blog. I’d like to say this was intentional or a result of writer’s block. I’d like to say I have an amazing story to tell about a great adventure I took over the past thirty-plus days.
The truth is, it has been one of the most strange and unusual summers. There have been a lot of unexpected personal and professional opportunities and obligations that have come my way. The truth this, this month-long hiatus wasn’t intentional at all, it crept up on me quite suddenly when I flipped the calendar page to August, and I thought to myself, where did the time go?
One thing I can share about the past thirty days is that, although I’ve not been channeling my creativity into this blog, I’ve made time for it elsewhere – in dance, in poetry, in a much needed weekend retreat. And now that I finally have time to come back here, to this space, I realize that it’s time for another Creative Habit Challenge.
I’ve learned a lot over the past month, but one of the most important things – the thing I’d like to share with you – is to allow.
Life is not a content calendar with carefully scheduled blog and social media posts. Life is much bigger and better than that, more unpredictable than that, more exciting than that. So allow yourself to live when life comes at you.
Allow creativity to flow in the means you’re given. It doesn’t have to be on the blog you’ve built for three years or the YouTube channel you’ve grown from the ground up. Sure, don’t abandon your commitment to those things, don’t forgo the countless amounts of time, energy, and effort you’ve poured into them, but, at the same time, don’t let these things hold you back from something more.
Allow yourself to let go of one item on your to-do list, to make room for something else. Allow yourself to do this without explanation, rationalization, judgement, or guilt. Allow yourself to embrace the wild uncertainties of life. Allow yourself to indulge in a new opportunity. Allow yourself to be present in whatever is happening in your life right at this very moment.
Above all, allow yourself to release whatever is holding you back from being creative. Do this with mindfulness – don’t up and flee your city, get fired from your job, lose your partner, get evicted from your apartment, and scare your loved ones – but just allow yourself to let go and live. Allow yourself to let creativity in.
I may be a little partial to the art of writing for obvious reasons, but even if you’re not a writer, there are creative benefits to writing. If you really want to get your imaginative juices flowing, the key is to write it! Don’t type it.
With the evolution of the digital landscape, people have gotten away from turning to pen and paper to write. There are notes in our phones for list making and blog platforms to help us tell our stories. Those of you who know me recognize that I’m pretty old-school when it comes to writing – I have a physical planner as opposed to a digital one, I handwrite my to-do lists on post-its, and I have at least one journal on my person at all times. In fact, it took me a long time to move away from handwriting everything. I vividly remember when we transitioned from handwriting to typing papers in school. For a long time, I continued to handwrite my first drafts, then type them. I believe that ideas free flow more organically from the brain to the hand to the pencil and finally to the page and that writing with pen and paper is crucial to the creative process of writing.
There’s another less obvious difference between handwriting and typing: privacy. The digital landscape has made it almost too easy for us to share everything. With a couple clicks you can send a note in your phone via text or email, in seconds you can publish your writing on a blog, and much of our days are spent sharing status updates on social media. However, when you handwrite a note and place it in your planner, no one will see it unless you physically pass it along. If you write in a journal, no one will read your entries unless you want them to. So, why is this important to the creative process? Judgement is the enemy of creativity. Most artists and creatives would be called crazy if they shared every idea that came to their minds. The creative process is filled with outlandish and seemingly illogical notions, but when executed properly, they’re brilliant. If you allow judgement to interfere, you’ll never reach the point of carrying out the concept.
For the month of December, turn to a pen and paper not the computer. Set the scene, buy yourself a cool new notebook, light a candle, steep a cup of tea, and enjoy a private moment with your thoughts without judgement. It’s that time of year when you may be thinking about ideas, goals, and plans for the New Year. There’s no better way to spark your creativity than setting aside some time to write with pen and paper.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past three months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of handwriting using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.
When I went to college, my mom gave me an adult coloring book and a box crayons. At first, I chalked this up to a final attempt to salvage my childhood as I was heading out of the house and toward young adulthood. I tucked the book and crayons on a shelf between textbooks and framed photos and didn’t give them much thought. When people came to my room, they would notice the big yellow Crayola box, then look beside it. And they started to ask if they could color.
I ended up toting around that coloring book and box of crayons for the next four years of college. Pages got ripped out when people wanted to keep their work and others enjoyed making a contribution to the book. When I couldn’t pour any more words into my journal or my creative writing classes, I would turn to the coloring book. It evolved into this amazing tool and creative outlet for me and my friends whether we needed a mindless escape or to express ourselves.
I still have this book today, and surprisingly there are still a few blank pages left to be explored. Now, it mostly serves as a colorful walk down memory lane. But most importantly, my mom’s simple gift taught me the power of color (a verb).
So, for November’s creative habit, I challenge you to channel your inner child and color. If you want some guidance, purchase a coloring book (here’s the one I have), or simply get some crayons, markers, colored pens or pencils, highlighters, sharpies, pastels, and some plan paper. Just start coloring! It’s not just for kids anymore.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past two months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of coloring using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.
Full disclosure: I’m now on month two of my writing slump. While my lack of posts can somewhat be contributed to an incredibly busy July, it’s August now, and writer’s block is still plaguing me. The one year birthday of this blog is near – 21 days and counting – and I’m anticipating this day with both excitement and fear. What’s next for year two? And how will I discover that in the midst of what might be the second most severe case of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced? But I’m trying to stay strong and meditate on the words of the brilliant writer Junot Diaz:
You may not see it on here, but I still write every day. Yes, I’m a blogger, a fashion lover, a budding stylist, an amateur photographer, developer, marketing professional, editor, digital strategist… I’m many things, but first and foremost I’m a writer. I have been as long as I could put a pen to paper. Writing is a part of me as much toes, which is why writer’s block feels like a debilitating illness – like if my lungs weren’t working properly. But what’s the cure? Keep writing anyway.
So, here I am today. Finally bringing my words to this blog. When I first sat down to write this post, all of this was going to be a brief introduction, and I was going to write a post I’ve had in mind for quite a while: The Little Black Dress. You’d probably prefer to be reading the LBD post right now! But first, I felt compelled to come to you honestly.
The Little Black Dress post to follow…
As a self-proclaimed writer since age eight, I’m no stranger to writer’s block. After changing my course of study from Chemistry to English and Creative Writing, I quickly realized all I had done was trade in two years of difficult equations (all of which had a defined answer) for two years of a different type of equation, one which has no defined answer whatsoever: Writer + Medium = ?
I went through numerous bouts of writer’s block in my two glorious years as an English and Creative Writing major, yet whenever I did, I was surrounded by my respected peers (all fellow writers) and revered professors (all writing geniuses, at least in my book – pun intended). Writer’s block plagued us all at one time or another throughout the semester, and we were all there for each other when the words weren’t.
Fast forward three years, and here I am. Once a writer, always a writer. Just about a year ago I made another trade: I traded a string of jobs – the good, the bad, and the ugly – for a full time career as a writer. In that time I’ve quickly realized that being a freelancer and blogger is very different than being a writing student. Full disclosure: being a freelancer and blogger is one of the most isolating things I’ve ever done. Sure, I talk to clients over email, phone, Skype, and Google+ Hangouts almost every day. Sure I interact with other bloggers over social media and try to attend blogging events as much as I can. But on most days, it’s just me, my computer, and my words.
Sadly, despite the fact I’m in my mid twenties and on the cusp of a generation that’s nearly 100% digital, I still prefer to write – yes write with pencil and paper – in a notebook. When writer’s block starts creeping up, my pencil and notebook is typically the first place I turn. My eight year old self kicks in, and my ideas free flow more organically from brain to hand to pencil to page.
When that doesn’t work, I start pounding through all the old standbys: read, draw, color, walk away, take a walk. And when all else fails I just don’t write. Now, let’s back up a minute “I just don’t write” is a bit of a hyperbole. I write everyday – somewhere, somehow – that’s my job. But the writer in me – not the freelancer, not the blogger, the writer – can’t “just write” for the sake of writing. I remember a Pilates session I had a while back where my instructor and longtime friend Denise Posnak of MyBOD Wellness (shameless plug) shared that she and another client had been talking about the Nike slogan “Just Do It.” Long story short, they determined this slogan is really sending the wrong message – do we all want to go through our lives “just doing” things? So we proceeded through our Pilates session not “just doing” the exercises but doing them with intention. Intent. This is the element that begins and defines a true piece of writing.
I still haven’t discovered the cure to finding intent when all seems lost, but I think discovering that intention is the foundation for any piece of writing is a good start. You may have noticed I haven’t been posting with the same frequency as of late. You also may have guessed that a severe case of writer’s block is what inspired this post. Writing is a strange art. I have an arsenal of post ideas scribbled in notebooks, archived in notes on my phone, saved on my bookmarks bar, but without that defined intent, the ideas fall flat.
Every good writer knows the process ebbs and flows. Writer’s block will pass. The ability to define intention will be restored. The good news is the coming weeks have a lot in store. I’ll be taking a short vacation from the blog early in July for a work trip and a friend’s wedding, which should bring a refreshed and renewed perspective. I also have several exciting collaborative posts in the works, so bear with me through this writer’s block and stay tuned! Happy Monday, readers!