Creativity takes practice, which is why people say “You should write every day” (or draw or sculpt or dance or play the tuba every day). There’s an understandable emphasis on consistency, on showing up again and again to do the thing, whatever it is. On working steadily, even if it’s slowly, so that, like the tortoise, we can cross the finish line. Even creativity guru Julia Cameron says so.
So much of being an artist has to do with consistency and continuity.Julia Cameron, Finding Water, p. 266
But some days don’t work out as planned. You get the flu or crack a tooth and have to drop everything. Even when you are perfectly fine, an emergency trip to the vet, a flat tire, or a forgotten deadline can usurp your whole day. Even things you know are coming, like vacations and holidays, can require unexpected errands. Your daily practice, whatever it is, has to wait until later. Much later.
That’s when I remind myself to be gentle.
. . . a gentle consistency is key.Julia Cameron, Finding Water, p. 263.
Consistency can feel like discipline and discipline is a fierce word suggesting screaming sergeants and another hundred pushups. Better to be gentle, to cut ourselves slack for those days when things don’t go as planned. Instead of despairing and giving up, we look for a chance to come back to our sewing, painting, language studies. When the time is again right, we sit down and do a little more.
The first thing I said to my friends this morning was: My week has not gone as planned. I was supposed to write this post yesterday and work on my novel as well. I didn’t do either. Other things got in my way. But I am back at it today. As soon as I finish this post, I’ll spend what time I can on my novel. I really can’t write every day. Even in November, when I take part in NaNoWriMo, I take days off from my project. Instead, I write most days, and I still get to 50,000 words.
Life is going to happen. There will always be bills to pay, meals to cook, and laundry to fold. The only way to overcome the distractions is to be consistent, to show up as often as we can, even if it’s only once a week. To achieve continuity, we need to start again after a break interrupts our flow and do what we can do today.
How do you deal with the interruptions that pull you from your creative work? What is your trick for being gentle with yourself?