Creative Habits and Reality

For those of you who are involved in the Microsoft world, you’re probably aware that next week is a big deal. Microsoft Convergence begins Monday, and hundreds of Microsoft partners and resellers will be flocking to New Orleans for arguably the biggest Microsoft trade show of the year.

The company I work for has a booth at the show where we plan to show off a whole suite of healthcare applications, among other things. As a result my last week has been an absolute whirlwind as we’ve been scrambling to put the finishing touches on demos, develop marketing assets, get up some websites, all on top of our normal workload. I’ve had to put in a couple 12 hour days, along with some weekend work.

As a result, my creative work has been sufferring. I’ve kept the blog somewhat up to date because of some reserve posts I’d saved up, but I didn’t do any work on my novel all week. I’ve simply had to put it and other aspects of my non-work life on the back burner.

The problem with this sort of lapse, is that it’s very easy to let it bring my work to a screeching halt. Picking up momentum in writing, both for this blog and my story is very difficult. I’ve been a big believer in the idea that creativity needs to be a habit, and I’ve set up rules in my life to ensure I treat it as one. I try never to go more than two days in a row without working on the story, and I fight to update the blog at least twice a week, ideally three times. But what happens when reality breaks into those ideal plans and foils them like it did for me last week? It’s a situation I’ve had to deal with before and here are my thoughts.

Don’t stress too much. Half the reason for setting rules for creative habits is to get yourself into the mindset that creative work is one of your default actions. It’s something like cleaning the house or making time for your favorite television show. You need to convince your brain that creative work is a regular part of your routine. If you miss it occasionally that’s fine as long as you keep the mentality that this is a regular part of your life.

Make sure you have a reason to skip. You should never avoid creative work just because you “aren’t in the mood.” The only way to get into the creative mood is to start being creative, and then let your brain and emotional state catch up.

Make sure that reason is short-lived. Don’t use long term excuses to skip creative work. In my example I’m justifying my creative slack because of pre-Convergence scramble. I expect that by Monday, I’ll be back on track and writing again. If you find your justifying your slack because of something that has no clear end, or the end is over a month away, you’re in trouble. I did this throughout most of the fall of 2008 while I worked on a very hectic and stressful project for work. The result? I lost a good three months worth of work on my book. If you do find yourself in that sort of situation, then don’t skip your habits revise them. Even though I was very busy, I would have been better served committing myself to write for a few hours every weekend, rather than skipping writing all together. If you don’t even have the the time for creative work period, then maybe it’s time to re-evaulate your activities, and carve out room for it.

Continue to think about your work in the time you do have. Most creative work is cognitive anyways, so you can sort through some of the pure thinking aspects wherever you have time; in the shower, on the toliet, during your commute. Just try and take a few minutes to think through the challenges you have in your latest project, so you can make the most of the time that you do get to spend on it.

The most important thing is to understand that reality will get in the way of you attempt for creative consistency. You just have to make sure it that doesn’t derail you completley.

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