A creative person is one, who enjoys, above all, the company of his own mind. Anything done well, from baking a souffle to putting together a winning stock portfolio is creative.
"The trick to creativity, if there is a single useful thing to say about is, is to identify your own peculiar talent and then settle down to work with it for a good long time. Everyone has an aptitude for something. The trick is to recognize it, to work with it… The problem is that the things you’re good at come naturally. And since most people are modest instead of arrogant sobs, what comes naturally you don’t see as a special skill. It’s just you. It’s what you’ve always done." Denise G. Shekerjian, Uncommon genius
In his fascinating book Daily Rituals, Mason Currey shares fabulous insights into the lives of some of the most creative people. For example, Jane Austen wrote in the family sitting room, “subject to all kinds of casual interruptions”. Her sister Cassandra oversaw the running of the house, to the great relief of Jane.
Toni Morrison, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, remarked: “I am not able to write regularly”. She worked a day job, an editor for Random House, taught university literature courses and raised her two sons as a single parent.
“It does seem hectic. But the important thing is that I don’t do anything else. I avoid the social life normally associated with publishing. I don’t go to cocktail parties, I don’t give or go to dinner parties. When I sit down to write I never brood. I have so many other things to do, with my children and teaching, that I can’t afford to brood. I brood, thinking of ideas, in the automobile when I’m driving to work or in the subway or when I’m mowing the lawn. By the time I get to the paper somethings’s there – I can produce.”
Her writing hours varied across decades, working on her fiction in the evenings in the 1970s or ’80s and switching to the early morning hours in the ’90s.
Like many other creatives presented in the book, she woke up every day at 5 am.
Nicholson Baker wrote in lunch breaks, “taking advantage of this pure, blissful hour of freedom”.
Francine Prose had a “schedule so regular it was practical Pavlovian and I loved it”.
Gertrude Stein wrote only half an hour a day. “If you write half an hour a day, it makes for a lot of writing year by year. To be sure all day and every day you are waiting around to write that half an hour a day.”
Agatha Christie took writing as a task “which I performed in spells and bursts. I never had a definite place which was my room or where I retired to write. All I needed was a steady table and a typewriter. ”
Some artists made the time, some stole it when their schedule allowed it. Some practised deep work for the same constant number of hours, some did not stop until they hit their target of x words per day. Some woke up before their family and others wrote in the slivers of time, taking half-hours here and there.
These people transformed their creative spark into a creative discipline. They made time to visit their own depths of thought.
"Don’t wait for the muse…Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. Or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up." Stephen King, On Writing
Your job is to make sure the muse knows where to find you.
By applying mindfulness (deliberate single-tasking), consistency and deep meaning, epiphanies will find their way back home to us. Because what made us come alive was always there, beneath the skin. Ready to be shown, used, transformed. We owe it to ourselves to recognize and honour this talent.
There are children to raise, jobs to work, bread to win, houses to build or keep, battles to fight, diseases to survive, people to become. A million little things outside.
Just do not forget about the million little things inside.
Previously published on my blog.
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